6 min read

Surreal photos seem to bend the reality and make us look twice. They are both cool and weird at the same time. Surreal photos are attention-grabbing with all those unusual and mind-blowing shapes and colors. So, what does it take to create impressive, psychedelic surreal photography with an iPhone? Maybe it’s all about a few photography tricks one needs to master to get to the top.

a surreal photo concept of a modern city and a big sea turtle

Well, surreal photography is more about what to “create” rather than what to “shoot.” Deciding a good angle to shoot a photo is, of course, the right decision, but it’s hardly ever enough to get you a surreal piece of art. So, what to do to create that visual jerk that combines two completely different pieces and is not only beautiful but quite shocking as well? Let’s go deeper into this to get the answers.

To create impressive surreal photos, you might need the following:

A dazzling concept

You can shoot only one photo or you can create a series of photos based on a single idea. Just make sure you have a wonderful idea in place and you know what you want to achieve. A clear idea will always make it easier to get outstanding pictures.

You do not need costly professional cameras to create really impressive surreal photos. Your smartphone can come in handy. Mastering a few tricks can help create superb images.

a surreal photo concept containing a train, the moon and planet Earth

As you are using an iPhone instead of a DSLR, you might need an iOS app to edit your photos. No need to use any photo editing software. Usually, an app costs less and is easier to handle than editing software. All visuals in this guide are made with Pixomatic. Master the app well and your photos will look as catchy as edited in costly editing software.

Let us now see what techniques to use to get you the desired effects.

Camera perspective

Do you want to distort reality to create an impressive surrealist picture? Then make sure you use the easiest technique in the book; changing perspectives.

a surreal photo of a man holding a small version of a woman

Using your camera perspective can help create the optical illusion you want. It’s as simple as moving the objects away from the camera so that they seem either too big or too small as compared to their actual sizes.

Optical illusion through a mirror

an optical illusion image of a man holding picture of himself to infinity

A perfect optical illusion can be achieved by using mirrors (street mirrors or those in your bathroom) or water (to mirror the objects being photographed). Usually, rain puddles are a great thing to use to achieve the mirror effect. Sometimes, especially in autumn, really bizarre photos can be captured on a rainy day.

a surreal portrait of a young woman looking through the glass of water

Contrasting colors

Gray or black & white images often have a surreal touch. And if you add a bit of color to a selected part or object, it can become a real masterpiece of surreal photography. You just need to make sure the highlighted part stands out from the rest.

A woman holding a colorized fruit on a black and white background

Photo manipulation

This is by far one of the most common tricks in surrealism photography. The whole idea is in joining two pictures in one. Usually, photo manipulation involves merging the background of one image with the central subject of the other. The result appears as a single image that usually incorporates beauty, passion, and artistic freedom. Below is an image created by a surreal photographer with the help of Pixomatic.

a photo manipulation, double exposure image


Want spooky, ghostly images? Use blurring! To create a surreal atmosphere, you need to blur everything in the photo except for the subject. Keep the latter in perfect focus.

Also, if you manage to blur motion, it can result in a dreamlike effect. It is usually a matter of seconds to blur a photo with the help of a photo editing app. You just need to decide which parts to blur and which ones to leave untouched.

surreal bright photo with blurred background


Solarization (or solarisation) or the so-called Sabattier effect is a technique in photography where the image is either wholly or partially reversed in tone. You see dark areas as bright and bright areas as dark. While you might think that special equipment or photo editing software is needed to create solarized surreal pictures, a few iPhone photography tricks will be enough.

a solarized surreal photo of musicians

To achieve the high level of contrast needed for the solarization effect, you can turn on the light in a dark room for a very short moment to shoot the subject. If you manage to shoot at that very short-lived moment, you will get the needed shadows. For the final touch, feel free to experiment with gray effects in your iOS photo editing app (Pixomatic offers a wide range of awesome gray effects).

 a surreal high-contrast photograph of a tree

Final notes on our surreal photography tricks

You might think that photo surrealism is all about spontaneity and improvisation. However, you need to decide what you want to say. You need a plan, a concept, a story to tell. 

Creating surreal art is a great way of self-expression. It offers full artistic freedom and does not imprison your imagination in any way. Vibrant and chilling colors, supernatural contradictions, logical paradoxes are what make surrealistic art. You don't need much to squeeze surreal juices from a photo. What you need is simply an iPhone and Pixomatic app.

Feel free to experiment with surrealist photos as much as you want and happy shooting!