Diary of an Abstract Photographer (PART 2)

by Laura Harrison (iPhotography student)

If you’ve enjoyed the first instalment of Laura’s foray into abstract photography then you’re in luck! The fantastic reception to part 1 of her exploits and experiences has thrilled her enough to create a part 2.

If you’ve missed the first edition, you can still read it here.

But otherwise, it’s time to delve deeper in the world that obscures form, colour and texture with Laura Harrison, our iPhotography student expert…

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Laura Harrison Abstract photograph
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Mixing Medias

In 2019 I enrolled on the iPhotoshop Course (now iPhotography PS) with a view to improving my editing techniques. I found the modules to be rather challenging, but certainly educational.

In addition to Photoshop, as mentioned in part 1, I also use Affinity to edit images – either on my MacBook or iPad. I enjoy using Affinity, alongside my Apple Pencil – particularly when travelling, to while away the journey.

Mixing photography and graphic art can create amazing abstract results. So I thought it might be interesting to share some of my recent ideas.

How to Composite Photographs

Combining two images, by overlaying one onto another, coupled with some patience, it is possible to create some original and different effects.

Step 1

The first step is to create and select two images.

Here, the first image, is a high-key feather image with a water droplet. The feather was placed onto my iPad, using the Softbox App to give a bright, white background.

I also added a small tear of water with an eyedropper.

Technical Setup: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2 8L IS USM, ISO 400, F/16 and shutter speed @ 1 second.

Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 Feather

Step 2

The second image is from a series I made entitled “underwater fireworks”.   Whilst researching food colouring in water photography, I discovered a “science experiments for children” video and thought one of the ideas might have potential in a photographic sense.

Here’s the technique: 

  • Pour some vegetable oil into a small glass 
  • Add a few drops of different liquid food colourings  
  • Stir the mixture gently to produce small coloured beads  
  • Add the mixture to a large glass of water
  • It will initially float on the surface until the beads “explode”, creating trails of colour as they sink. 
Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 underwater fireworks copyright, 2020, composite, Affinity, step, compositing,

Technical Setup: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2 8L IS USM. ISO 800, F/2.8 and shutter speed @ 1/125th. I also used a flash to free the action.

In order to arrive at the final composite abstract image, some further work was entailed! For some time, I have been intrigued by the possibilities of compositing two original images together. Although there are many stock images available on-line, I always prefer to use only my own work in order to produce an original and truly unique piece of photographic art. 

Step 3

When it came to editing, I imported both shots to Affinity. I place the food colouring shot as a new layer over the feather and make some tweaks to its dimensions so it fitted over the base layer exactly. Oh, I also flipped it vertically. 

Step 4

By playing around with the opacity and layer blend modes, a variety of possible effects began to emerge. Once I was happy with the outcome, I made a duplicate of the file (in case I changed my mind later), and then flattened layers together.

Step 5

A Sphere Filter (in Affinity) produced the globe which gave an almost Christmas bauble effect; I used the Inpainting Brush to remove some unwanted elements within the image. 

Step 6

I duplicated the final layer and added minor adjustments to the shadows/highlights and exposure levels. Eventually, cropping the image to what you see as the end result.

Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 composite photograph copyright, 2020, composite, Affinity, step, compositing,

Abstract Portrait Composite

A similar technique was used to composite two of my portrait shots into a more abstract image.

It was taken inside a derelict railway carriage where there was some interesting graffiti. Ancillary lighting was used. The second image was taken inside Castle Howard and is of a mannequin with a Venetian mask.

Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 Portrait

Technical Setup: Canon Macro EF 100mm 1:2 8L IS USM. ISO 400, F/5.6 and shutter speed @ 1/80th.

Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 Venetian Mask

Technical Setup: Tamron 18-270mm @ 42mm. ISO 500, F/8 and shutter speed @ 1/15th. Hand-Held.

The Final Result

Laura Harrison Copyright 2020 Portrait / Venetian Mask composite copyright, 2020, composite, Affinity, step, compositing,

iPhotography Tutors Say…

“Thank you so much to Laura (again) for her easy to follow compositing ideas. If Laura has inspired you to get a little more technical with your photographs then let us know and share your photos in the iPhotography gallery.”

If you would like to share your photography experiences, then why not consider writing a photo guide like Laura? Use our dedicated ‘Write for Us’ page to get started.

Read more about abstract photography here.

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The other challenge when shooting through glass is the tinting. Unfortunately, architects and designers didn’t think about us photographers when creating these skyscrapers.

Their windows are invariably tinted in some way to help with heating.

This means that some of your photos may have a green/grey tint to them.

It’s not the biggest issue as you can rebalance this tint in editing with the ‘tint’ slider for example.