Abstract self-portrait photography: get creative with your camera’s focus ring

Abstract self-portrait photography: get creative with your camera's focus ring

Taking an intentionally blurry photo? It may sound sacrilege, but sometimes it can be fun to break the rules of photography. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to take an abstract self-portrait that will make you look like a genius. Which you are.

Abstract self-portrait photography: get creative with your camera's focus ring

The final image

Generally it’s fair to say that one of the key characteristics of a good photograph is that the focal point of the image is pin-sharp. It’s one of the main reasons that our DSLRs come fully equipped with an armory of autofocus modes, a bunch of focus points and other cool focus-related features.

SEE MORE: Master your camera’s autofocus – which AF points to use (and when to use them)

Like many of the great things in life though, if you dare to challenge conventional attitudes you can sometimes come up with cool, creative and interesting results.

For this project, we’ve decided to abandon all points of focus and delve intrepidly into a completely blurry, out-of-focus world to shoot an abstract self-portrait. It’s actually not as easy as you might think. Without a focal point you’re forced to think about colour, tone and form in a new way. Even if you don’t like the end results, it’s a great exercise in the art of seeing.

Blur technique

Taking inspiration from the Deep Purple Machine Head album cover and other cool contemporary pieces from the art world, we’re using the out-of-focus blur technique to create a striking and haunting self-portrait. So let’s see how it’s done…

Final tip

Use the widest possible aperture to make the depth of field shallow.

SEE MORE: 10 family portrait photography mistakes every photographer makes at the holidays

How to shoot an intentionally blurry abstract self-portrait

1. Manual focus

Switch your camera to manual focus. The degree of blur is pretty important: you need to give the impression it’s a deliberate artistic choice, rather than a focus error. The intensity of abstraction will vary dramatically, so experiment with the focus ring.

2. Settings

Choose a wide aperture such as f/2.8 to create a shallow depth of field: this will cut down on parts of the image appearing sharp again. Switch to manual mode (or Aperture Priority) and use the histogram to establish a decent shutter speed.

SEE MORE: Histogram – photography cheat sheets for achieving perfect exposure

3. Compose

Without a focus point, composition is vital, so look at how shapes, tones and colours are working in the frame. Use your camera’s LCD. As we’re creating a contemporary blurred take on self-portrait photography, the framing requires a bit of trial and error.


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  • Most creative and useful tips you have provided. thanks for sharing this.