A Mobiographer’s Journey From Analog to iPhone
A couple of years ago, mobiographer Erica “Spin” Simas moved…
No matter how creative you are, there comes a point that every shutterbug feels they’ve exhausted that photographic opportunities around them. Pretty sunsets? Yup. The nearby park? Done. More pictures of kids? Your Facebook friends would disown you. Whether you’re a budding amateur or a seasoned professional, you can recharge your creative juices by taking some time to focus on abstract photography.
Rather than “transcribing” a scene in front of you into picture form, abstract photography is all about your representation of the forms and colors around you. In this post, we’ll explore some techniques for capturing abstract expressions with your iPhone or camera, which will in turn train your eye to take better shots in general.
As kids, we learn to draw lines as one of our very first artistic endeavors. In photography, lines are no less important. By training your eye to find the lines around you, you’ll be performing a powerful exercise in learning how to see composition.
In addition, this is a great opportunity to practice capturing leading lines – one of the easiest ways to improve your composition. (Pro tip: Check out the cover photo. Stairs offer a great abundance of lines to photograph!)
If lines are the most primordial visual element, then shapes and forms are the basic building blocks of, well, everything! From diagrams to stick figures, we use shapes to communicate and represent. Many portraitists will tell you that they don’t paint people, they paint shapes.
Rather than looking at the building in front of you, see the shapes that make up the doors, windows, bricks, and roof. Identifying these circles, squares, rectangles, triangles is an exercise in deconstruction, freeing you from repetitive, overdone photographs and offering a new way to see the world.
Speaking of repetitive, let’s talk about repetition! But this time, it’s the good kind of repetitive. Look for patterns in your environment. Sometimes they are obviously designed – like the weave of a carpet or checker box of a shirt. But the even more interesting ones are discovered: the consistency of a boat dock viewed from above, the uniformity of the street lights, the layout of the cobblestone.
Discovering patterns is a great game to play by yourself as you walk about your day. See how you can capture them with your iPhone or camera in a way that surprises and delights your audience.
Without shadows and highlights (the dark and light areas of your photo, respectively), there would be no photography. So it only makes sense that we test pushing it to the extreme, making the shadows and highlights themselves the subjects of our abstract photography.
This technique works especially well in black and white. By stripping away meaning and color from your image, your viewer is left with just the essentials of light and dark.
As an exercise, name as many textures as possible and go on a Texture Hunt – documenting them and seeing what feelings they inspire. You’ll often discover great colors, patterns and repetition in the textures you document, making it an absolute Abstract Wonderland.
How do you take a picture of color? Not a picture with color – but a picture that is about color itself. You know how sometimes words start to lose their meaning when you repeat it over and over? (“Smock. Smock. Smock. Smock.”)
Well, sometimes it helps to find a particularly colorful scene and just stare at it for a long time. Eventually, you’ll stop seeing the individual items, and just notice the colors that comprise the scene. That’s the time to click your shutter!
There are entire alien worlds hiding right beneath us! Macro photography offers a wonderful opportunity to explore the foreignness of the everyday. It helps to have a Macro lens for your camera or phone, but the newest iPhone cameras do a great job of getting you realllllly close to a subject.
Try looking at the veins of a leaf, or a close up of an creepy-crawler, or a computer circuit board, or the ridges of a penny (see Texture, above). You’ll discover just how abstract everyday objects can be. For added fun, post your photos without explaining what it is, and see if your viewers can identify them!
You can even shoot through a water-filled glass for some crazy distortions! Try different fabrics, wraps, plastics, and glasses (even sunglasses!) to see what you can come up with.
Still stuck? Enlight has got your back! There are infinite possibilities of abstraction you can apply to your photographs using the app to make it truly unique. Try stepping over to the graphic side, using Tools > Mixer to combine different shapes. Or, try Tools > Reshape and experiment with the shape of everyday objects to add an abstract element. Play around with color by adjusting Hue and Tint in Image > Adjust > Tools tab > Color.
Remember: An abstract image is not defined by its inscrutability. It’s defined by its prioritization of the elements, rather than the meaning, of the image. In other words, you may recognize the subject of a photograph – but if the photo is not about the subject, but is about its color, or form, or structure, for example, it can still be abstract.
Written by: Shai Davis.