Photos of an Abstract

One of the first articles I ever wrote for Moonshine was about photographing your artwork. This past week a friend asked me to take some photos of a painting he had completed. He wanted some close ups. He wanted the photos to show the texture of the work beyond your typical straight on, portrait-of-the-work shot. I was pleased with these photos. I thought they really captured the look and feel of the original painting.
The painting is strong – very Pollockesque. My first thought was to have a shallow depth of field to really put the focus on the chaotic look of the piece.

Also, the selective bit of focus would highlight the raised paint. I wanted a plain background – white – to shoot across the painting and get that perspective shot. We leaned the piece against a chair and used one of the walls in the gallery as the background. Some of the paint it is a little glossy – so we had to be careful of the gallery lights. We wanted to have the painting in a spot where there was not spot lighting. I also chose to not use a flash. I used a tripod to steady the camera for a slightly longer shutter. This is the first photo I took.

After shooting across it with a plain white background – I thought about shooting straight down the canvas toward the dark wood floor. This was another interesting view to get a similar look of peering across the canvas. Since the painting has so many different colors – I took this shot at a few different points – looking for the colors and the best combo of what is in sharp focus.

For a better close-up look at the paint technique, I cropped close on one. I love the way this looks.

Finally, for a nice, formal straight-on view of the total work – here it is.

I think this series of photos can really give someone the feeling of this painting without the viewer seeing the painting in person. Of course you want the simple photo to document the work. But to get the character of some art, you need to get in there, get close and capture the complete look. To get the first and the last photo I used my 50mm 1.4 and the middle two photos were taken with my 14mm 2.8 lenses.

In contrast to the photos of the painting, I had someone else ask me to take some photos of their office building in an abstract kind of way. The photos are to be used on note cards and postcards to clients. She did not care for the name of the business showing in the photo since it would be printed on the stationery. We walked out into the parking area and I asked her to show me the viewpoint she had in mind. We both looked up as she detailed to me the look she was after. At the time we talked it was just about noon and not a good time to try those shots. I returned to the building early in the evening when the sun was going down. After taking close to 20 shots, I came home and began the task of editing. One of the shots really stood out as the view she was describing earlier. I did not need to crop much of it at all. What I did with the photo was run it through a series of edits. One view was a color photo, one was black and white. I then took the black and white and added a black vignette. I took the color version and converted it in the watercolor filter. Then I took the watercolor conversion and applied the bleach bypass filter from a plug in I use frequently. I love that photo. I also desaturated the bleach bypass version for the same look – but in black and white. Here is the black and white and the color versions of the watercolor/bleach bypass side by side along with the original color version.

I printed the color version on matte paper today. I really like the look so much, I am thinking of a painting of it.
The abstract painting is by Greg Blair. Greg owns Dogwood Gallery and Framer in Tyrone, GA. The office building is Whitlock Ellis Wealth Management in Peachtree City, GA. Both sets of photos were taken May 29.

-Donna aka the Barefoot Photographer, teaches photography classes at her studio and is the founder of the Fayette Photo Club. She enjoys the outdoors, photography, and inspiring others to take better photos; her website is the

An archive of Donna's articles is located here.

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