5 Tips to Create Graphic Photographs

5 Tips to Create Graphic Photographs


No “graphic photographs” do not have anything  to do with adult themed images. Graphical photography is an image style that utilizes shape, geometry and color to resemble something that might be drawn or designed. Photographs that are considered graphic in nature have distinct curves & lines,  color contrast and highlight geometry with in a particular scene. It may sound more complex than it really is, as I’m sure you’ve seen photos everywhere that fit this description.

Finding and taking photographs with a strong graphic element takes an observant eye. Man-made objects such as machinery, architecture, roads, etc. are inherently great graphic photography subjects because they’re designed with geometry in mind by engineers, architects and civic planners. Nature subjects also have a strong geometric shape rooted in the molecular geometry of organic compounds like cellulose and inorganic compounds with crystalline structures like quartz. Whether your subject is made by man or nature if you add light,  shadow and color plus follow the 5 tips below you have all the ingredients needed for a great graphic photos.

Here are 5 tips to capture great graphic photographs:

1. Look for curves and lines that provide contrast to shape and color.

Dusk at White Sands National Monument – featured in the new iPad app ePhotobook White Sands HD
Tech Info: Canon 1Ds Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8 at 115mm, 15 seconds, f/22, Gitzo tripod

2. Look for color contrasts to distinguish shapes and leading lines.

The Bell Curve – San Francisco, California
Tech Info: Canon 1Ds Mark III, 70-200mm f/2.8 + 2x  at 235mm, f/25, Gitzo tripod

3. Look for light contrast to highlight actual and phantom shapes. Sometimes objects outside of the scene make their presence known by their shadow or inverse shadow.

Architectural Abstract
Tech Info: Canon 1D Mark II, 20-35mm f/2.8, hand held

4. Experiment with your framing
By turning your camera or perspective sideways and even upside down to extract the shapes & colors from an otherwise recognizable scene to place additional emphasis on the graphical components of the image.

Pattern Abstract I – Death Valley National Park
Tech Info: Canon 1Ds Mark III, 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4x at 420mm, f/32, Gitzo tripod

5. Experiment with Black and White photographs to draw out shape and texture.

Stormy Badlands – Badlands National Park
Tech Info: Canon 1Ds Mark III, 16-35mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/22, Gitzo tripod

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Jim Goldstein is a San Francisco based professional photographer. An author as well as a photographer Jim has been published in numerous publications including Outdoor Photographer, Digital Photo Pro, Popular Photography and has self-published a PDF eBook Photographing the 4th Dimension - Time covering numerous slow shutter techniques. His latest work and writing can be found on his JMG-Galleries blog and on 500px

Some Older Comments

  • ScottC March 10, 2011 05:16 am

    Somehow missed this article, glad I found it today. Nice tips and great complimentary photographs.

    I love the varying curves, lines and contrasts of nature.


  • Rosa November 14, 2010 12:06 am

    I always been interested to learn graphic photography. But now I have
    A better understanding of it. You made it so much interesting. The photos are amazing. Thank you.

  • Ramona Brenholen November 12, 2010 12:26 pm

    I thought the discussion was good and the pictures were excellent. Sometimes people just click with architecture or work well with lines in images. The advice and suggestions were helpful

  • Randy Santos November 12, 2010 10:44 am

    Thanks a lot! It's inspiring me to create such beautiful photos.

  • Elodie M November 12, 2010 06:14 am

    Thanks Jim for the tips. Huge fan of your amazing photography. Makes me want to travel right away and go see these places.

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer November 11, 2010 03:57 am

    You can see the table of contents here:

    I don't think they have the article online.

  • Jim Goldstein November 11, 2010 03:20 am

    Glad this was helpful for you Andre.

    Elizabeth be sure to share what you've learned in the forum. Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

    Erik great to see the tips applied.

    @St Louis Wedding Photographer - have a link to the PPA article by chance?

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer November 9, 2010 12:52 pm

    My fav shot of the series was the Architectural Abstract. There was a pretty interesting article in PPA mag last month on landscape photography. There are a lot of rules associated with that style of photography that I didn't even know existed.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck November 8, 2010 05:59 am


    I really enjoyed reading your tips - I tried to implement your suggestions on my blog images.

    Regards, Erik


  • Elizabeth Coughlan November 8, 2010 04:24 am

    Awesome! It's given me a new way of seeing shape and form. I can't wait to get started.

  • Andre' Wright Jr. November 8, 2010 12:28 am

    I really Enjoyed these tips. Thanks