Artistic vision vs technical perfection?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by SquarePeg, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. SquarePeg

    SquarePeg hear me roar Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Another thread got me thinking about technical perfection/rules vs artistic vision (yes that thread). It seems like we have a good mix on TPF of technicians and artists and everything in between. I’ve seen some photos that, while technically excellent, were just boring and others that broke so many “rules” that they were hard to look at. Just curious where you think you fall on this? I d0nt think either way is wrong or right, just different approaches.

    Do you check your histogram when editing and if you do, do you ever ignore it and let your eye be the judge? Do you care if you’ve got highlights blinking if the photo looks good to you? When composing/cropping, are you thinking of compositional rules to improve it or do you crop as you like? If you’re horizon looks good right in the middle, do you move it up or down to follow the rules?

    For me, I fall pretty far from the technical side of things. I have certain “rules” that I follow because that is what is pleasing to me in a photo BUT, honestly if I didn’t have a histogram when shooting or editing, I wouldn’t miss it. I rarely, if ever, use it. Same goes for a lot of posing and compositional rules. I go by what I like. Maybe that’s holding me back?


     
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  2. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    If I'm objective, I would say that I'm more technical than artistic, however, I like to think that I have some grasp of the artistic. About the only time I ever check my histogram is while shooting to see how I am for shadows & highlights. I do have certain compositional "rules" that I try and adhere to, but nothing is written in stone.
     
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  3. Vtec44

    Vtec44 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I can sit here and have a lengthy discussion about inverse square law, speedlight GN, fluorine coating, OCF, DOF calculation, etc. I can hold my own when it comes to technical proficiency. However, you'll rarely hear me talk about those. I don't even remember the last time I looked at a histogram, it doesn't mean I don't know what it is or how to use it.

    People will never remember if you didn't blow out the highlights, or the horizon is straight/crooked, or if it has too much negative space, distracting background, etc. However, they will remember how a photograph makes them feel when they look at it. Since my job is to convey love so posing, emotions, and non-verbal communication are important. For me posing, lighting, and background are in that order of importance. My technical understanding of photography, my knowledge of composition, and my eye for lighting all work together to create feelings for a specific viewing audience. Photography is a form of expression. The guidelines are there so that you can be consistent with your results, but it shouldn't become something that would hold you back.
     
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
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  4. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I started out Photography with being a technical perfectionist, but I actually shot in a purely artistically point of view. This may be because I had already an artistic as I was drawing and painting before I took up photography ... but I had always been technically minded ? Though, I have never used a histogram while shooting ... but I do recall spending many minutes light metering everything I think was important and trying to calculate how that would equate to what appeared on film.
    Not sure if that makes any sense to anyone other than me.
     
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  5. dxqcanada

    dxqcanada Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    ... to continue ... these days with shooting digital, I really don't give a crap about that technical/rules stuff. I take a picture because I like what I see ... and also the tools we have are much better than playing with film and paper development.
     
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  6. Destin

    Destin Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    This is exactly what my response would have been.

    I feel like I struggle with the artistic side of things sometimes, while technical proficiency is easy to maintain.
     
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  7. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I try to make-up my technical deficiencies with imagination and a willingness to go the extra miles to get the job done. I try to get as much right as possible in the viewfinder. There was a time, when I was on my game, I even cropped entirely in the camera. If I had to crop in post, even straightening the horizon, I’d dump the photo. I am trying to get back to that level.

    I rarely used the histogram ... hell, I rarely chimp. Now that I am shooting with an EVF, I am checking the light meter less and less. In post, I only use the tools available to me which were/are available in a wet darkroom. This is my code, what others do is their code ... My code is right for me and your code should be right for you.

    For me, every photo tells a story ... artistic expression and technical perfection are secondary to telling the story. Those secondary consideration are not ignored, they just don’t get as much attention as story telling.
     
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  8. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    PS- If I was a commercial/studio/landscape photographer, I think I would be much more concerned with technical perfection than I am now.
     
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  9. Bollygum

    Bollygum TPF Noob!

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    It is very refreshing to find a site that has a mix of both sides. It is quite rare to find that. I have read posts from people who say that they have no artistic side and in fact don't really care what their photos look like and just focus on the process. Yet they dominate the posts. :confused-55:
    As for me, I am quite technical, but I only see that as a means to an end. I don't think I am a great artist, but making the picture look good is a major part of my intent. That and conveying information.
     
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  10. Tim Tucker 2

    Tim Tucker 2 TPF Noob!

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    I was recently on Jura and walked up to the loch above the distillery. Looking across the water into the sun the specular reflections were *bright*, they really conjured feelings of crystal and clear.

    As I sit here writing this is is a rainy, gloomy day. That is it is gloomy in the room, outside though the sky is bright and fairly featureless, not near back and full of stormy detail and contrast.

    So why does everything in a photograph have to have detail? Why does it all have to exist *between* the numbers that *represent* black and white? Why do we look to a graph to define how the image should look?

