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The Art of Photography has taken on a lot of different meanings in the past twenty years. However, when approached properly and correctly Art, whether it's via a camera or a brush, Art is just that Art. Now you're probably ready to jump into my pool and start splashing, but hear me out. Here on this site and several hundred others, I see a lot of "Snapshots." Yes I said Snapshots not Photographs. The difference between the two is quite fundamental in that the Photograph is done with care, deliberation, planning, considerable amount of thought, patience, etc., while a snapshot is a quickie done with with little thought or care.

Now back to Art. Art can be defined in so many ways, probably as many ways as there are people. So how can we boil all this down into form that makes sense? How does the statement "Art of Photography" apply to everyday life? It doesn't. It does though apply to those special few images that we all have tucked away on a harddrive or on a stack of DVD's or in a drawer in the kitchen. You know the ones I'm talking about, we all have them. But what are they really? Are they award winning images? Most likely not! Will they be hung in galleries? I don't think so. Then what exactly are these elusive images and how do they relate to Art?

The Art of Photography and those images we keep tucked away in a safe place relate to others about how we as artists perceieve the world in which we reside. These image speak volumes to the viewer with "No Explanation" needed from the maker. These Artfully created images are about emotion, story telling, humor, etc. These delightfully inteligently made photographs become Art when the buy/user/consumer purchases them and then displays them in albums or in frames on a wall or in some other manner. Now they've become Art because they're appreciated.

Now the "Art of Photography" must begin with the basics, the fundamentals of the photographic process. One must understand the working of camera/lens as well as the rules (I use this term "rules" loosly here) of composition, color, and light. But, one of the more important things that a lot of upcoming artists miss (photographers included), is they miss "seeing." The camera is capable of seeing whatever we see, but we first must "See." Most people look at the whole of a scene. That is where we start - this is the beginning. But as we all know every whole is made up of several parts, and most of those parts are also made of parts and so on. Almost every artist and photographer at some point in their life photographs flowers. But, how many of us have photographed just the petals, or better yet just a single petal? Very few of us. This is the basics of "Seeing." To see the details that make up the whole.

So how does this "Seeing" become Art? We as artistically minded and talented individuals, need to slow down and explore the world we live in a closer and intimate point of view. Once we start to see the "Parts" of the scene we can then apply the light. The "Light" is the key factor to every great image. The color, direction, and quality of light is paramount to the success or failure of every work of art.

So "Photographic Art" is a combination of seeing, using light, using the correct relationships of color, correct positioning of the viewpoint, and learning how to use these in the correct manner. We also have to factor in the emotional aspects along with humor, story telling, and our own personalities. Once we combine these qualities into a given image, in theory that is, we'll have Photographic Art.

Let me hear form you, in an open and candid manner. I will, in the future, add to this discussion allowing for growth, insights, but mostly for everyone to learn through self exploration with their Art.


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A nice description of 'art'. I had to read it 2-3 times to absorb the multiple layers of meanings in these few lines.

You very describes the essence of artistic approach, 'of seeing' , to slow down , seeing and presenting only a slice of life at a time. it is true to all forms of art, including writers. A short story/ novel writer, slows down , observes an event at a time and present it. it is more concerned with depth rather than width of emotions. A novice tries to capture 'all in one'. But with experience, knowledge, one learns to see, reflect, absorb and present a closer look. 

As Elliott Erwitt once said: “To me, photography is an art of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place... I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

My Friend Aamir,

You have honored my thoughts to a high degree of appreciation. Thank you. You are so correct in all artists need to learn the act of "Seeing." Having studied with whom I would say are some of the great photographic artists of my time, Karsh - Haas - et., they all have aluded to this very fact of "Seeing." For some, this is a gargantuan hurdle to master, while for others it is a walk in the park. For me ... it was a combination of both. My hardest and most difficult hurdle was the nomenclature my mentors used to describe a given scene. But it was through perserverance, passion, and wanting to be one of the best in my field, that I was able to open my mind to the mere fact that we as artists must develop and foster a sense of 'visual-candy' in the world around us. It's this observation of the mere flower (or weed) that grows in the garden, or the insect which walks with pride across a stalk of grass, or the way the sun glistens off the windows of a sky scraper, that leads us to the image, or images, that we develop firstly in the minds eye, in our heart, in our soul, and then with the aid of the camera we don't take the photograph we quietly ask to borrow it.

