Most photographs capture a recognizable subject in way which allows the viewer to understand the nature of what is depicted. A landscape typically shows a broad wide-angle view which enables the viewer to feel and see what the photographer experienced at a particular moment. A portrait may show a persons face or perhaps a subject's whole body in an environment which tells the viewer something about the person.
Abstract images have little or no reference to the nature of the whole subject. They rely heavily upon shape, form, pattern or colour to attract the eye and provide interest. Images of this type are everywhere, and capturing them successfully has as much to do with a photographer's perception as any photographic technique. Photographers must set aside much of the experience of normal pictorial photography and train themselves to see interesting aspects or parts of everyday objects such as flowers, cars, architecture and even people. Indeed, the best abstract images may be those which are removed almost totally from the reality of existence. They are pure and passionate and tend to create themselves when circumstances are appropriate. More or less any lens and camera can be used to capture abstract images although, in many cases, the ability to approach a subject closely and focus on a small area is important.
Subjects which lend themselves to the creation of interesting abstract images can be easily found in any home, street , town or open field. Typical examples are reflections in car paintwork, close-ups of flowers and leaves, details of buildings and other structures, and even small parts of the human body. Abstract nudes, where the camera focuses on a small area of a model such as a shoulder-blade or a limb, are a well-established tradition. They rely heavily upon good lighting, strength of line, form and texture, and subtle concealment rather than exposure.
Much of the interest in abstract images is derived from the ability of the photographer to reveal previously unseen or unnoticed aspects of a subject. Most people have probably never noticed the exotic detail in the wing of a butterfly or the distorted reflections in a highly-polished surface. Simple curves, colours and repeating patterns can also escape attention in everyday life, but may make wonderful abstract images when captured by a trained eye. Photographers have a considerable degree of freedom when working with images of this type, and it is important to see simple objects in a different manner. Try unusual and obscure angles, and work unusually close to subjects. Pan the camera over a subject while searching for interesting sections, shapes, patterns and colours. Abstract pictures are everywhere, and what one photographer sees another may well ignore.