Thoughts about Photography - part 1

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In here you will find a few examples of works specific to different types of Photography, followed by various artists' opinion about what they think it's most important regarding their art and how to make it. You will come to see that while on some types of Photography many artists have similar opinions, on others their thoughts differ a lot, so read them all carefully and enjoy the article! - Lintu47

Abstract & Surreal

Leaving my shadow still to be with you by mehrmeerobsidian minds by PsycheAnamnesis

AndyDragonPark says: "Abstract Photography is not something people immediately think about when you tell them you are a photographer. Most people ask " do you do landscapes, action, portraits or weddings". The truth is I do all these things but my favourite is Abstract Photography. Many definitions on abtract art will tell you that an abstract is one without a recognisable subject, something that is not trying to look like something. Instead, the colour and form are taking centre stage. I'm not sure I agree with this. I've done many abstract smoke pictures and I love it when the smoke looks like something, a seahorse, a plant or even a woman. This is much the same way that clouds can look like things. It's all in the eye of the viewer.

The most important thing for me in Abstract Photography is a good compostion and a strong representation of colours and contrast. To produce abstract images you have to think outside the box, I know that sounds cliched but its true. It's not still life, so you can't just setup your subject and shoot. Think about moving targets, oils in water, smoke through water, bubbles, condiments, nature, trash, anything that you can get a good image from that isn't immediately obvious what it is. But remember to incorporate YOUR vision, YOUR Idea. What might look good to me will look like nonsense to someone else. That's the beauty of abstract. If you like it, then its good."

feigenfrucht says: "For Abstract & Surreal Photography  is needed a good eye, either for abstraction or for imagination of, let me say, the unreal/obscurity of life. This skill enables to take pictures in this way that let us hold our breath and let us think about it. One specific characteristic of Abstract & Surreal Photography is from my point of view that we are "disturbed" in our everyday life, it wakes us up and guides us to reflect. Now more specific to the both aspects.
Abstract photography 
Abstraction can be achieved by different techniques or with varied objects. Nature, Architecture, human bodies..., i will not be able to complete the list. 
The mutuality for an abstract picture of them would be to pick a specific aspect (shape, geometry, color, composition) and show it out of the overall picture.

Also the technique can not be fixed to only one. Quite focused macro shots as well as out of focused/distorted photos can be imaginable. I think the most important aspect is the composition which can be reached by the different techniques. Helpful but not inevitably needed is a good equipment with different lenses. 

Surreal photography
Surreal photography is from my point of view even more a question of composition. It's a good deal more than taking pictures out of focus. This is one of the secrets of the often "dreamlike" pictures - the disturbing, melancholy or soulful way which can be generated by playing with the focus or exposure time.
From my point of view surreal photography is showing more often scapes or sceneries and it tells us a tale. So I think the photographer's mastery needs a portion of a story-teller. Not only for this kind of art I'm quite glad that I've learned (still learning) to work manually. 
Often abstract or surreal photographers are seen like they are taking pictures of poor quality or by chance - from my own photography progression 
(taking pictures, taking better pictures, taking focused pictures, taking deliberate pictures) I can say that taking outstanding abstract or surreal pictures is hard work."

FedxViking says: "I've been a musician for years, and a photographer for a few weeks. If there is something that my experience as a musician left me is this: You can have the best technique/skill/equipment, but that doesn't make something beautiful. You can have a song with two chords and a single guitar or a photograph of a flower taken with a home camera, and it will be beautiful. The most important thing is the soul and love you put into your work. If you manage to get that soul to be seen, then you have something beautiful."

CocoKingsolver says: When it comes to abstract/surreal photography, everyone has their own interpretation of what they consider to be a good abstract/ surreal photograph. So let's start with the technical aspects first: -Balance-. It is crucial to everything we create regardless of medium choice. But before we understand how balance works in photography, we have to understand the Rule of Thirds, as they are synonymous. Even in abstract photography this very basic rule applies; there cannot be proper aesthetics without it. Moving on to -Suggestion-: An abstract artist will choose an idea or shape that is recognizable/familiar to most, but careful to not show the viewer too much. This can be done using a variety of techniques such as a blur effect or long exposure.

bubbles by crhmatrix II by crh

The clue is often given away in the title; the final piece of the puzzle, as it were. However, 'abstract' is simply an idea, an implication of something much larger on a subconscious level. And this leads us to -Perception-: A well-composed abstract consists of varying interpretations, much like a Rorschach test which, I believe, is what separates the abstract from the surreal. In surreal photography, the photographer chooses very obvious subjects, shapes, forms, ideas but gives them their very dream-like, hallucinatory and /or often grotesque quality."

