Surely by now, as a good devourer of other people’s photographs, you will have been moved by some surprisingly magical or unreal image that has caught your attention, right? These extraordinary images almost certainly evoke at least one of these two questions: Why? And how? Why, you will have to look for it at the bottom of your being, because that is what it is, that is what the artist wants, to show you the most hidden of his being, his dreams, his instincts … And how, we will try solve in this article, but first we will make a brief summary of the meaning of surrealism to understand what it is and what its main objectives and characteristics are.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO SURREALISM
Surrealism emerged almost a century ago and completely changed the way of perceiving, understanding and expressing art. Its groundbreaking and provocative conception is based on spontaneity, on the creation without control of the mind, on the exploration of the subconscious and the world of dreams, to arrive through this path, to the true essence of the human being.
It is an art that is beyond reality or social conventions, looking for everything that is unique in the depths of the human being’s mind, the wonderful, the ambiguity, the strange … Everything that is part of the most remote spaces of our essence; Our most basic instincts. For all this, it is an art that we conceive unreal, which allows us, through its expression, to enter the magical and mysterious world of the artist who created the work.
The main drivers and creators of the movement were Marx Ernst, André Masson, Joan Miró, Man Ray, René Magritte, Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dalí. All of them used various techniques such as free writing, collages, the object found or the free association of images among others.
And now that you are somewhat more situated in the context of surrealism, let’s see what really interests us, how we can apply theory to photography practice. For this we will see 10 different ways to get surreal photography.
1. FORCED PERSPECTIVE
Forced Perspective is an optical illusion created through the combination of different sizes and planes in an image.
A moon in a basket, a dog in the foreground with an open mouth that seems to be going to eat someone who walks in the background of the image … Or something as known as the typical image of someone holding the Taj Mahal from the cusp.
All these images are real, there is no montage behind, but it is the perspective used that gives us these impossible images that deceive our eye.
Here is an example of this kind of perspective:
And here I leave you a few tips to create images with forced perspective:
- Display the image before pressing the shutter
- Play with the proportions of objects or people
- Move to get the desired angle and effect
- Play with closed diaphragms, since in this case the two or more planes of the image are equally important, it is important that everyone is well focused.
- Unleash the imagination
- Get inspired by seeing photographs of other photographers; Creativity is learned like everything else!
2. DOUBLE EXPOSURE
It is a fairly simple technique that can bring you amazing results. It’s about merging two images into one, through superimposing them on top of each other.
There are some cameras that have this option directly in the menu, but if you do not have this option, doing so through a program to process images is very simple.
Here is an image made with double exposure
The tips to make amazing double exposure images can be read in this fantastic article.
And don’t forget to take a look at the challenge that was made on this topic, here . Surely your images inspire you.
As the name implies, it is the technique of painting with light. You can get amazingly surreal images through light games with long exposures. It’s basically about finding a preferably dark place and a point of light that can be whatever you think; candles, flares, flashes … Any element that of light, even the stars or the moon, only to capture their movement, the exposures should be quite long.
Once you’ve decided what you want to ‘draw’, it’s about putting your camera on a tripod and in Bulb mode, which means that the shutter will be open for as long as you decide. And from this point, you start to draw and create a unique and surprising image.
Here is an image made with the lightpainting technique.
If you need to know more about the process, you can read this article from Iaio where it explains it perfectly.
And if you want to get a little more inspiration, look at what a fantastic selection of photographs taken with lightpainting contributed by the participants in the challenge of this topic.
4. FOUND OBJECT (OBJET TROUVÉ)
It is a technique widely used by surrealist artists, and basically it is about bringing the existing category of common or everyday objects into the art category, which are not normally considered artistic. For example, in 1960 Marcel Duchamp exhibited a toilet in the Museum of New York as part of his work, using this concept of the object found. It can be a modified everyday object, but always recognizable, and is usually decontextualized, which gives it a more unreal and shocking sense.
