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7 Techniques to Create the best Surreal Photography

Surreal photography is an artistic and intellectual movement originated in France in the early 1920s, and is best known for its stunning artworks and writing. The aim of this movement is to push the limits of what was feasible with a photograph and liberate passion. It promises a complete artistic freedom. As surreal photography deals with creating such photographs that seem to have some sort of special effects, it takes specific kind of creativity to achieve such as effect. Dreamy contradiction, strange creatures, or logical paradoxes – these are certainly not of this world and are iconically very surrealistic things. Photographers do require different surreal photography techniques to give surreal its charm.

surreal photography with flora
Photo Credits: Jason Samfield


Surreal Photography Techniques

1. Photomontage

Photomontage is one of the common techniques used in surreal photography . The process includes joining two or more photos together to make it look like they are a single picture. To capture such moments, photographer select an image of an interesting background and another image of the central subject. Now they join the two images to make them look like as one.

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2. Blurring

To create a surreal atmosphere for your photos and videos, the subject should be in focus, and then you can use blurring effects in your camera and post production. Lowering the aperture of the camera will reduce the depth of field of the image, and it becomes easy to blur things that are moving during the time you take the picture by slowing the shutter speed. In Photoshop, you can edit the image and duplicate the image layer. This method is an off the field surreal photography technique.

surreal photography -- blurring technique
Photo Credits: Carolyn Hampton

3. Shutter speed

Shutter speeds of a camera can create excellent surreal photographs. Fast shutter speed has the ability to freeze a moving subject and slower shutter speeds can depict movement in a photograph of a moving subject. Shutter speeds lasts less than a second. It can also blur motion, which can result in a dreamlike effect.

4. Float your subject

Floating your subject is an impressive way to create surreal effect in your photograph. Make use of chair or stool so that it becomes easy to remove in Photoshop later to hold your subject up as if it is in the air. However, to achieve this effect, you must keep your camera in manual mode and disable the auto-focus option. You must also use a tripod in order to keep the position of everything in two picture very close. One photo will have the floating subject on a prop, the other should be essentially the same image, but without your prop or subject in the frame. In Photoshop, open both the images, with the background image being your bottom layer, and the floating image on top. Finally, click on the brush tool, zoom in, and remove the prop from the top layer to end up levitating the person or object in the image.

5. Solarization

Solarization, popularly known as Sabattier effect, is a surreal photography technique to make an image partially or completely reversed in tone. The technique involves a partially developed film which is exposed to light while it is being developed. You can expose the partially developed film by turning on the light in the darkroom for a short-lived moment. This result in the reversal of shadows and highlights, which leads to a high level of contrast.

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6. Perspectives

Using camera perspective is an amazing optical illusionary technique to distort reality. It is as simple as moving an object  further away from the camera, to make it smaller, or closer to the lens to make it look larger in the frame. Applying some control and manipulation in the sizes of things in the images can help to make scenes look bizarre and contradictory to reality.

7. Color Choice

Although black-white images have surreal qualities to them, adding a little bit of colors to selected parts or region can give it even more stunning look. Highlighting and adding different tones to certain object allow you to give different effects and aesthetics. However, you need to select the subject you wish to color in Photoshop by using different tools including Magic Wand, Quick Select tool, Pen tool, or Lasso tool.

Check out some of the best examples of surreal photography to get a good sense of vision and creativity to create things that others wouldn’t normally see.

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Tristan Taylor

Tristan Taylor, a proficient fashion photographer, is associated with various photography workshops, seminars and symposiums. He keeps himself updated with nitty-gritties of fashion photography industry. Tristan found Gulf Photo Plus extremely helpful to extract information regarding Fine art printing, Giclee print and other aspects related to photography.

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