Einsilbig says: "Perhaps the best tip I can offer you is the following: Explore your environment again and again. I live in Berlin – a city there is so much to explore, it would take 2 lifetimes. When I started to capture photographs, I was focused on nature and street photography, not on abstract subjects. But when I shifted my attention on façade/wall details (and I would say excessively focused on that), I realized when the months passed, that I see subjects I didn´t recognize before, even in places I met earlier. This was a great discovery as I found out, that even well known places can offer new insights, if you are open minded and focused on a specific kind of a subject.

Months later after capturing thousands of walls, I guess I have “an eye” for potential wall-subjects – that showed me that a lot of practice in a specific field of photography leads to some kind of improvement and perhaps mastery in some decades. This should encourage us to specialize and to practice a lot.
In fact I look out for different things when arranging an abstract picture: First of all there has to be a certain something in a photograph to catch the viewer´s attention. That can be a pattern that repeats again and again, but on the other hand it can be a striking interruption of a pattern. Two examples illustrate this (in fact not my own pictures):

Reves d'urbanisme by LeMatosWalk Me To the Water by jonniedee

Then again a chaotic concept or a very clean/minimal one can make an excellent capture:

Mind Pattern by DpressedSoulLake in squares. by incredi

So as you can see, there is some kind of counterpart existing, but every pole has its own charm. I hope my examples will give you some idea how to start or at least what you could consider when capturing abstract photographs."

crh says: "What is abstract photography? Photographing the abstract, one might say, but this doesn’t help solve the problem, as the questions remains: “what is abstract?” And, in my opinion, abstract photography can deal with, but isn’t restricted to abstract things being photographed. Not to mention, that “the abstract (thing)”, being photographed or not, is not to be defined easily, at least not by me. Even more so, for me the abstract thing per se doesn’t exist, it is being created. If you need a definition of abstract photography, just type “abstract photography” in any search engine in the world wide web and within microseconds you will get millions of answers (more than 27 million results in Google, for that matter). Even narrowing it further down by adding “definition” to those words will get you nearly two million answers. My advice: forget all of them. Maybe have a look at some of the pictures also spewed out by aforesaid search engines to get a hang on what others feel being abstract, and make up your own mind. 

Previously I said, that the abstract does not exist beforehand, it is being created. Let me try to explain what I mean with this: I’d say that abstract photography for me is the result of a process. A process where you deconstruct apparent objects, structures, things we see everywhere, every time, taking them out of context, or bring them in different and sometimes unusual context. That’s one way I look at abstract photography: reducing the everyday meaning of ordinary objects, either by choosing unusual details, or depicting them from angles you are not supposed to look at them. Find patterns in structures where none are expected, combine lines and shapes already existing in an object to form either structures or meanings that are not easily recognized or expected otherwise.

So – for a start, do not look for abstract things to shoot, but look at ordinary things in a different way. I bet all of you already had this moment when seeing something unusual in everyday objects, may it be a shadow at an odd angle, one part of an object obscuring another, building a complete different shape for that precious second when passing by. Reflections of ordinary things turning into fleeting glimpses of colorful feelings. Textures of crumbling plaster, when looked upon very close. Just to name a few. The next step is: reduction. Try to focus on that special shape you saw, the lines that grabbed your attention in the first place, and forget the rest. If it is not possible to exclude unwanted parts of the picture in your viewfinder, there’s still the possibility of post processing where you can clip and stamp away happily. As you see, I’m not a purist, everything is allowed.

walking in the park by augenweide

Sometimes I add a third step: Emphasizing. Not necessarily, for sure not mandatory. But sometimes it helps bringing out the lines, textures or color-shapes I saw in the first place to be more visible, to crank up the color saturation, the contrast or changing the tone curves just a bit until you like the result. Be careful with overdoing this step, as the result then might easily get that feared processed-to-death look (not that I always succeed in obeying my own advice). Sorry if you read this far in hope to get some recipe on shooting abstracts. I have to let you down. My only advice, put shortly, is the following:
  1. Go around with your eyes and mind open.
  2. Look at ordinary things.
  3. In new and different angles.
  4. Look down.
  5. Look up.
  6. Get closer."

mehrmeer says: "In my opinion it's very important to find your own way of expression what you are personally happy with. Regarding creating, it shall be significant to reach something original. Results are, mainly, perceptions of the self. I would suggest everybody to keep some kind of camera in their pocket as we never know when the right moment happens. Life is full of surprises and accidents and photography is all about not missing the moment(s). I truly appreciate the atmospheres that nature creates from time to time e. g. light, shadows, fog, snow, rain and reflections of water. So when most people are inside of the house, I am usually outside - hoping that there will be something for me out there. I don't think the camera makes a particular difference - talking from personal experiences: I don't own any special camera myself. I work with both analog and digital tools.

