Tips for Abstract Macro Photography – Using Texture and Light

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Macro photography opens up a whole new world to those who are willing to get up close. There is no shortage of subject matter to photograph, but in this article we’ll look at the abstract world of texture and light.

Rusted paintwork of a Dodge Campervan

Rusted paintwork of a Dodge Campervan

The beauty about these subjects is that they can be shot anywhere; in your backyard, on your street, or in any part of your city. Textures are everywhere. They are really easy to find, and working with the light properly will help you to highlight the grittiness and tactile effect of textures. Ideally, a macro lens would be perfect to use for this type of photography, but a good 50mm or 85mm can work too. A macro lens gives you the bonus of being able to focus really close, normal lenses may not be able to get as close as you want.

My view is that even if you don’t have a macro lens, give this a try anyway, a new tiny world of wonder awaits you!

What is Abstract Macro Photography?

Abstract photography, in general, is about representing a subject in a non-literal way. The focus of abstract photography is more about colour, shape, and texture, as opposed to the literal representation of the subject. Abstract macro photography, takes this to the next level by enabling you to get even closer to your subject, and therefore also able to be more abstract in a sense. In this article, we are concerned with texture and showing that in our images.

The same guidelines around composition apply, you can use the rule of thirds, curves, and lines, to draw the viewer into your image. The difference is that the subject may not be immediately recognizable, your centre of interest might be a colour, or the curve of a flower. So for abstract macro photography, you will need to think a little differently.

Cracked paint on a car bumper

Cracked paint on a car bumper

What will I need to do abstract macro photography?

A macro lens will work best. A 50mm or 85mm lens will work pretty well too, you may not be able to get as close to your subject though, so be aware of that (or you can try close-up filters). You will need a tripod too, or some sort of support for your camera, as shooting macro images handheld is really difficult and can be frustrating.

What can I photograph?

Textures are all around you. Think of the rusted lamppost at the corner of your street, the peeling paint on the wall of the shed, or even the cracked paint on the bumper of a car. They are everywhere.

You need to spend time looking at all the surfaces around you, then take some test shots to see if they work. The key thing to be aware of when shooting textures is how the light is affecting the scene. Macro photography is like a micro landscape image. It has a foreground, middle-ground and background. There are colours, shapes, and of course textures in the image.

When you look at the texture, take some time to study where the light is coming from, and how it is affecting the image. Try a few different angles to see what works best in the scene. Using side light (i.e. light some from the left or the right) will accentuate the texture in your image. Side light will give your image a three dimensional quality, so try and get some directional light on your scene if possible.

Reflections from a security gate

Reflections from a security gate

Find your texture, and use this as a workflow

  • Work on building your composition – is there a particular part of the texture you want to emphasize, try and get some side light if possible?
  • Use manual focus to bring even a small part of your image into sharp focus, this sharp area will be the natural focal point for your viewer.
  • As an abstract image, you don’t need a subject as such, but the texture and the colours will be the reason for the image, so make sure the subject matter is interesting.
  • Check the histogram to make sure that you are exposing your scene correctly.
  • Capture the shot.
  • Try shooting the same subject from different angles, and maybe even with a different centre of interest.
  • Take as many images as possible, from different angles, with different focal points.

The beauty about this type of photography is that you have an infinite number of subjects. It is really easy to get going once you start looking around you, at what there is to photograph.

The beauty of cracked window putty

The beauty of cracked window putty

Have you tried abstract macro photography before? If not give it a go and share some of your images in the comments below. See if we can guess what you photographed.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Barry J Brady is a Fine Art Landscape and commercial photographer based in Vancouver, BC. He is also an addicted traveller and loves travelling to far off places and capturing their essence. Barry is an entertaining and experienced photography teacher and public speaker. He loves nothing more than being behind his camera or showing other photographers how to get the most out of their camera. To see more of his work, visit his site here. You can also join Barry on a photography workshop in Canada. Click here to find out more.

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