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What Are the Elements of Surreal Photography?

Mouse Sprite Waterfall

As one of the most diverse industries in the world, photography can feel like an increasingly confusing place. When starting out, you spend a lot of time trying to get your head around the basics. Then, something as unique as surreal photography comes to the forefront and that can be even more baffling.

Surreal photography is a form of photography that is more about the composition than the actual shot. Those who are artistically minded will often find a lot of value from using this form of photography.

Surreal photography often combines together two seemingly unrelated things into a very interesting shot. It’s one of the main reasons why a lot of people tend to get involved with this particular form of photography: they get to appreciate and value it’s ‘real’ concept.

Often, surreal compositions will look to inject something imaginary or fictional into the real world. It helps to create a very interesting look, blurring the lines between what is real and what is not.

It’s one of the most imaginative forms of photography. You mix together things that simply cannot be real with things which are very, very real. This could help you to bring together some truly unique and satisfying imagery. If you find normal concept photography to be too much of a constraint, you can enjoy a bit more artistic vision with surreal photography.

In my personal work (or persona work, if you will) I live in the space between real and surreal. My own work is not as outlandish as the tried and true surreal photographers. Some people may view my work as real and then upon closer inspection say, “Is this real?” Now, to move on …

Surreal photography: shots for the creatively minded

One of the first things to recall about this particular form of photography is just how it combines the unreal with the real. From changing the head of a human to the head of a lion, to combining together jarring imagery with an otherwise tranquil shot, the aim here is to create something that truly catches the eye.

It’s one of the many reasons why a lot of people tend to favor taking on surreal photography using both camera and image-editing programs such as Photoshop. It’s not necessarily to be  visually pleasing, when it comes to surrealism, but about trying to stir the senses.

Throwing together two completely incompatible images and letting the viewer work out what they see and think of it. There are numerous benefits to taking on this kind of wild and imaginative photography. For one, you get to see just how creative that you truly are.

By taking perspectives which are totally polar opposites to one another and throwing them together, you create an interesting and contrasting image. It’s one of the main reasons why we might, for example, be drawn to imagery showing a jumbo jet flying underwater. Or a human carrying the head of an animal.

Or for me personally, I like to use other natural elements such as flowers, plants, trees, rocks, waterfalls, streams and the ocean to create the desire “real but unreal” effect.

So to recap, surrealism is all about trying to create something that breaks the boundaries of reality. Yet, in some ways, it “could” be real. It’s not total fiction, but a combination of the real with a reality only you can see. This is why, for many photo artists (like myself), the true beauty of surreal artwork is not just how jarring it is, but how it lets them truly tap into their creative senses. That, then, creates a truly satisfying overall finish.