It actually depends on the subject which one I use. Personally, I prefer not to manipulate photos too much when possible, to preserve moments exactly the way they happened. On that note, benefits of shooting onto film is that on the negative that is developed there is basically nothing to edit. I also enjoy overlaying photos, so to create an absolute different meaning with those images. As for photographing with digital camera I relish to use manual exposure/settings as then I have the possibility to choose everything by myself to achieve the presumably appropriate outcome.
As for a general advice I would recommend to always go with eyes open, pay attention to every little moment, believe your feelings, take photos whenever you feel like it for with every experience we learn on our ongoing journey. And meanwhile, don't forget to dream - they may become real."

Take a look at the "Introduction: Defining abstract and surreal" article DpressedSoul wrote… and keep an eye open for the weekly interviews on this topic hosted by arctoa in Abstract-and-Surreal.

Animals, Plants & Nature

Tokay Gecko by GuillaumeGagnon
Hypnotized by incolor16
In the last summer light 2 by phalalcrocorax

Fra-Emer says: "The concept of good photograph is really wide and anyone has different ideas, tastes, techniques… I think is quite hard to explain, so this is just my point of view. I started to take photography seriously 3-4 years ago and I changed style some times before finding my own. At first, I used to take random snapshots and I thought “anything is worth to be photographed”…  so wrong! I learnt the first important rule: if you want to be a good photographer, you have to choose! There are too many subjects in the world, and you have to choose; face reality, I thought, you can’t be good at anything, so choose! I did. So, once the subjects were chosen I still wasn’t satisfied with my artwork; I used to look at other photographers' work and I felt so bad! They were so good, the photos were stunning and attractive. So I found the second rule. You have to compare yourself to others to realize what more you can do; I don’t mean to copy, but to be inspired by others. If you do, you won’t necessarily be the copying them. 

Another lesson I learned can be a bit strange to some, but this is a matter of taste and ideas, but… Photoshop or any other software is important! Not because you can take bad photos and then you “save them”, this is wrong! But if you edit a photo you can create your own reality into the picture; people will see what only you can see, not just the subject of the photo. The work is more personal. Then, you absolutely have to consider two important issues: light and background. Don’t think the subject makes the photo! If you can, turn around it and see the difference given by light and background, so you will see how everything changes. So, other rule: don’t look just at the subject. In the end, the most important rule is: shoot when you’re very sad, very angry or worried. Do it when your feelings are so strong and you are confused or tired, because feelings will drive you anywhere and the artwork will be great, full of your ideas and thoughts. And in the end, you be relieved, somehow.

All in all:
  1. Choose what you like to photograph.
  2. Be inspired by others.
  3. Edit your photos, make them unique.
  4. Consider light and backgrounds.
  5. Shoot to express what you feel, especially when you feel bad.
Well, this is what made me who I am now. Photography is love to me and I never stop learning, so who knows how many rules I will find in my future!"

MaximeCourty says: "How to make a beautiful photography? That is a vast and tough question that can occupy a photographer for a lifetime. Even if the subject could be debate for hours I'll give the essential of my point of view from my humble experience in landscape photography. I don't think there is one and only magical trick or recipe to create a masterpiece but I think that it is more a combination of multiple factors that, in the end, can lead to a beautiful artwork.

First of all you need an interesting thing to photograph, and it can be very, very various : people, animals, natural or urban places, special atmospheres, objects, sky, abstracts... I don't think that any kind of photography has a superior interest than another, beauty can be find everywhere around us. Having an interesting subject is not enough, the photographer has to magnify the vision of this subject. Here again there are many ways to do that, the lighting and composition are probably some of the essentials parameters that give impact and interest to the image. Indeed if you change lighting, composition and moreover focal length and camera settings you can obtain completely different visions of a same subject. I think that a good way to improve and find your own style is to get inspiration from other artists. See a lot of other photographers works and analyse it, tell yourself : " what do I like in this photo? " You'll grab ideas here or there that you'll use in your own way in your next shooting sessions.

The Sleepy Mountains by MaximeDaviron

And the technique? Yes, photography is also a technical art. As music every step and gear of the production has to be of great quality to have a flawless result. Nowadays, most of the DSLR camera bodies are capable to produce good images with quality lenses but of course an expensive equipment will be necessary if you want to shoot in difficult conditions (high ISO, very long focal length) and to produce highly detailed large prints. The post processing is important too. With the internet you can learn a lot with video tutorials, articles and forums discussing about these subjects. To conclude this small paragraph about this big subject, there is no secret or shortcut to make a beautiful photo for me, you need to learn and practice, again and again. It will help you to evolve and improve your own style and finally produce what you consider to be a beautiful artwork."

