This week we are at Week 13 of professional pet photography blog circle Project 52 and the interesting and creative theme of using focus to abstract. As with the other weeks this year, we are following “The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs” by David duChemin. The lesson our weekly theme is taken from discusses that we should use “the aesthetic possibilities of out-of-focus elements” to create something more abstract in our work. There are many ways to achieve abstraction in our images from using a lack of focus to using a very finite focus, and a variety of ways in between. Typically, when we shoot, we are looking for our subject to be in sharp focus and possibly more out-of-focus elements in the background (depending on our goal and subject matter.) This week is all about creative license in creating abstract images.

One of the things I’ve always really liked in images that are out-of-focus is when there is light and bright colors. I remember a number of years ago (back in the days of film) a few of my favorite images were ones that I made without the best focus, but it gave them a very creative and vibrant look. They were somewhat abstract, because of the lack of focus, but had artistic merit (in fact, I sold a set of prints of this series). So, for this project I wanted to do something kind of similar with light and color and, of course, Mr. Bojangles. So, we headed out after dark to a busy intersection in my community that is filled with light and color. Since the chapter we are following also talks about building a body of work, I created a series of images from this session to show the progression towards achieving the look I wanted.

In my first image, Mr. Bojangles is in focus, but the lights behind him are out-of-focus. This is where I started and I made adjustments to my shutter speed to achieve the look I wanted. All images were shot with a 35mm lens at ISO 100 and an aperture of f/1.8. The shutter speed for this image was 1/20 second.

In order to get more out-of-focus in the image, I slowed my shutter speed down to 0.4/second. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is let into the image adding brightness. You can also see that Mr. Bojangles moved as he has more than one pair of ears in these next two images.

Because I wanted more abstraction to the image, I slowed the shutter speed to 0.8/second for the next two images. In these images, Mr. Bojangles is becoming more abstract and starting to blend in more with the lights, which have become more out-of-focus and brighter.

I then slowed the shutter speed down to 1.6/second. At this point, Mr. Bojangles has almost become part of the light.

Finally, I slowed the shutter speed down to 2.0/seconds.

In order to achieve this look by using the slow shutter speeds, I handheld the camera. If I had used a tripod, these images would have looked completely different and wouldn’t have achieved the abstraction and vividness I was going for. Of course, these aren’t something I would typically do for a client, but I had a bit of creative fun working to achieve the abstract look I was going for with them.

Now, to see more use of abstract focus, head over to Pat Corl, Field and Ranch Photography, Greenville, TX, and then around the rest of the blog circle until you end up back here. I, for one, can’t wait to see what creative images my colleagues have come up with!

If you’d like to book a custom pet portrait session in your home or other favorite location, use the hot pink “BOOK NOW” button to the right of this post (at the bottom of your screen on mobile), send us an email to suzi [at], or give us a call at 513-288-1650 in the Greater Cincinnati area or 650-382-3242 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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