Abstract Photography: A Complete Guide for 2021

It is said that truth and beauty are abstract concepts. But what can be more sincere and graceful than a photograph? Getting into abstract photography is one of the most interesting ventures, no matter if you are a professional or a beginner.

This genre of photography opens new horizons and perspectives on the world. More than that, you can express emotions and feelings by taking abstract pictures.

abstract photography
Abstract photography

Like many other human beings, I’m a lover of abstract art. This concept has become a part of contemporary art and doesn’t aim to represent visual reality.

Its main purpose is to see beyond the ordinary. Abstract photography can transform a simple object into a conceptual masterpiece of textures, patterns, and colors. 

All good art is abstract.

John Newman
Table of contents
What is abstract photography?
Best cameras and lenses for abstract photography
The key elements for abstract photography
Abstract photography tips
Abstract photography ideas
What’s next?
Key takeaways

What is abstract photography?

There is no definition for the term abstract photography. You, as an individual, get to choose what abstract art means. This kind of photography allows you to assign a different meaning to an object.

It’s about changing the usual perspective of your subject to create a notional photograph.

Anything can become abstract if you know how to capture it. The only limit here is your vision. If you want to create works of art, you should reveal those details that other people, who are not as creative, can’t see.

abstract photography
Colorful abstract photography

Shooting from up and down or from various angles will help you create the most impressive abstract images. We all look distinct from different angles – and so do objects. In abstract photography, you are the artist!

With abstract photogrpahy, you have the freedom to try new perspectives, angles, techniques, tips, and much more.

When compared to more popular genres of photography such as food photography, wedding photography, nature portrait photography, abstract photography goes beyond reality and allows you to capture anything and everything that catches your eye. This conceptual field will help you create stories using everything that surrounds you.

Best cameras and lenses for abstract photography

To start, you don’t need to think too much about your camera. As a beginner, you likely want a camera with features that suit every genre of photography.

But when it comes to abstract photography, you’ll need a digital camera with a reasonably large sensor and the power to shoot in RAW.

For this field, you will want to experiment with lenses. Brands such as Canon and Nikon usually have the largest lenses and are perfect for taking abstract photos.

However, if you use the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, you’ll be able to shoot multiple pictures at shorter shutter speeds. In addition, it has a functionality called “Additive” which will allow you to take multiple-exposed pictures.

Camera for abstract photography

Depending on the brand of camera you choose, you’ll be able easily to find the right lenses for abstract photography. A good camera and proper lens will ensure sharp images. However, you can even use a mobile phone to take abstract photos.

The key elements for abstract photography

Just like any other photography style, there are key elements you should be aware of that will improve your pictures.

Even if abstract photography doesn’t have pre-defined rules and definitions, some elements make abstract images more appealing and exciting. Let’s take a look.


abstract photography
Abstract workspace

In contemporary art, simplicity is the key. Just like in minimalist photography, the concept “less is more” applies here as well. You have to focus your camera on a subject and make it shine. But first, you have to understand what abstraction does.

In short, abstraction does not seek to portray reality. Instead, it hopes to achieve an altered perception of reality using shapes, colors, and forms.


When it comes to abstract photography, your composition should be precise and structured. Other types of photography require a rich design compared to abstract photography, which only involves a balance between textures, patterns, and colors.

These factors emphasize your abstract images and add visual weight to the picture. Lastly, while the position of your subject is not important, the angle is.


As mentioned above, the angle of your abstract photo is vital because it gives your photograph meaning. The more angles you try, the more perspectives you get. You can even move your camera while the picture is being taken.

After all, a lot of abstract photography is created through the process of Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). This technique will help you capture exceptional abstract photographs.


In every style of photography, lighting is the most important element. This is because light plays a huge role in what the central focus of your image will be.

You’ll quickly see that once you start with abstract photography, the creation of beautiful silhouettes, shadows, and backlighting will become the norm.


abstract photography

For every viewer, abstract pictures will hold different meanings, almost as though each image is a puzzle to decipher. Questions such as what did the photographer mean, what was his vision, or is there a connotation to it will be asked by all.

This style of photography will instill a sense of wonder and intrigue within people. This is arguably one of the best things about abstract photography.

Not only does the photographer get to interpret the meaning behind the lens, but the viewer also gets to interpret the final image in a way that’s unique to them.

Abstract photography tips

As difficult as it may seem, taking abstract pictures is not brain surgery. You just have to understand the concept and practice until you reach your desired results. It’s all about moving, editing, and adding a touch of creativity.

And don’t forget to go with the flow. You’ll see that even the worst pictures, when looked at from a different perspective, have the potential to look breathtaking.

Focus your eyes on endless objects

If you want to practice abstract photography, you should pay attention to everyday objects that seem monotonous. Even something as simple as a pen can become a wonderfully abstract image. The key is to let your imagination run wild and let your camera do its job.

Just remember, anything can be used as a subject in your abstract pictures. In addition, basic elements such as lines, shapes, textures, patterns, and more can be integrated into your photography.

Get into macro

abstract photography
Closeup of a small snail in a shell on a green leaf, horizontal

To get a stunning abstract image, you should consider taking close-ups or macro pictures of tiny objects. To do so, you’ll need some professional lenses that will magnify your subject and make it look life-sized.

A mix of macro photography and abstract photography will give you stunning results. So, take a chance and move in closer to your subjects by zooming in or going macro.

Camera movement

When it comes to abstract photography, you’ll get the most impressive mix of colors, patterns, textures, or lines by simply moving your camera. It’s like drawing on a canvas and letting your brush create these elements freely.

