Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Art In Editing

I have been working on the next book, and in writing an introduction, needed to deal with global controls (applied to the whole image) and local control (applied to just parts of the image via painting into masks or adjustment layers.

This got me thinking about photography as an art and a photograph as a work of art. One can use Photoshop or other editing tools to correct an image to what was seen by the eye, often involving taming highlights and shadows, increasing colour saturation and adding local contrast one way or another so that textures show better in the image.

These are technical skills, learned and practiced until competent. You might think of this as craftsmanship.

It's beyond this point that artistry becomes the primary mover - making changes to the image to interpret reality through not just the eyes of the artist but the imagination.

this doesn't necessarily mean going way over the top - on the contrary skillful subtle changes to an image can dramatically affect how people 'read' the image. A serious look can be turned into scowling, a calm landscape into mysterious, a dramatic image into a brooding one.

It's the difference between having a computer play the notes as written and having a conductor and orchestra interpret the work. That's what fine art printing is about.


nielsp said...

There seems to be a large debate about photography and art.

There are purists who desire little human intervention in capturing the image. Even though I find that the camera does already a good job a distorting reality.

Since I have always painted it wasn't until the photo-editing software really progressed that I can now apply my painting skills to my photographic compositions.

For the image that impress me, if no one else, I regularly spend 2 hours or more working the image.

This work is not for web versions but for the final print, with the subtle tones and other fine detail that tend to get lost on the web.

Niels Henriksen

G Dan Mitchell said...

I'm not so interested in recreating what the eye saw. I'm more interested in what the mind recalls of the experience and recreating that, or in creating a new experience that either evokes or builds upon the original.


Josh Gentry said...

You can do art in editing, and I don't see any inherent reason you shouldn't.

That said, there is a joy in working within constraints. I've recently embarked on becoming a serious amateur, I'm taking pictures with film, and the set of constraints I've chosen is what you can do with the camera, and soon the darkroom. The exception is that I do scan images to share digitally, and you always have to correct them to get them close to the original picture.

The only reason not to make changes that enhance the images at that point, is enjoying the challenge of working within my chosen constraints.

George Barr said...


you might want to supply a link to some of your images - I'm curious to see how a painter approaches photography.


George Barr said...

The concept of working within constraints is an interesting one and can often be useful - limiting yourself to one lens or only a Holga or whatever, though I see this more as an exercise than as a way of photographing long term.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of constraints, I had a friend pose an interesting concept for a "picture a day" project I was working on. Start the day knowing you can make only one exposure for the day. The thought ran shivers up my spine. It may be good for practice, but I do not have the restraint.

Pat Janisch said...

Of course it's art. It is art in the same way that processing in a traditional darkroom is art. The corollary is raw image=negative and print=print. Because we now do the processing in the digital darkroom instead of the the wet darkroom, why would that make it any less a work of art when it is complete?

Is the work of the masters; Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Capa et al, not considered art? I guarantee that they did not see the image they were making in black and white, and I am also quite sure that they employed every technique at their disposal in the darkroom to control the final image.

My camera World said...

My approach to photography is 2 fold. First is capturing an image that is either visually stunning (at least with my perception) in it own right or the more harder to find have a mood and requires the viewer to spend some time to understand if it has an impact on them.

The 2nd is that I will use parts of other images I have taken, but not from anywhere else, to combine to hopefully create a better image.

The latest blog article examines replacing skies to better set the mood. If you look at the Japanese temple the sky I chose to replace had similar circular patterns in the cloud texture to re-enforce the circular endings on the roof.


In ‘Vision – An approach to a B&W Composite Image’ I knew what image I wanted to create and I went about finding the 2 images to combine.

If you at the article ‘A Visit to an Old Friend ‘ for enhancing the B&W image I first analyze the compositional elements and then decide how to edit the photo to re-enforce these elements.
In the article ‘ Camera Shake’ I wanted to create an abstract painterly effect. These are more trial and errot as it a bit hard to predict the exact outcome.

If you look at the article ‘My Winter Snow capped Friends you my understand how when sitting around I can perceive or see different things and how I use my editing to bring it a bit more to my vision of what I saw.

My pbase site,. as I don’t seem to have much time to update lately with the other web stuff I am doing, probably has the good collection even if a bit older .