Posts Tagged ‘Art’

I think maybe I am a pictorialist, not a photographer…or maybe not…

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

I found this great thought over on, a wonderful sight I just discovered and am beginning to explore:

Photographers are like dogs – they come in many breeds, some are purebred, others are mongrels. Is there a right or best way to be a photographer? I think not. I am a pictorialist – a photographer who creates images rather than takes them. I’ve learned to shape light and do so freely whenever I need to. I won’t hesitate to change or fix something in Photoshop if need be (although I much prefer to get it right at the time of capture). Other shooters are documentarians. They strive to capture images with minimal influence on the event being photographed and process them in a way that does not alter the file. When I create photographs solely as a personal expression, I am working as an artist. When I create photographs to meet the needs of others, I am a businessman. Some photographers shoot only food or fashion or sports. Other photographers shoot anything they can. None of these is right or wrong, better or worse.

This was part of a series of posts called “Lessons I didn’t learn in photo school.”  Had you asked me a couple of days ago how I viewed myself:  pictorialist or photographer, I probably would have said “amateur hack”.  But if you tried to pin me down, I would have said a pictorialist because I tend to think I look at things from a more artistic point of view as opposed to a documentary point of view.  Or so I thought.  I found myself in the unique position of arguing with myself the other night about post work from this picture I took during the Scott Kelby Photo Walk.

Yellow roses in Texas - 42/365 -18 July 2009

It’s quite obvious I used Lightroom to bring out the yellow roses and subdue the background.  No biggee.  But what I found myself debating over was some of the spots on the wall in the background.  The artist side of my brain said, “Get rid of the spots.  They’re ugly!”  Then from nowhere, the documentarian in by brain popped out from around a corner and said, “But the spots WERE THERE.  You should leave them.  That was the reality of what you shot.”  This of course caused the artist side of my brain to say “WTF?  Who is this guy, where did he come from and who told him he could speak?”  At which point the art side of my brain donned a beret, turned his nose in the air and looked the other way, thinking that “If I don’t see him he really isn’t there.”

At any rate, the art side won in the end and I removed the spots in the final picture.  But I had no idea that that little realist part of my brain (I’ve named him Hector, for now.) even really existed.  In the end, I think I am, in fact, more of a pictorialist, but I guess the fact that there even is a Hector in my head, at least means that I am progressing enough as an artist to question why I am doing something.

Is Photoshop cheating?

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

Anyone who checks in here on a regular basis knows that I’m into photography.? I love to take pictures and I love to process pictures.? To process, I use Photoshop Elements 6 and I have a blast with it.? I think it often allows me to produce something more interesting or beautiful than I was able to take with my camera.

Since I have been on and some other photography web sites, there is always a group who will deem the use of Photo editing software as somehow ‘cheating’.? You get either the ‘what you’re making isn’t what the camera saw.? It’s not true photography.’ or the ever popular ‘A good photographer would never need to use Photoshop.’? Then you have those who think it’s cheating in some cases but not in others.? ‘I just use it to crop the photo, but I never adjust? anything else’, or ‘I use it only to crop and maybe adjust the saturation or to lighten or darken here and there, but I never introduce something that wasn’t there before.’? I’ve sat and listened to these arguments for years, and quietly thought they were pretty silly, but? have decided to finally decided to weigh in on this publicly.

First let me say that I am not a ‘great photographer’, by any stretch of the imagination.? You have probably seen my pix up here on occasion and, in general, there is nothing staggering there. ? I occasionally get some decent shots and I can guarantee you that not one of them has seen the light of day without going through Photoshop first.

There seem to be two trains of thought about what a photographer is trying to accomplish.? Some consider it it a historical practice. They are trying to capture a moment in time exactly as it was.? Others consider it art, as they are trying to create something that evokes an emotion.? Let’s address the historical practice first.? Unfortunately, you are never going to capture a moment in time EXACTLY as it was.? With photography, you are still setting the camera and capturing within the range of settings that you have applied.? You control the focus, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, iso, etc..? The closest you cold come to this would be to use an old instamatic or Poloroid where you can’t set any of this stuff.? Oddly, I? don’t think most of the people in this article are shooting 110 film stuff.

You are also capturing within the range of the sensitivity that is built in to the camera.? Some cameras have stronger blues, or reds, etc.? The blue you get for that sky may not be the exact blue that was there.? One digital sensor doesn’t perform exactly like another.? Even the old instamatic 110 cameras are effected by the glass that was used.? You just can’t capture reality verbatim and put it in a frame.

So this leaves art.? We are trying to create something that conveys emotion.? This being the case, I don’t understand why it matters if you did it with a camera by itself or a camera and some software.? I think photo editing? software is just another part of the process of creating the art.? Before digital, was processing in the darkroom cheating?? Of course not.? It was just part of the work flow.? Photoshop really is our digital darkroom, albeit on steroids. Still it’s just another tool.

“That’s all well and good.? It’s ok for tweaking, but I would never use Photoshop to create something that’s not there.? That’s just not right.”

Hmmm…ever use a flash?? Why?? A flash adds light to the scene that before the flash, just wasn’t there. So if we are going to say that using photo editing software is cheating because it allows us to add something that isn’t there, then I guess the flash would have to go to.

“But photoshop does everything for you.? It means that anyone can just make something cool.”

First off all, you have obviously never used Photoshop.? It is not the most intuitive program in the world and if you sit someone down in front of it for the first time, they are going to create crap, not stunning images. It’s a tool that requires knowledge of it’s use to be successful.? Second, if it were that easy for someone to sit down and get beautiful results, would that be a bad thing?? I really feel everyone has it in them to create something beautiful.? It’s about what is inside.? Many people have just found no way to bring what’s inside, outside.? If there were such a piece of code that could do that, I say, ‘Great.”

The point here is we are trying to create art in a visual form.? Whether we do it with an instamatic and a scanner or a D40 or with Photoshop, it’s all about creating something that evokes emotion.? Whatever you need/want to do that, doesn’t matter.? What matters is that you do it.? We live in an age that allows us a certain set of tools.? 30 years ago, the tools were different but the purpose was the same.? 30 years from now, I’m sure the tools will be different, but the purpose will still be the same.

Would “On The Road” be any less of a great novel if it were written on a computer with a word processor than written on pen and paper?

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