To "see" with greater understanding and depth, then we build upon our knowledge of artistic subjects and then through this acceptance we then have the ability to turn the mundane, the common place, the Wabi-Sabi, into works of beauty via the camera. We're all capable of seeing, we're all filled with the ability to use the tools of our trade (the camera and it's accoutrements), and for the most part we are able to make presentations of this talent in the forms of prints or computer images.

It is through these endeavours that these efforts become "Photographic Art." We all have failures in creating visual candy or photographic art, but as we learn, as we develop, as we go through the metamorphasis of growth, these failures become less and less and our successes shine like the sun on a warm spring day. We share with the world our "Photographic Art."


Can't agree more, Diane

Any creative process has stages

1. Conception. This requires, 'to see' as Robert mentioned, or to feel (to conceive) as described by you. this needs sensitive, observations. even a writer , painter, composer have to feel, to get inside them. this stages needs a sensitive nature and training to look and see. 

2. Production: This is a stage where a photographer must have a sound knowledge of their camera, a musicians should know how to play their instrument to create what they conceptualize. and a writer must have a good command of language and grammar for effective communication. 

3. Post production: This is the stage where we must have a command of editing tools to create and present our ideas for which , as you mentioned an artist might be waiting for months and years

This group was basically created on discussions on step one. for step two there are many on line tutorials and courses. 

for third step, i must mention and appreciate the contribution of photoshopkelly on this site. she has a tremendous contribution by uploading about 700 video tutorial on editing. she is a real asset for this site

so all these steps are important in any great art, and i especially like your last comment 

art is not a race we have to appreciate every moment of the journey:)

Aamir and Diane - Wow! Some powerful and intuitive comments. Diane your comment on patience is supported throughout the worlds Art community and I so appreciate your sharing that with us, I sometimes lose the importance of this one basic important step. As a leader of workshops and photo safaris I see so many people in a hurry to get their memory cards full and yet they still have nothing note-worthy. Conception and Seeing are wound into a methodology that cannot be dismissed - ever! These two methods have to be present in each and every piece of Art or the piece will not be strong, in fact it may fail miserably.

I too have done the "Seek" of an image only to return home empty handed. Then there are those times I get a very short distance in my travels and there before me is the exact scene - subject - image I've been dreaming about. It's times like this when the universe appears to be in complete harmony with me. My only regret is that it's not as often as I would like. :-)

As for Conception - I would like to step out of the norm here and suggest for those who are on their first stages of learning Photographic Art, to make what I call a "Book of Tear Sheets." As one reads magazines, newspapers, periodicals, etc., tear out those pages or images that have impact on you (post cards work well also). Select those images you would like to produce yourself and put them in your book. Then as your book begins to fill, this may takes months, you'll begin to see a pattern in what your favorite subject is, or favorite lighting, or favorite ????. Knowing these things about oneself, then and only then, can one begin to build upon their personal "Style" and develop a portfolio that has meaningfull representation of who they/we are. This is the foundation or fuel for the creative being we all hold close and dear. Some will say that Conception is based losely on dreams while others may say it's an emotional thing, while all these statements are true, what they miss is that they are all part of the whole.

Seeing and Conception are so closely related they sometimes appear to be one and the same yet as different as night and day. This close relationship is what we need to foster, to nurture, to add fuel to. As the ability to "See and Conceptualize" increases, so does the resulting product of our efforts, hence better images.

Diane, one of the many things I do with my images is when I return home from a day, or many days, of photography is to set them aside for a while. This may be weeks, months, or even years. When I return to these images and begin to study what I have created/catpured, I now don't have the emotional baggage I had while doing my photography and can realistically and non-emotionally be objective and do Aamir's steps two and three with a clear and open mind. Hence I'm now focused on the "Art of Photography."

I'm 100% with both of you.

Hey Bob.  The worst snapshots I have seen were taken of art hung in a gallery using what appeared to be a cell phone.  This was so poorly done you could hardly tell what was hanging on the wall.  Ok, probably some kid but why upload this?

You have a lot of great points about using light, composition, color, and "framing" to make an artful photo.  For me, the computer is also the world greatest darkroom.  While I generally don't care for composite pictures, especially when the person doing them did not take the pictures, some are very good artistic creations.  I like my to use my "darkroom" to explore possibilities.  One is cropping.  I sometimes find framing a picture (meaning cropping) in a different way can improve it a lot.