    This is from my last blog:

    It’s a very real pitfall for us photographers in that once we learn a few rules we apply that understanding to make sense of every picture we see. We teach ourselves to see the order we wish to impose, an order that allows us the illusion that we understand photography, and in doing so lose the ability to see beyond it because an order we don’t understand can appear invisible simply because we don’t learn to see it. I was having a conversation with a friend and a rough overview was that I was not seeing things clearly. But what is clearly other than the imposition of somebody else’s framework that allows them the illusion of understanding? It went much like this; “the pieces are this shape and fit together this way.”

    “I’m not so sure they fit together, some of the joins look a little fuzzy to me. Let’s take it apart and discuss the shapes a little more, see if the edges become clearer and then see if they still fit together that way or another.”

    “No, they have to be this shape or they don’t fit together.”


    How many really good images have you seen that you can fully express in words? It's the biggest problem I find with photo forums, that we always seem to need an understanding, or narrative, in words to explain *why*.

    I've absorbed a lot of information in my time, a lot I probably still don't fully understand. But I do realise that there are large gaps in our spoken language because it fails to fully describe everything we see. And this is a problem because if you need to put into words to understand then you will only see what you can describe in words. Somewhere along the line, and it's a slow realisation, you begin to see this and start to let go of the logic. This is when you start to *see*, beyond words, gain a visual understanding rather than a spoken one.

    The *rules* of composition are just visual principles distilled into written language, quite a lot of the meaning is also lost in the translation...

    Vision isn't absolute or scientific, it's human.

    Here's a question to ponder: We interpret emotion in an image by relating facial expressions to our experiences. In many ways they are generic as in we do not truly understand the subject, only ourselves and so will only understand emotion we can relate to.
    But how does this change in wedding photography where the audience will have an intimate understanding of peoples personalities? Does this mean that the images need to be more honest to the couple, less *high art* and ideals of the photographer?
     
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  11. Fujidave

    Fujidave Blue eyed and Beautiful Supporting Member

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    This is my way of thinking too, if I like/love what I see then I`ll take the image plus I love breaking the rules too in photography.
     
  12. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    A few thoughts:

    1) I think that a lot of technical and artistic sides to photography can be learned and repeated to a point where a person doing a lot of photography and either doing it in a wide variety of settings or working within regular constraints - can achieve a level of learning where they don't have to "think" about things as much as they once did. Most of us here I wager can change settings, adjust values and do most of that on the camera controls without having to think of things - if we see 2 stops overexposure we know that is several clicks on the dial to change it to what we need etc...

    Thus I think one can reach a point where one doesn't need to rely on histograms or light meters as much as when they first started; or have to think about leading lines or the golden circle etc... It's not that they are not using such tools, its that they don't need to double check them and that its running on experience and repetition as much as one might call "instinct".

    Of course some people never reach that point, they either don't shoot as much or continually; or they are always in different conditions that makes it harder to guess the settings and situation etc... Others are just not as "clued in" or observant and thus might still rely heavily on technical and artistic aids and thinking and run less on "instinct".

    2) Technical VS artistic mindset stems most from the early days of most peoples photography learning where there is often a heavy bias toward the technical. This is because you can have all the artistic skill in the world, but if you can't control your tools and if you can't read the light and situation you can't put that creative talent to much use. It's also a LOT easier to critique and I would say builds on the fact that art as a subject is VERY poorly taught at many schools (thus meaning many people often have a poor understanding of it). So the technical side tends to dominate more so.

    There then comes a big learning moment when people realise that technical "perfection" is not a real thing and that real world situations vary what is and isn't possible and that there are choices to be made. These choices hinging on the photographers artistic interpretation of the scene. So suddenly all those technical things seem less important, almost incidental, to the artistic vision that is going to make the photograph rather than just a record shot.

    3) My personal view is that any photo is a sum of it parts and that technical and artistic are equal in importance overall. Photographer also throws in the wildcard two other elements which are content and context. These two latter parts can complicate matters as they can both trump both the technical AND the artistic. Some of the most powerful photographs in the world that have had the biggest impact are artistically and technically rubbish. They are little more than untrained snapshots - and yet they capture a moment of great importance - the context and content of the photograph becomes the key element. Context can also extend to how the photo is displayed; some photos on their own say nothing, but when shown as part of a series they gain power and impact.



    Personally my view is that both art and technical are of great importance, but neither is the be-all and the end-all. Fail in one enough and the photo fails even if the other is very strong. And above both of those is the context and content of the photo - which can even extend to the context of its display not just its content.

    Myself I still use the histogram, I know that some blown out highlights are always going to be blown and that's fine; I know dark areas are not always to be avoided. The histogram tells me where those things are and shows me (blinkies) where the overexposed areas are. With those I can best judge how the settings have allowed me to capture the artistic vision I want for the photograph. I've no doubt that if I shot a lot lot more I'd be far more instinctive with the settings to the point where I'd know pretty much what to set without having to even think about it and without having to double check or chimp. Often I find that these days I only have to check once or twice at the very start and, so long as the light holds steady, I know that the settings I've got will continue to work.
     
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  13. Dean_Gretsch

    Dean_Gretsch Always looking... Supporting Member

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    Being nothing more than an interested hobbyist, I suppose my opinion doesn't count but here goes! I always try editing with highlights and shadows being the first focus, color second, and tweaking all points to please my eye. I am almost always editing on a laptop, so depending on the angle of the screen, sometimes it works and sometimes it bellyflops!
     
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