How to use macro photography lighting to create dramatic abstract art! – Watch on YouTube
In this article, we’re looking at a fantastic technique for abstract macro photography. We’re exploring how to use macro photography lighting to create dramatic abstract art. We’re working with a simple everyday subject today – coiled wires!
Abstract Coiled Wires
Why are we shooting wires? The simple answer is, because we can! This is a common everyday item that most people will have access to. It serves as a great example of how you can produce creative photos from a simple and seemingly uninteresting subject.
The two coils of wire we’re working with today are fairly common, you might have some lying around at home to follow along with! The first is a braided USB wire from a keyboard. The second is from a retro phone (remember when those had wires?!).
Macro Photography Lighting
The most important part of this abstract style is the lighting. Without it, our wires wouldn’t look much different from the boring white coils you see above. We’re going to use a single light source to add colour, depth and contrast to the wires and make them look totally different!
We’re using the coloured LED Lighting Arms of the Adaptalux Studio Macro Lighting System to add these colourful effects to our wire coils. The light sources are powerful, flexible, and most importantly, small.
It’s important to have a small light source for a shoot like this. We need to be able to position our light so that it only shines inside the coil. Larger light sources would spill light all over the place, deminishing the effect of the coils glowing from within.
The dramatic aspect of these abstract shots not only comes from the intrigue created by the light emerging from within the coils. It’s also enhanced by the shadows and highlights. We deliberately added a lot of contrast and harsh lighting to the images by using a single, undiffused light soruce.
A single, powerful source of light will create a lot of shadow and darker areas wherever the light can’t reach. This enhances the effect of the light coming from within the coil. Lighting the outside too would only make this effect less impactful, even if it is tempting to add more light.
The Effect of Colour
The light we’re using is bright coloured light produced directly from the source without need for gels or filters. This means our light is very harsh, but very vivid! Each different colour we try, creates a different feel and atmosphere in these simple images.
The greens invoke feelings of organics, plants and animals, perhaps a snake! The reds and oranges feel like heat – fires burning within cracks in the earth or red hot heating elements. The blues make the images feel like underwater scenes, or perhaps a high-tech spacecraft.
It’s very effective to use colour in this way, to change the feel of the image. Match the vibe of your images with a theme, or use the colours to invoke emotions in the viewer. Adding colour to an otherwise colourless image catches the eye of your viewers!
Focus & Depth
If you’re creating abstract art, there is a much greater freedom on how you approach focus and Depth of Field (How much of your image is in focus at once). For most macro photography, you would want the image to be totally sharp thoughout. However, for abstract… maybe not!
We focus stacked some of the images in this shoot, but left others with a soft focus. Letting the focus drop off into the background can really add to that mysterious look and draw the eye to the textures of certain points in the image. You can choose to combat the blur, or embrace it for an even more abstract macro photo!
Of course, this is only one example of how to use macro photography lighting to create dramatic abstract art, but it’s a good starting point. If you can master using only a single light source to create cool, eyecatching macro shots, you can use that technique in many other ways!
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