You should start by practicing with circular or inline movements, and add wiggles in as well.

Moreover, you can try shooting through transparent objects. For example, some raindrops on a window and a little bit of camera motion will create beautiful abstract pictures.

Practice different shooting styles

abstract photography
Dripped water sheet aloe

If there’s one thing for sure, abstract photography is about capturing motion. Knowing your camera is also an important aspect of every type of photography. You need to play with different shooting styles.

Once you get to know your camera, you can experiment with depth of field, rotate your pictures, shoot out of focus, and modify the white balance of your images.


Your pictures will not always turn out the way you expect them to. That’s why photo-editing software exists. After a day of shooting, every photographer must make changes to the pictures taken and juggle with thinks such as saturation, contrast, recolor, cropping, and more.

The great thing about this genre of photography is that it allows you plenty of opportunities to exaggerate your images as much as you want. In abstract art, there’s no such thing as “too much.”

So, start editing your pictures with popular software such as Adobe Photoshop. Better yet, do some research and start with some free Photoshop alternatives before investing too much money in premium products.

Abstract photography ideas

Before becoming an abstract photographer, you should do some research and see how other photographers are doing it. For example, start by looking up the professional photographers that are experienced in abstract photography and examine their portfolios.

Ola Kolehmainen is one of the most well-known photographers and is famous for his minimalistic and abstract shooting skills. You can take a look at his artwork and easily become inspired.

That said, here are some simpler techniques your try when starting out as an abstract photographer.

Light painting

Light painting is a technique that uses a moving light source to create stripes on an image. This technique is a type of long exposure. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice. Painting light on an image will help you achieve a final image that will garner a variety if interpretations from your viewers.


abstract photography
City nightlife

Usually, in other styles of photography, bokeh is used for the background of a picture while the main focus is on the subject.

However, in abstract photography, bokeh is the main subject, and the background should be simple, without any elements. This technique is usually used by photographers seeking to achieve a stark contrast.

Chromatic aberration

Chromatic aberration

With high contrast, you can also create chromatic aberration. It’s usually a purple haze but can sometimes appear red, blue, or green.


abstract photography
Abstract reflection

You can get reflections in your photographs by using water or a mirror. However, these two elements are the secondary subjects. Bear in mind that the main topic of your pictures will be the source of the reflection.

You will be able to create combinations of textures, patterns, shapes, and colors – which is exactly what abstract art is.


One of the most used subjects in abstract photography is trees. Rotating your camera or moving it up and down will help you create a dizzying circle or a blurred stripe. In addition, you’ll create a mysterious, gloomy story for your viewers to interpret.

It is while photographing trees, or other sources of nature, that you’ll benefit from the Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) technique.


abstract photography
Golden financial architecture

As a photographer, you’ll have to explore the world and its wonders. And when you do, you’ll find many interesting streets, buildings, and tunnels in what seem like boring, everyday places.

Additionally, there are buildings that are created in a minimalistic and abstract way. They are simple and impactful. And they will help you take breathtaking abstract photographs as well.

What’s next?

Once you practice abstract photography enough, and you feel satisfied with the results, you have to show people your vision. To do this, you should build a website to display your masterpieces. WordPress is the perfect platform for photographers – so give it a try! 

abstract photography
Building your photography business

Secondly, you need to create a portfolio by using the best portfolio plugins for photographers and creatives. This is how you’ll get your start with selling your photos online and earn money by having your own business.

You can also market your photography business by selling photography prints. There are a lot of options that can help you grow your business. You can even become a successful freelance photographer.

So, are you ready to take your hobby to another level and transform it into a business?

Key takeaways

  • Abstract photography opens new horizons and perspectives on the world.
  • When it comes to abstract photography, there are no rules.
  • Abstract photography is about changing the usual perspective of your subject to create a notional photograph.
  • For abstract photography, you will need a digital camera with a reasonably large sensor and the power to shoot in RAW.
  • Simplicity is the key.
  • Your composition in abstract photography should be precise and structured.
  • A lot of abstract photography is produced using the Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) technique.
  • Lighting plays a huge role in emphasizing the focus part of your subject.
  • This style of photography will intrigue a sense of wonder in people.
  • To get a stunning abstract image, you should take close-ups or macro pictures of tiny objects.
  • Simply moving your camera while you shoot will get you the most impressive mix of colors, patterns, textures, or lines.
  • Knowing your camera is an important thing in every kind of photography – playing with different shooting styles will define yours.
  • Your pictures will not always be what you want, that’s why you edit.
  • Aim to use abstract photography ideas such as light painting, bokeh, reflections, blurred trees, and abstract architecture.
  • Create a portfolio and build a photography business with your masterpieces.


Photography is an art that requires creativity, vision, and imagination. All three components are a significant part of photography life. And then comes research. You need to be informed on everything that’s happening in your niche if you want to become a successful professional.

Bear in mind that you will always be learning, even when you think you know everything. Photography is a broad field, and there is always something new and exciting on the horizon.

In the end, abstract photography can be really challenging, but rewarding as well. It needs a significant amount of patience, practice, and a burning desire to try new things.

To achieve success you’re going to have to get used to your camera, get to know its features, and buy the necessary equipment for this style of photography.

But most of all, you’re going to need to get into the mindset of an abstract artist and stray away from typically normal and boring ideas.

Andreea Popa

Andreea is a blog manager at WPChill who spends most of her days writing and "polishing" articles. When she isn't writing, she's in the heart of the mountains, looking for peace and inspiration.