Capturing abstract photography
Whether you’re visiting somewhere new or capturing the place you live, it’s always worth trying to find ways of shooting that will help you create more interesting, distinctive images.
Choose a different angle
Like most people, you probably shoot most of your photography at eye-level. But by using the Live View feature on your camera (and the Vari-angle LCD if your camera has this feature), you’ll suddenly find you can compose pictures in much more interesting positions.
Try this: position the camera low to the ground and rotate the Vari-angle LCD so that you can see it by looking straight down. Or, for a view over the heads of a crowd, put the camera on a monopod and angle the LCD down. You can then hold the camera up and see what it sees – a very different view from your normal position.
Use the neck strap as a wrist strap
If you’re shooting from a high vantage point looking down on a scene below, you’ll need to have a firm hold on your camera. Twisting the neck strap around your wrist helps stabilise the camera at the same time as helping protect you from dropping it.
Shift your focus
A good place to start is by moving your point of focus away from the centre of the frame. First, switch your camera to Manual focus mode. Then get your subject in the centre of your frame and press the shutter halfway down. Keep the shutter half-depressed and you can recompose the frame, moving around until you get the best composition. Then just squeeze the shutter fully to take the picture.
Take control in Live View
Live View gives you a preview of your image on your camera’s LCD. Take more creative control over your images by using Live View to select your point of focus yourself. If your camera has a touch screen, this is even easier. Just touch the LCD where you want the camera to focus, set the AF to Live Mode and the camera will focus at that point in the frame.
Be ready for the perfect moment
If you’re planning a shot with the camera held over the heads of other people on a tripod or monopod then it might be difficult to reach the shutter button at just the right moment. You could use a remote release cable – either RS-60E3 or RS-80N3 depending on your camera model – to fire the shutter. Alternatively, if your camera has Wi-Fi, use your smartphone to remotely connect to the camera – including Live View – and trigger the shutter from your phone.
Landscape mode, which will automatically be selected within Smart Auto, allows you to capture scenes in sharp detail from the front to the back – what’s known as extensive depth of field. This allows you to show more of your environment, whether you’re in the city or in the country
Try this: when you take a landscape picture, try including something in the foreground to balance the scene. And don’t forget that landscape images can also be taken with the camera on its side, in the ‘portrait’ orientation.
Look for light and shadow
Light is at the very heart of all photography. Learning to look for the ways shadows and highlights create their own shapes and structures in the frame is a big step towards better photography. When the sun is low in the sky, typically early in the morning or later in the evening, shadows are long and can add an extra dimension to your photos. An environment that is boring in the middle of the day is transformed with long shadows from low angle light. You can use the GPS via Mobile feature of many Wi-Fi enabled compact cameras to recall the location of great shadows, and revisit the spot later.
When you’re photographing a landscape, the vivid saturation of key colours can help make your image stand out. You can use the My Colours function to boost the saturation of colours. For example, in natural environments blue skies, water and greens are given a saturation boost to make them more vibrant and appealing.
Moving subjects can make for really unusual photographs, revealing moments we normally miss. To freeze the movement of a subject in the frame, you’ll need a fast shutter speed. The exact shutter speed will depend on factors like the speed of your subject and their distance from you. To freeze moving people, select the Sports mode on your camera or use Shutter priority mode (labelled Tv on the camera Mode dial) and select a shutter speed of 1/250s or faster.
When light is bright, it creates deep dark shadows. This is called contrast and making good use of it can add richness to your images. However, when you’re shooting on bright, sunny days, the contrast that you can see is more than the camera can capture. You can compensate for this with the HDR Backlight Control mode found on many EOS cameras. You’ll find it in the SCN setting on the Mode dial. Using this will cause the camera to take three frames for each shot, combining them for a result that appears to have much wider contrast range than a single frame.
When shooting a more abstract image, the key elements of the picture change: it often becomes more about texture, contrast, shadows and shapes than colour. By setting your camera to the Monochrome Picture Style, maybe with the yellow filter setting, you will see a monochrome preview on the camera LCD, helping you to visualise your scene without colour. If the camera is set to capture RAW images, then you can restore the colour when you process your images on your computer.
Get the best out of low angles
Shooting from a low angle creates a dynamic perspective, but it can also leave the foreground underexposed if your composition includes a lot of sky, which fools the camera’s metering. Using positive exposure compensation will enable you to lighten the frame if the main subjects are too dark.
Stay the right way up
Every camera has an orientation sensor to recognise the position of the camera – horizontal or vertical – and ensure that pictures are correctly orientated on the LCD and computer screen. But if you’re shooting directly down or up, this orientation system can get confused: turn the auto-rotate feature off in the settings menus (yellow) to ensure that all your pictures are consistently the same way round.
Make the most of multiple exposures
Several of the advanced EOS cameras can capture multiple exposures, which you can use to make frames where moving subjects appear less obviously in the frame, while static elements like buildings are captured normally. Fix the camera in position, ideally on a tripod, and then set the multiple exposure mode to average each of the individual frames. Pre-set the camera to take at least three frames and then release the shutter a few seconds apart. Once taken the camera will blend all the individual frames, but where the content has changed it will be less visible almost ghostly. The more frames you capture, the less visible the moving subjects will be.
By capturing a sequence of images over a period of hours, you can use your camera to create a beautiful time-lapse film. Some EOS cameras can be used with the Timer Controller TC-80N3. This connects to the camera and can be set to capture a picture at a pre-set interval over a period of several hours.
Go further: Once you have captured your time-lapse sequence, you can edit it together with a static overlay with no people in it, giving the impression that a busy city is in fact empty.
Shooting abstract videography
Often people shoot video with the camera on a tripod or handheld at about shoulder height. To make your work more interesting, try shooting from extreme high or low perspectives to show the view that is less often seen.
Try this: capture the hustle and bustle of the city from unusual perspectives. Put your camera on the ground between your feet, for example, to show the rush of feet going by. Or a view from high up a tower or building of the people a long way down below.
Contrast the quiet and busy
If time allows show the contrast between the extreme early morning streets with little or no traffic and people, then later in the day return to the same position to show how just a few hours changes the appearance of a city streets.
You could also try mixing the length of the clips you capture, with longer shots of quiet empty streets edited together with short clips of more busy environments.
Watch the shadows
If you shoot the same location at different times of the day, take care with the editing, as cutting from one clip taken in the morning to another taken later in the day will cause the shadows to switch sides in the frame. Shadows on the left of the subject in the morning will be on the right in the afternoon. Alternatively keep a close eye on the shadows and vary your position to keep the shadows consistent through each separate clip in the day.
Present your shots at their best
When you’ve worked hard to create a beautiful image, you’ll want to share it. And printing it out to create a real object from your work is a great way to celebrate and showcase your achievement.
The right paper can make a big difference to your finished product. Artistic views are ideal for printing on matte or fine-art papers, adding texture and depth, whereas glossy papers can help project more vibrant and colourful prints. Knowing your papers is a bit like knowing your lenses – choose the right paper for the right result.
If you’re planning to frame your photo, it’s a good idea to leave a margin around the edge of the page. That way the picture can be put behind a photo mount in the frame. This stops the print itself being pressed against the glass and ensures your photo will last longer.