Jamie-MacArthur says: "Many people ask me the secret to photographing wildlife and I got to say there is a lot to it. Firstly it is essential to know you subject and its habits in a given habitat. Birds in a reserve and around people will behave differently than ones completely in the wild. Also birds in the spring during mating season will behave differently than let's say ones in the winter. So it is essential to observe the birds from a distance. This will ensure you recognise how they behave and how to least disturb them. Next get the longest lens you can afford, this will obviously mean that you don't have to get too close to your subject. Wildlife has a "circle of fear": if you enter into that circle you will most likely scare them off. It varies in all species and all habitats, even within the same species.

It is also good to have a portable hideout which you can set up and allow the subject to come towards you. It may be that you have to leave the hideout in the area for a few days to allow the subject to get use to it, before you even go in it. Once you have watched and begun to understand it, then it is up to you to decide whether you sneak up on it or build a hideout to wait for it. Then you have to decide how to take the best shot of it. You can introduce perches and food to help entice your subject. However make sure that you have looked at your background and that it compliments your subject, if not move your perches and food to suit. And of course the most important thing is to have patience. Sometimes it can take days just to get one photo but don't give up, it is worth it in the end."

A Sunset With The Sheep by MaximeCourtyPebbly Beach by CainPascoe

PeterJCoskun says: "The first thing you must have in order to make any compelling photograph, is good light. You don't need "great" light, although that certainly compensates for some compositional discrepancies. The only way you are going to get that good light, is shooting in the "golden hour". This occurs twice a day, at sunrise, and at sunset. I also like to add in the "blue hour", which is the time just before sunrise and just after sunset (twilight). Shooting at these times often produces rich light on the object and depending on the direction, outstanding shadows. Though with photography, there is never just "one" thing that makes a photograph, there are many variables.
The second thing is finding a composition that is pleasing to the eye. Find leading lines in a scene and try not to center the main object (only acceptable under certain circumstances). 

A combination of good light and good composition usually create a good photograph. As far as gear goes, understand your camera and its functions. Read your manual as many of the questions can be easily answered there. Understanding exposure, aperture, and ISO speeds are all very crucial to capturing that perfect scene. There are a lot of blogs and forums that can help you along the way, and even inspire you. Lastly, understand your subject. This may sound silly or obvious, but this is particularly useful for nature photography. Know what weather conditions you may deal with (stormy weather = dramatic photographs). If your photographing wildlife, know your safe distance so you don't stress the animal. Knowing these few things can help both your photography and save your life."

DA-Andrew says: "As a photographer, I feel the best photos are ones in which all the elements of in the photo interact with each other.  For example, a picture of a swan on a lake with the sun low on the sky. The sky reflects on the water on which the swan moves causing ripples which then alter the shape of the sky and causes the water to sparkle. Each of the elements are interacting with each other and that makes for story telling photography. I think in regards to equipment, the most important thing is to understand how it works and be able to change the settings to suite the subject and conditions in which the photographer is working."

HeatherTelesca says: "Get out there. Luckily we live in a beautiful world. Photography gives us a chance to share with others how we see and what is important to us individually. However, if we go out on a camping trip and don't bring our camera along we are SOL. I try to take camping trips every couple of months, but even on small hikes and such I make sure I have a camera with me (even if it's just the point and shoot I keep in my purse). The same is true at home as well - "Zot in a Knot" was taken with a point and shoot camera in my parent's basement.

              Zot in a Knot by HeatherTelesca

I wasn't trying to get some "super awesome shot", my snake was doing something silly while I had him out to play. I grabbed my Mom's camera and took maybe 8 shots. If I had known how big the photo would become I probably would have tried to get a shot with my SLR, but I wouldn't have the photo at all if I'd just ignored the moment. Get out there, be adventurous, and take the damn photo. Life happens, it's our job as photographers to record it for all to see. "


Kissyfish by lorrainemd 

aoao2 says: "In my personal opinion, to obtain a good artwork you need certain things. You definitely need to keep trying and trying till you get the best result because you never know what happens! You also need to see people's work to get inspiration and see what equipment they've used (what I do most of the time) - this helped me the most. You should be able to know what is the right equipment to use for every category of work. An example: for closeup photos you have to use Macro lenses. And most importantly is how you work with the light; as for me, i always use natural light on my photos."

shadowfax412 says: "Well, I have to say that the best technique for humorous photography is to have an extremely creative mind and great sense of humor (go figure). I love to use everyday things like drinking coffee or just walking down the street as inspiration. Even listening to music that reflects on what you're taking pictures of can make the photos more fun. It makes taking photographs a lot more insprational because you have something to get a base on. Also, I take my closest friends as a big inspration because they help me with ideas even when they don't mean to (they do hilarious things). As far as equipment goes, it really doesn't matter if you have a big time professional camera or a tiny Ipod camera. As long as your heart is in what you take that's all that matters. Also, a fantastic skill for photography is patience. Lots and lots of patience!"

Do you have any piece of advice that you would like to share?

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DaniRDA's avatar
geniala serie! keep up the good work! Clap