So I would just add that like painting, the photo art process can be short and sweet or long and powerful if done well. A friend ask me about seeing photographs and I said I see them everywhere, my mind is always clicking.

Now that I read the replies I like your tear sheet idea.  The one drawback is most people can't produce photos like that because many are staged with huge amounts of gear.  Scenic pictures may come close though.

Why would someone take images of images in an art gallery? Are those images not copyrighted? I've been in situations where I would be selling my images and someone would try to photograph my work. I would stand in front of them blocking their camera. Their anger would rise and at times I thought I might be beaten right there on the spot. Then to add insult to injury, they would then try to buy one or two of my images. Wrong, the price is now well out of their budget (instead of a couple hundred they are now several hundred thousand) - yup I don't sell to them because I don't want my work splattered all over the place and having these people claim it to be theirs. Grrr! Seen it happen to other artists.

I'm currently in the throws of writing another book on photography. This time it's from an Artists point of view, hence primarily painters. When we study art, from a painters point of view, we get a totally different concept of what light, composition, color, line, etc., are making our work as photographers more in-depth. The first section of the book will deal with the human eye and the way it sees color, light & dark, etc. I've learned so much in my research of the eye.

I've been in many discussions on color and color balance of monitor and printer, etc., and read many on-line rantings about this as well. I personally haven't found the need to do what these people tout as being the holy grail of color balancing, because I have never changed the color settings on both of my monitors nor on my printer, and yet my color is spot on. Go figure. My schtick is, "If it isn't broke, you don't need to fix it."

Okay enough about the background stuff. I believe that once a person dials in their camera and their way of photographing, the post processing becomes short and sweet. Of course there are times when all this becomes a moot point and the midnight oil is burned much to the shagrin of the spouse. Hey an artist must ply all avenues of ones creativity to reach the pinacle of success. Yes, I too am guilty of such unseamly behavior. Having been 100% digital since 2004, where has the time gone(?), and of course our mantra, Photoshop - not Elements, has become the backbone of anyone who even closely resembles a serious artist, I have found that digitally my creativity has broken the bonds that film held me down with. My point is I guess (if one can get past my ramblings) is that there are many avenues and genre's that we can explore which as you mentioned quite succintly, can be powerful when done correctly. We are not only in the same book, in the same chapter, but on the same paragraph. Lets start a revolution ... :-)


your second point on color handling gives me an idea that i may request you to start tutorials on colors as elements of composition. you must be an ideal person with so much fresh insight in this area. proper color handling is one of those areas where most of us are either unaware or miss it altogether at the time of shooting. this leads to gross discrepancy on the intended effect and the actual emotions conveyed to the viewer

so we are waiting for your guidance on colors as an element of composition. i guess you would need more than one tutorials

To further the thoughts on color and the inevitable need to correct for color in our equipment I must add that we need to start this by beginning with the human eye. The human eye, albeit not perfect, is one that has many facets that when combined into one entity (many parts make the whole) we see and acknowledge not only shapes, forms, depth, texture, and color, but also color. The human eye has "Rods and Cones" which enable us to not only see that which is around us, but to see in only three colors - hence RGB (red, green, & blue). What determines which rod, and/or cone, sees which color is determined by the amino acid associated with that rod or cone (there are only three amino acids employed here). Then much like the sensor and processor in our cameras, our brain then blends these colors together forming the bazillion colors we currently see. We must keep in mind that the eye's lens has a color cast which is inherent in each of us.

Knowing these factors, we can now proceed to our camera and set the color and exposure correctly there prior to making any exposures. The first thing I do with any new camera is test the cameras light meter for accuracy. My camera the Canon 50D over exposes 2/3 of a stop - hence all digital camera overexpose 12-15%. This is where "Color Correction" begins. Because exposure effects color not only in the camera but in our eyes as well (as the rods and cones at the extreme outer areas gather light, the color becomes more and gray-black/white due to the lessening of the amount of light reaching them).

Since I print my own work, my color space is "Adobe RGB." This sets the stage for what is to follow in not only in the camera but in Adobe Photoshop and the printer. Both the image manipulating software and the printer have to have their color gammet set to the same settings as the camera - this is crucial to having the final image color correct.

