Deliberately out of focus Abstract Photography
Why would I do that? What is the point in photos that are not in focus? Ok, this is perhaps not for the faint hearted or those who aren’t too sure about “arty” things. But, if you love abstract art then this could very well be for you. We are going to consider creating images where little or nothing in the image is in focus. This may seem a bit odd, but you can create some interesting effects which may possibly work as images on their own or be useful as backdrops in a composite image created using layers in Photoshop. I don’t really do the latter, so I won’t go into detail on that. I do, however, enjoy creating abstract patterns with colours and light. It can be a refreshing thing to do every so often to break out of a rut or just to do some more creative photography.
If your camera does all the focussing for you then you may not be able to try out what I’m about to suggest. You need to switch off your autofocus – this may be on your camera or on the lens itself. Yes, this may be uncharted waters for many, but please do try it if you can! Now, using manual focus see if you can get everything in your image out of focus. Take a picture and see what it looks like. So far, you may not be very impressed, but it is about to get better. Autumn is a great time to try this, but other times of year can work too. Go and find a place where there are various different coloured leaves on a tree (if possible), maybe with a little light breaking through between them in places, but not necessarily. Now, try out of focus images of the leaves from closer up and further away. You should start to see soft patterns of colour emerge. To soften them even more, use a wide aperture if you can (A or Av mode on Nikon or Canon – select the lowest F number you can).
When light emerges between the leaves you should get bright circles. The various colours of the leaves can appear as overlapping circles of colour. Experiment a bit until you find a composition that you like. Try and think more about colours and possible patterns and ignore the fact that you can’t really have a “subject” in the image. You can also experiment with how much your image is out of focus – from complete blur to just partial. This is abstract photography, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers – the only thing that matters is whether you like it. Here are some examples of images I’ve come up with recently:
The above images were created using autumn leaves on a tree, cyclamen and bamboo. The brighter spots indicate where there was light shining through. As you can see, the effects are similar, yet different. Some images are softer, whilst others are a little more defined. Experiment until you find a balance that you like. You can alter things further afterwards in your image editing software, increasing the softness or vibrancy of colours, for example.
Here are some more examples of out of focus abstract photography, this time the subject was lights shining through a window. I didn’t really want to see the detail of the window. I was more interested in the colours and I found that defocussing helped me to achieve the effect I was after.
Another time we will look at creating blur in an image with movement. Until then, I encourage you to give this technique a try. It might not be your thing or you may find that you love it. Each person can find their own way of expressing themselves and not every idea will appeal to everyone. I hope that this has helped inspire your own creative photography. If you do try your hand at deliberately out of focus abstract photography please do get in touch and show us some of your images!
© Joe Lenton, October 2014