Abstract Macro Photography Tips & Ideas

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Abstract photography can be used to create an image that conveys some combination of shape, lines, form, and color, without conveying a specific object or scene. A good way to find interesting abstract compositions can be to focus in tightly on detail of an object, rather than photographing the object itself.

With a close-up or macro lens, virtually any subject can be used to create an abstract composition. You just need to look at it closely, in a way that you wouldn't normally.

Close-up photo of a grater
Close-up photo of a grater

In this article I'll share some ideas of good subjects for abstract macro photography, along with some photographic tips.

Stones and Rocks

Stones and rocks can reveal interesting patterns and textures when viewed close-up.

Close-up photo of a piece of slag stone / slag glass

Cut and polished slices of stones can be especially good for abstract macro photography.

Close-up photo of a geode slice

Macro equipment

For taking close-up and macro photos, you need to be able to focus at a close distance with your camera. For interchangeable lens camera owners, you can get macro lenses, or add extension tubes to an existing lens to make it focus closer. Some bridge and compact cameras come with a macro mode that will do a good job.

In other cases (or in addition) you can use a close-up lens (also known as a diopter lens). This screws onto the front of your camera's lens, and enables it to focus closer. If your camera doesn't have a thread to screw filters on, you can just hold the close-up lens in place. Not as convenient, but it will do the job. Small close-up lenses are also available for some phone models (mainly the iphone).

Raynox DCR-250 Super Macro Snap-On Lens
The Raynox DCR-250 is a popular high power close-up diopter filter that can be used with most cameras for macro photography

Ice and Frost

In the northern hemisphere at this time of year we often get ice. The natural patterns in ice make for great close-up abstract photos. Air bubbles frozen in ice, build ups of frost (ice crystals), and frozen condensation on shed or greenhouse windows are all photographic subjects to look out for.

Macro photo of air bubbles in ice
Macro photo of air bubbles in ice

Macro photo of cubic ice crystals (frost) on a leaf
Macro photo of cubic ice crystals (frost) on a leaf


For lighting your subjects, it is usually handy to have an extra light source. This is particularly true if you are shooting indoors. Avoid using your camera's built-in flash as this will normally result in a flat image with little texture. Instead use an external light source.

This could be an external flash, a torch, or a desktop lamp. The strength of the light can be adjusted by moving the light nearer or further away from your subject. Placing the light to the side of your subject allows the light to rake across the subject's surface, really bringing out the texture.

Image taken using the camera's built-in pop-up flash, showing the flat lighting, compared to an image taken with an external flash placed to the side of the rock, which gives an image with shadows revealing the rock's texture.


Flowers are a favorite subject of many photographers, and they can be great abstract subjects as well. In fact, I've written a whole article on Abstract flower photography tips.

Macro abstract photo of a flower with white and purple striped petals

Look for differences in color between the different parts of a flower. Try using a shallow depth of field to blur the flower petals for a smooth and creamy abstract photo.

Shallow depth of field macro abstract photo of a flower with white and purple striped petals

Try backlighting the flower as well - light will shine through the semi transparent parts of the flower like the petals, giving a very different look.

Macro abstract photo of a backlit flower

Finding "the shot"

With macro abstract photography, it can be difficult to envision a particular shot from a subject. Instead I would suggest looking at a subject through your camera with macro lens (or in macro mode).

Move the camera slowly around your subject, as well as moving it towards and away from the subject to change the area that is in focus. When you find a composition that looks interesting in the viewfinder, then stop, and try to get the shot.

Abstract macro photography can be a good way to give your mind a creative workout on cold and dull winter days. If you want to photograph flowers, don't forget you can always buy some potted plants or cut flowers from the shops.

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