Paper Abstract Photography

May 29, 2012  •  2 Comments
     Dear friends finally I am able to take some time for sharing the behind the scene secrets on paper abstract work with you all. I hope you will enjoy it & ignore the delayed publication of this article.

How it all started ?

     I love to shoot all subjects which attracts me irrespective of what it is ! I have not yet restricted myself to any specific genre in the photography. I am not a professional photographer & can only utilize my weekends/holidays time for the hobby. Considering my small kid "Manas" which is now around 15 months old I had to restrict my freedom for shooting outdoor on weekends. This focused my attention to family portraits, still life & abstracts.

Image 1 : Motion : This shot was taken to convey the feel of motion using still life. During taking this shot for getting the movements of paper I allowed to move the end of papers with the help of ceiling fan. The the ripples on stable glass bottom added virtual feel of motion. This image also adds me the nostalgia effect of the children playing the game of push toy wheel in my childhood days. EXIF:100mm, f/11, 1/40 sec, ISO 800 

Image 2:  Delicate Curves: Using color papers & white papers can add interesting reflections of color on the white papers. This shot is extreme closeup of folds of papers showing delicate curves. It may appear as closeup of a door handle due to the shape & colors gradation. EXIF:100mm,f/5.6.1/80 sec, ISO 400 

     I was struggling to fulfill my thrust for the hobby due to stopped outdoor activity.  One day while surfing through online photo galleries I came across beautiful abstract work done by a photographer using everyday subject. I found it really inspiring & as a solution for my need, indoor photography. I started shooting on paper abstract work. I was enjoying it & what's more it  was getting very well appreciated by my friends. That  helped me to focus even more on this interesting genre of abstract photography. I simply love the feeling of getting myself lost while observing the beauty of these papers in various forms & colors through the viewfinder of my camera during shooting :) 
     I am sharing this just to illustrate how the inspiration can come from anywhere. The important thing is that we have to keep observing & explore opportunities to do photography. Whenever I came across a photograph appealing to me, I like to keep myself asking why I like it? I like to observe the creative use of elements by the photographers even cinematographers while watching movies.
Needed  Equipments ?
     I use following equipments:

Camera : Canon EOS-5D Mark II
Lens : Canon EF-100mm f/2.8 USM Macro
Subject: Printing papers, color papers, color drawing sheets
Light: one or two strobes/ daylight/ studio light

Image 3: Paper Swan :The color paper arranged in a pattern to form the shape of a swan. I applied duo tone effect to give importance more to the shape than colors in the images. The choice of color adds subtle & delicate feel of the swan shape. EXIF: 100mm, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, ISO 400

Image 4: paper Waveform : I wished to create the shapes like waveforms using the papers. I used different color papers with the side light for adding more depth in the image. For getting such kind of shapes my technical side in electronics engineering helps me. This image was shortlisted in top 30 images earlier in Digital camera world  international photography contest photographer of the year 2011 in "Creative License" category. EXIF: 100mm, f/5.6, 1/80 sec, ISO 400

     Don't be disappointed if you don't have very high end equipment or SLR camera. Any SLR camera with macro lens can work for this subject. Point & shoot cameras are not recommended considering the high depth of field. But now a days various closeup filters are also available for a point & shoot camera for doing macro work. 5D offers me more benefits considering nice gradual color tones & a bit more shallow depth of field by the virtue of it's large sensor size. If macro lens is not available then extension tube can also be used with the lens like 50mm/f1.8. 

How I do it? 

  You jumped directly to this section, isn't it? I can understand your curiosity :) I was really surprised when I was getting inquiries about how I do it? This was simply because I was not following any extraordinary techniques for doing this work. But I guess that's happens when I recall asking myself to the photographers whom I follow about their setups.

Image 5: Magical Curves: This is pure abstract image without any particular shapes with interesting subtle colors. I like the way paper curves mixed up in the formation. To add more that feel I used the colors with less contrast. EXIF: 100mm, f/5.6, 4 sec,ISO 100 

Image 6: Mysterious: This image resembling to a shape with a mysterious feel. The choice of wide open aperture was to add less details & colors in post processing to strengthen the feel of mystery. EXIF: 100mm, f/2.8, 1/10sec, ISO 100 

     It's all about abstract images by taking macro shot of papers exploring beauty of shapes, light & colors with unlimited opportunities. This is about study of interesting shapes & forms in addition with colors by using ordinary subject like papers. Papers can be A4 size printing papers in white & different colors.