And as an image is worth a thousand words … Here is an image that adapts to the surreal technique of the object found:
Surely you have done many collages throughout your life, but have you tried it in photography? And I don’t talk about any image retouching program, I talk about preparing a live stage through the combination of several images. For example, in a portrait. Look at the following image:
Simple, right? But at the same time surprising and mysterious.
6. LIGHT AND MYSTERY
Surrealism, since it intends to delve into the essence of the unknown, the depth of the human being, has many doses of mystery and unreality. Light, as always, is your great ally in the search for everything you want to express. It can give your images unreality, drama, magic … everything you can conceive in your mind. It is only a matter of being aware of its possibilities and knowing how to play with it.
Look for example the following image, it is an image that shines for its apparent simplicity, here there is only one face and some light, but the effect achieved with the latter does not leave you indifferent.
7. FOG AND UNREAL LANDSCAPES
A photograph is the sum of countless variables, starting with the imagination of each photographer, the knowledge of your camera, the behavior of the light, the color temperature and a long etcetera. So are the weather conditions, where foggy landscapes are perhaps the most inspiring in surreal photography, since they evoke mystery or the unknown, because the fog reveals something but not enough, which instantly leads you to want to see more there, to feel that something is happening but escapes your knowledge.
If you need advice when photographing fog, you can not miss this article.
Since most of us share a fairly similar culture, we also share common symbols, which can be great allies in photography when transmitting a specific message and that the viewer perceives and understands correctly.
For example, a withered flower transports you to lost beauty; to decay, wings associated with freedom, a butterfly to the ephemeral, or a clock as time goes by. These symbols are a message in itself, and playing with them when explaining your image can provide you with a very interesting visual narrative.
Is there anything more surreal than flying objects or people who by themselves are incapable? To get your protagonists to fly you have two options; one without Photoshop and the other with Photoshop.
The first option without an image editor is also known as Bed Jumping, and as the name implies, it is about jumping on a bed and shooting the subject when he is in the air. To get this image, you will need a support for your camera, the flash, the self-timer mode if you are the protagonist, the camera in automatic mode, and the occasional attempt to achieve the desired effect.
Here is an article that contains everything you need to know about Bed Jumping.
For the second option, you will need some basic notions of Photoshop, but as sure that many of you have already surrendered to its charms, it will not be difficult for you.
Basically it is about putting our ‘flying’ subject on some surface that supports it: A box, a chair, etc., thinking if it can be a priori that it can be easily removed later in Photoshop. Once we have the image of our subject and the material we have used to support it, we take a second picture of the same scenario without any object.
Here is a video tutorial where he explains it step by step:
The possibilities of this technique are endless, as well as your imagination and creativity. Here are some sample images:
Everything that allows us to change the conscious reality to show our unconscious reality will be worth your surrealist photography. As you may know, there are many filters in photography, here is a list of some filters that you can find related to special effects.
Playing with them and learning to know them, will open the doors of creativity. Of course you also have the ones that provide most of today’s mobile phones, so if you want to start playing with them and see their countless possibilities, you can start with those. The question, as always, is to take pictures, with whatever you have on hand and according to your possibilities.
Ready to transform your imagination into reality? Creativity first of all, the possibilities in photography are endless, just like your imagination, and contrary to what you usually think when you look at a surrealist photograph that inspires you, many of the effects achieved can be obtained easily, without the need for touch-ups or Great knowledge of Photoshop. Yes, there are many worked with image editing programs, but many others shine precisely because of their simplicity, their minimalist message, simple and deep, and on a personal level, the latter are what make me stand longer in front of them asking me more? Why? What How ?, Because the how, is relatively simple, it is about learning this or that program, but those that have been made with basic, simple objects,
So there are no excuses to start entering the wonderful world of surreal dreams, ambiguity, surprise, mystery, feelings or the deepest instincts … and show the world what you are made of. oh what do you have to say about it
And if you found this article useful or interesting, you know, share it, Thank you!