Firstly congratulations to Rob Deyes for winning February’s ‘Winter Weather‘ photo challenge competition. Don’t forget this month’s winner will be announced at the start of April, so make sure you submit your entry before the closing date of 31st March to be in with a chance of winning!
This month’s subject is perfect for those of us who like to stay indoors when it’s cold and miserable outside. (And let’s face it, every photographer fancies a studio session, no matter how makeshift the ‘studio’, over an all-weather shoot now and again!) So, this article and the new Photo Challenge have the theme: ‘Shooting Household Items as Abstracts’. More exciting than it sounds, trust me!
This is something anyone with a camera can have a go at, but the aim of course is to produce some very rewarding results. Abstract photography asks you to shoot images of items in a way where they are not immediately recognisable. So, choose your subject, or rather object, with care. Then get in nice and close, and compose your shot so as not to show too many identifying marks that might make your subject too obvious.
A great benefit of the abstract technique is that almost any household item can be made to look arty and graphic. You can produce a truly stunning image from almost nothing – it’s a matter of seeing it for yourself. And this is therefore a proper challenge like no other we have covered in our previous monthly features and competitions – and remember, you could win a great prize. So make sure you send me your best shot!
I want you to flex your creativity and show off your powers of observation as well as your compositional skills, to come up with a really great shot to be proud of. As I have mentioned in previous articles, it’s always good to try different camera angles and not necessarily view your object from your normal viewpoint. But this time it’s personal, as they say! Some abstract shots can be improved by taking a very unconventional angle – shooting from directly above, perhaps. Or maybe the view from below will make something otherwise mundane suddenly attractive? Experiment for yourselves.
Another thing to try is using a short depth of field, as I have done with my shots shown here. And try combining this with different White Balances, to further enhance the mystique of your images. You can shoot in spot colour, or soft focus. And of course, I was always going to suggest experimenting with black and white! But full, glorious colour might be the look you want – the choice, as always, is entirely down to you. I very much look forward to viewing the competition entries with an open mind and eyes.
One advantage to shooting unrecognisable subjects is that your viewers will have no preconceived ideas on how a finished shot will – or ‘should’ – look. For example, if we were to set up a photographic shoot at Niagara Falls, then people will have an idea in their heads of how the results should look. No matter how you post-process or manipulate your shots, you really can’t change the subject.
And it’s not only hugely famous sights such as Niagara; most things have been shot a million times and so come with their own ‘baggage’. There will always be some idea already in the viewer’s mind about what they are looking at. With an abstract image, that’s all out of the window. We can post-process our shots as ‘aggressively’ as we like. This is true artistic freedom and I am sure you’re only too ready to embrace it! It’s what photographic creativity is all about.
One last point before we look at the example shots I’ve put together to offer some inspiration (hopefully): you don’t need any elaborate gear to take on this month’s Photo Challenge. All of my shots were taken using natural light – mostly from a window. I used the 45mm Leica Macro lens fitted to my LUMIX G5. I shot in Raw and post-processed the images in Photoshop, as usual, but adding colour saturation, contrast and some local vignetting more than usual, as I saw fit.
Now, looking through my selection of example shots, the first is of ‘Coated Tablets’ – could you immediately tell? I shot it with the LUMIX set to ISO 160, 1/80th of a second, @ f7.1 and White Balance 5000K.
Shot 02 is something of a favourite and I don’t just mean the image! ‘Jaffa Cakes’ – shot at ISO 160, 1/125th sec @ f8.0 and White Balance 3800K.
Shot 03 is perhaps recognisably ‘Cotton Buds’ – ISO 160, 1/80th sec @ f7.0, White Balance 2800K.
Shots 04 and 05 are actually ‘Map Pins’ – ISO 160, 1/80th sec @f4.5, Auto White Balance.
Shot 06 is of course ‘Rice Krispies’ – ISO 400, 1/200th sec @ f5.6, White Balance 3200K.
I really like the colourful shots 07, 08, 09 and 10, of ‘Crayons’ – ISO 200, 1/200th sec @ f 5.6. Auto White Balance.
Shot 11 is ‘Mugs’ – ISO 400, 1/800th sec @ f 5.0, Auto White Balance. What items do you have in your kitchen that would make a great abstract?
The mysterious shot 12 is actually a ‘Paper Roll’ – ISO 400, 1/500th sec @ f 5.6, White Balance 3000K.
And finally, shot 13 is ‘Sound Sticks’ – ISO 400, 1/100th sec @ f5.0, Auto White Balance again.
So there you have it. Now it’s over to you – enjoy yourselves and please send me your best shot. But because there is a ‘guessing game’ element to the theme this month, perhaps we should be cryptic with our titles/file names? I look forward to trying to work out what I am looking at – besides, naturally, art!
All the best,