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Let's start by defining perspective as it pertains to this lesson. There are two basic definitions that apply to photography.

The first refers to the point from which a photo is taken and is more commonly referred to in photography circles as “point of view” or PoV.

The second, which is often a direct result of the first, refers to the way objects appear in relation to each other within the frame in regard to height, spacing and other aspects that convey a sense of spatial relationships.

In this lesson, we'll be dealing with the second definition, and you may recognize it as the effect that causes lines to converge within a photograph and structures to appear smaller as they recede toward the horizon. As in any genre, this can be used to create a strong sense of depth and movement within an abstract image.

Why Perspective is Important

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Since photography is a two-dimensional medium, conveying a sense of depth requires adding the right visual elements. Perspective is one of the strongest of those elements, giving a sense of scale and distance to an otherwise flat surface.

As mentioned in the introduction, the photographer's point of view has a direct effect on the perspective in an image. Changing your PoV can trick viewers’ eyes into seeing a scene or subject in a completely different way. It can also present you with unique shapes, forms, lines and even colors, as in the image above, all of which may help to create a successful abstract photo.

How to Manipulate Perspective in Abstract Photography

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Visual perspective can be changed drastically by altering both your distance from the subject and the angle of view, both of which make up your point of view. In keeping with the point of abstract representation, it's often advantageous to change your point of view in order to separate the image from the “real” objects you're photographing.

In short, changing your point of view may literally be the only step required to transform something like the wall in the image above into a successful and dynamic abstract photo.

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When building abstract compositions, take the time to analyze the scene from several points of view in order to add a sense of depth and even a feeling of movement into and through, as in the image above.

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Your lens choice can also be an important factor in the visual perspective of an image. Longer focal lengths tend to give the illusion of compressed perspective, relative to lens-to-subject distance.

To put that in simpler terms, the planar perspective of a subject like the metal mesh in the photo above can be changed drastically by changing the focal length of your lens, your point of view, or both.

Final Thoughts

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Remember that abstraction is all about portraying objects and/or scenes in a way that disassociates them from the physical and lets viewers appreciate the forms, textures, and other aspects that they're made up of.

Perspective can be a powerful tool for achieving that goal. Abstract photography gives us the latitude to push the creative envelope and perspective beyond the limits of other genres.

Lesson Summary

  • Perspective is important in abstract photography because it allows you to produce a three-dimensional look in a two-dimensional space.
  • Manipulate the perspective viewers see by changing your spatial relationship with your subject.
  • Change your point of view to provide something unique.
  • In conjunction with your positioning, the focal length of your lens will impact how perspective is represented in the photograph.
  • Don’t be afraid to break the rules! Try a close-up shot with a wide-angle lens to see how the distortion impacts the outcome of the image. Use your macro lens to create selective blurring.
  • Experiment and see what you can create!

Assignment

Use what you've learned about visual perspective to create a dynamic abstract image. Focus less on the subject and more on altering your distance from the subject as well as your angle of view. Doing so will help you create different points of view for your photos and allow you to create several different abstract looks of one subject.

Further Study