40 Beautiful Examples of Abstract Photography

When done right, abstract photography can turn an ordinary subject into a masterpiece of colors, patterns, and textures. Sometimes, this work of art can happen by accident, as with film double exposures. But in general, abstract photos take careful composition and attention to detail.

Though beautiful, abstract photography can also feel ambiguous or even silly like you’re purposefully messing up your photos. As you blur your subject or maneuver your camera into weird angles, you might wonder, “Is this good?” and “How do I know it’s good?”

While “good,” “bad,” and “silly” are all subjective labels, there are some ways to judge and improve your abstract photography. You can start by reading abstract photography tips and finding abstract photos you love, whose style you can try to imitate.

If you’re new to abstract photography or lacking inspiration, here are 10 ideas and 40 examples to get you started!

Abstract Photography Ideas and Examples

Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)

A lot of abstract photography is created through ICM, where you deliberately move your camera while taking a photo. This movement can be quick and random, like camera tossing, or it can be a thoughtful long exposure. Either way, it’s a fun photography technique to play around with.

Andrew Gustar – Kinetic Abstract
Andrew Gustar - Kinetic Abstract

Evan – Yellow flowers abstract
Evan - Yellow flowers abstract

enki22 – the choir
enki22 - the choir

swapnil deshpande – going berserk
swapnil deshpande - intentional camera movement

Blurry Trees

One of the best subjects for ICM is trees. In general, you’ll see two types of abstract tree photos: a dizzying circle and a blurred streak. You can create the circle by rotating your camera during the exposure, and for the streak, simply move your camera up or down during the exposure.

Nick Ares – Abstract Tree Blur
Nick Ares - Abstract Tree Blur

Xenja Santarelli
Xenja Santarelli

Elizme – ~ Transcend ~
Elizme - blurry trees

Paul Shears – Autumn Abstract
Paul Shears - Autumn Abstract

Light Painting

Lighting painting is a type of long exposure that uses a source of light to create streaks on an image. You can create these streaks yourself with a flashlight, sparkler, etc., or you can move your camera while shooting a stable source of light, like a traffic light.

Kevin Dooley – Sunday abstract
Kevin Dooley - Sunday abstract

Nikk – The Nebula……
Nikk - refractography

Spencer Starnes – Abstract – Midland Texas
PROSpencer Starnes - Abstract - Midland Texas

Bob Doran – experiment
Bob Doran - experiment

Bokeh

Bokeh is another easy way to create a lovely abstract photo. Usually, bokeh is only used for the background of an image while the main subject remains in focus. But with abstract pictures, bokeh becomes the main subject, beautiful in itself.

Ginny – city lights bokeh
Ginny - city lights bokeh

kenneth__ – Tripping on Bokeh
kenneth__ - abstract Bokeh

jordan parks – evening
jordan parks - evening lights bokeh

James McLarnan – Really wet window
James McLarnan - Really wet window

Smoke / Dye in Water

Tendrils of smoke and dye drops in water have a similar elegant appearance, beautiful for abstract photography. Both are unpredictable, however, so you’ll time for trial and error while shooting.

For smoke, you’re best off using a black background and incense instead of matches, as incense will burn for longer. For dye in water, you’ll need a white background, some food coloring, and a clear glass container with straight sides, like an aquarium or square vase. If you have these supplies and a tripod, you’re set for some cool abstract images!

theilr – curls and whisps
theilr - curls and whisps

frankieleon – abstract nothingness
frankieleon - abstract nothingness

Arthur Lee – "Love" Smoke Art Photography
Arthur Lee - Smoke Art Photography

Reflections

Despite being so commonplace, water continues to be a fascinating photography subject. Reflections in water are especially intriguing. Though they’re often a secondary subject (the main subject being the source of the reflection), you can create a lovely abstract photo by focusing on the reflection alone.

Amine Fassi – Night reflection
Amine Fassi - Night reflection

Alan Cleaver – Wave reflections
Alan Cleaver - Wave reflections

Phil Richards – Annecy Abstract
Phil Richards - Annecy Abstract

enki22 – colors…
enki22 - colors...

Architecture

Some types of architecture seem like they’re meant for abstract photography. Their curves, colors, and shapes can verge on the bizarre when you remove people from the scene. A metro tunnel, a curving staircase, or a box-like building can become alien structures without people around to show their purpose.

Ximo Michavila – CPH Architecture #31
Ximo Michavila - CPH Architecture

Erik Beck – Assemblage
Erik Beck - abstract architecture

Colin Knowles – Skytrain abstract
Colin Knowles - Skytrain abstract

Shamini – Staircase Abstract
Shamini - Staircase Abstract

Macro Flowers and Plants

Get close enough, and any flower or plant begins to look abstract. Floral curves and colors have a different feel from up-close. They’re still gorgeous, but instead of the familiar beauty of a flower, you get the strange beauty of detail.

Steven Scott – Calla Lily Edge
Steven Scott - Calla Lily Edge

Elizme – ~ Nature's Poetry ~
Elizme - Spanish Moss

Steven Scott – Red and Yellow
Steven Scott - Red and Yellow

Texaselephant – Curled Leaf
Texaselephant - Curled Leaf

High-Speed Water Drops

High-speed photos of water drops aren’t easy to take, but the results can be stunning. Not all water drop photography is abstract. Sometimes, the water drop is only one element in a larger photo, such as rain on a street. However, if you focus purely on the water’s shape and colors, the final image can look wonderfully abstract. If you want to achieve this photo, check out this comprehensive tutorial from DIY Photography.

Heidi Southworth – Smurfy
Heidi Southworth - high speed water drop

Corrie White – Zoooom
Corrie White - Zoom water drop

Corrie White – Eclectic Dreams
Corrie White - high speed water drop

Interesting Patterns

Next to camera movement, patterns are the bread and butter of abstract photography. Interesting patterns can be found everywhere. You likely have dozens of patterns around your home that could make eye-catching photos. All you need to do is start looking.

John D. – slow breeze
John D. - slow breeze

Phil Richards – Beach
Phil Richards - Beach

tanakawho – Net abstract
tanakawho - Net abstract

Rodger Evans – Flaming Mollusc
Rodger Evans - Flaming Mollusc

Nancy – glass art macro
Nancy - glass art macro

gags9999 – Twirls
gags9999 - Twirls

Many of the above photos were selected from our wonderful Flickr community. Next time you take an abstract photo you’re proud of, add it to the group so we can admire it!

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