October 2013
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5 tips to improve your photography skills – Taking abstract photos (contd) ..

In the previous post, we learned some details about abstract photography. In this post, we continue further in this world – the world of abstract photos. Abstract is the direct opposite of something that is clearly defined, and it is equally hard to give a clear definition of what an abstract photo is. You all know what a landscape is, what a portrait is, what are those clear and sharply defined photos of flowers, of trains, glass covered building. But just like the mind appreciates the clarity of a clearly defined object in your photos, the mind can at the same time appreciate those images which are the direct opposition of clearly defined. Consider the colors in an oil drop splattered in water, consider the texture of the wood grain in a small section of an old tree trunk, consider patterns that can be found in everyday matters, all of these are abstract photos that can be very beautiful. However, though some of the regular tips of photography don’t work here, there is still a lot that can be learnt about how to take better looking abstract photos (of course, there are a lot more tips besides these).

Tip 1196 (Forget the traditional rules): There may be many rules that are used in photography (for example, the Rule of Thirds, etc) that in most cases help in providing better photos. But, when you move to abstract photography, try and move out of using and thinking about such rules. Look at the objects in front of you, and think about how to change the way you look at the angle (or in some cases, stop worrying about having your focus be pin-sharp) so as to get a striking abstract picture. I have mentioned a few examples in previous posts, and here are some more examples of what to do – abstract examples on Flickr.

Tip 1197 (Using camera movements): Another way to create abstract photos is through manipulating the zoom of your photo, when you are actually shooting your photo. This may seem strange, since the basic concept of shooting is to ensure that there is no movement, but as it turns out, this movement of the zoom can help in the creation of abstract images. One example of such types of images is when you are shooting a scene with some light source in the background (for example, you could be shooting the setting sun in an urban setting). Now, mount the camera on a tripod with every other movement fixed, just the ability to zoom in and out. So, when you have pressed the shutter release button, then manually move the zoom lens (something that you would never do normally). If things have worked out well, the photo that you see will have rays of light in the image (apparently visualizing movement lines in the picture). For more detail of how this works, see this tutorial (external link, will open in a new window).

Tip 1198 (Do vertical or horizontal panning): Like the example above, there is another movement of the camera that can be done to create some beautiful abstract photos (well, some of the photos that are created may not turn out well and would need to be deleted, but you will get some photos that come out well and are liked). And that is doing horizontal or vertical panning of the camera during the shooting. This however requires 2 main criteria – the camera should not shake too much during the shot (which means that it is ideal if it is kept on a tripod and with a head that allows these movements), and the exposure time should be adequate for making such a movement (if you are shooting at 1/500 of a second, there is hardly any time allowed for moving the camera in either the horizontal or vertical positions; so, if you are shooting in bright conditions, then use very narrow exposures, and if light levels are lower, then you use can use higher apertures).

Tip 1199 (Be ready to delete, and delete often): When shooting such photos, keep in mind that these photos are experiments; in some cases, you will get good photos and in some cases, you will get photos that are blurry or bad, and not good abstract photos (just wishing that these look like good abstract photos would not make them good though). The other problem is that you can never easily be accurate in predicting whether the photo will come out well or not (in normal photography, if you are in a good light condition, and have the exposure and focus down right, there is a very high change that you will get a good or great photo; but when you are moving around the zoom lens or move the camera horizontally / vertically, then you can never have that high level of estimation about whether it will work or not). As a result, especially when you are starting to experiment with such settings, may need to be able to delete the photo if it did not turn out well.

Tip 1200 (Using an external filter): Even after reading the tip 2 tips above, this one might not easily have occurred to you. If you are in some place with good light, then it is difficult to set a slow exposure speed without having too much exposure. In such cases, using a ND (Neutral Density) filter is the way to go. It will help you reduce the light levels in your photos, and enable you to increase the exposure time so that you have enough time to do the kind of camera movements you desire in the time that the shutter release is open.

Photographing the Patterns of Nature Photo Inspiration: Secrets Behind Stunning Images 101 Quick and Easy Ideas Taken from the Master Photographers

Some useful videos from Youtube on shooting abstract photos:

Oil On Water – photo idea!

Abstract Photography

Abstract Art Photography

Abstract Photographer Lester Hayes

Abstract Photography

How to Take Abstract Photography

Give it a go: Abstract Macro Images

“PhotoTips” Episode 84 – Abstract Art Photography

Read more about how to create some abstract images with this post (Abstract images – Part 4)

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