Image 7 : Setup after shooting : Well next time I will upload a setup while shooting. I always end up taking the shot after doing my work :). The glass table helps me for using strobes below the subject. Please ignore other subjects not related to the shooting. 

     Usually I place A3 size color drawing sheet on my table  attached with wall forming seamless corner. I try to arrange the 4-6 layers of papers with different color combinations giving interesting patterns. The papers might be tied with paper clips/transparent tape on a end keeping other end free or fixed into another object like stack of books. Use of white papers in between colors can help you to get duo-gradient reflections of color papers on each side. For lighting I use one or two strobes or simple daylight from a window. The arrangement of strobes can result in various interesting output of a same subject. The combination of background paper color & subject is really important. The more contrasting colors can add a punch whereas similar color can add smoothing less contrast images. Mostly a wide open aperture is preferable giving selective focus & nice soft backgrounds.

Image 5: Paper Wave: A simple paper wave shape. Shape similar to the unit of resistance ohm in electronics component.EXIF: 100mm, f/8, 1/8sec, ISO

Image 6: Freedom: Abstract shot with motion blur applied on photograph of paper macro. The blur applied to add the feeling of freedom without any sharp ages & the mixing of colors. EXIF: 100mm, 3.2 sec, f/11, ISO 400 

     The real challenge is to add variations in the patterns & I am still experimenting on that. There is huge scope to explore much more on this. The interesting curves, paper layers & shapes can look monotonous after initial start. During post processing one can play with colors using hue saturation adjustment layers or selective color adjustment layers in photoshop. Sometimes I love to add motion blur effect to add some mood to the images. (as in freedom image no : 6) In some images one can duplicate the original layer & can free transform the layers with different blending modes mostly with darken. 

     If you want to practice on this subject the the word of advice will be keeping on experimenting. I have to still dig into this subject for creating interesting images like using reflection, using papers with different texture & material etc. Once you able to get macro shot with nice graphical shapes your interest will keep on developing. Keen observation & patience is the key for getting good quality shots. 

Ideas about shapes & creation?  
     As I get involved doing paper abstract I found more challenging to form new shapes & add innovative output. I found very little work while online surfing on paper abstract so considering the originality of the subject it also added as a challenge for me. You can see many shapes are inspired from my technical background as shown in images 4, 5 & 7 like
shape of waves like sinusoidal waveform in image paper waveforms, shape of measurement units of electronic component like ohm for resistance in image paper wave or shape of accelerator ring showing synchrotron radiation in image rays. You can also represent some ideas from your professional side for adding variations for keeping on experimenting with.

Image 7 : Rays: For getting this shot I allowed light to fall on the edges of papers only. It give me effect like rays from the firework. Again the idea for this shot came from my technical side the pattern resembling to an accelerator ring emitting synchrotron radiation. EXIF: 100mm, f/8, 1/4sec, ISO 400

Image 8 : Feminine: In this image I see figure resembling to a feminine shape like a blank face with hair line on curves. I choose the sepia tone to add earthen feel to the image. EXIF: 100mm, f/4, 1/8sec, ISO 250

Image 9: y : This is the image showing how curves can add delicate feel to the images making them more interesting. EXIF: 100mm, f/8, 1/8 sec, ISO 1250

     Some times I get clue about representing some idea using the paper abstract whereas most of the time I keep myself engaged playing with arranging the papers with various combination of colors & shapes. I may not be able to reproduce exact shape as I have captured earlier again in some images because many times I arrange it randomly.. It's all about keeping on experimenting & enjoying the work.

     The interesting part of the abstract work is you are free to compose the images giving importance to graphical elements. I tried to represent my perspective for each image but everybody can interpret image in his own perspective. You can find shapes resembling to various other elements mostly to the thing you are used to in your daily life.


What's Next ?
    That's really interesting question for me, what's Next? Well there is no end to creativity as long as we follow it passionately. I keep asking myself this question for adding variations in the work Meanwhile I tried to add the element of paper in natural environment but still to do more interesting on that. I will keep on experimenting with this subject as long as I enjoy working on it or get attracted by another interesting subject..that's the way a hobbyist photographer leaves his life. 

     Thanks again for your lot of appreciation & feedback. I  can not express my gratitude for taking your time to leave feedback. You can follow my work on paper abstract at the links given below : 
Paper abstract on Flickr



Beautiful colors and composition, I like your work all are superb images, keep it.
raj dhage(non-registered)
really amazing work yaar
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