Knowing that all digital cameras create a color cast in their processing of both jpeg and RAW files, we need to be adjusting this color during the Post Production process - I do this in Adobe ACR as the very first step in my work flow. For those of you who do not know how this color cast arrives in our images, let me briefly explain: Once the image has been converted from B&W to Color (Yes all digital files start as B&W) it then proceeds to the IR filter (IR = infra red), this is where the color cast originates. If is wasn't for this, we wouldn't need color corrections.

Now that we have quickly explored the how's of color we'll now travel to color in imagery. Firstly I would strongly suggest that everyone study "Art" not photography at this point as this is where we learn the most about color and how it affects the emotions of the viewer. But, we can explore this in some minor ways here. Usually Red indicates anger or love, Blue calm, sadness, etc. Black & white can reflect a graphical two-dimensional sense where as multiple tones/layers of gray will be descriptive of shape, form, texture, depth, and usually have a more meaningful emotional value.

Personally I enjoy both color and monochromatic images about equally. At times I lean more towards color generally due to the emotional impact they represent.

When the artist uses color to convey their concept or personal take on a given subject, they must understand the values the color present to the viewer. Again this is where studying Art would be of value to everyone. If the artist has a device called a "Color Wheel" then they begin to see the relationships between primary and complimentary colors and how this relationship can be used effectively. If one has ever spent much time in a frame shop trying to select a matt for an image they'll understand the necessity of knowing complimentary colors - the is usually a complimentary color in relationship to the main color in the image.

I have to go to work now. :-)


Robert ! i think put all this in a separate discussion as here many people are likely to miss this basic information.

let it be named as first tutorial on colors.

Can't wait for your series

Hi Amir - - - where did this go to? I can't find it.

Art, according to my dictionary, is the creation of works of beauty or other special significance; imaginative skill as applied to representations of the natural world or figments of the imagination; and, the products of man's creative activities.

As an engineer that happens to like photography, I do photography for my own reasons, mostly to please myself or my wife.  We have one Chinese painting on our walls, a gift from a dear friend.  The rest of the pictures are all on computer monitors and change every few seconds.  My style has been described as "reportage", which probably fits pretty well.  Using my cameras I record the world as I see it.  I don't go out of my way to fabricate photos very often.  I saw a really cool shot that if memory serves was taken for Coke.  The can had water splashing off of it!  I saw how it was made, the can was on its side with a hose aimed at it, then the image was rotated so the can was upright in the final image.  I don't do that sort of photography, but I respect it when done well.  To me, previsualization is the process of working out that you want the spray a particular way, and the execution is figuring out how to get that image without flooding your studio.  In the landscape world, I suppose previsualization would be seeing a vista and deciding the light first thing in the morning would make the vista look better.  The execution would be getting out of bed in time to arrive to catch the morning light.  I don't do much of that either.  My photography is much more immediate, if I like the scene before me, I shoot it, then we move on and there is rarely an opportunity to come back at a specific time to get another shot with different light as the group has other objectives.  Fortunately they tolerate the photography nut enough to wait a moment while it take my photo.

I still don't know how much I can offer to this group as I don't seem to look at photography the same way as many of those who are concerned with composition and colour.  Anyway, here are some contrary comments based on things I have seen in this thread.

I think it is interesting that Robert's Canon 50D over exposes by 2/3 of a stop so he draws the conclusion that all digital cameras over expose by 12-15%!  It is even more interesting that the previous day he reported he does not calibrate either his monitors or printers, and does not understand why others rant about calibration since his colours are always spot on!  I am blessed by having cameras, also made by Canon, which do not over expose, if they did, they would be back at Canon's shop for calibration.  I am not as blessed when it comes to monitors and printing.  I think my monitors are pretty good but the calibration tool does not completely agree and creates a profile file that is slightly different looking than when the monitor is run with the defaults.  Printing can be a bit of a pain depending upon the light you are viewing the print in and the ink that was used for the print.  Paper probably plays a role as well.  Some inks look about the same under a wide range of lighting while others vary quite a bit when viewed in incandescent light instead of daylight.  Matching a colour to a fabric can be quite difficult when the print has to exactly match under a wide range of natural and artificial lights.  I do agree if it is not broken, don't fix it, is a good philosophy.  Hardware does get out of calibration so having a reliable means of checking it is useful.  Correct it when necessary.

As a means of colour calibration, our eyes suck!  There are several pictures in books and on the Internet that demonstrate this.  Colours and shades we see are influenced by adjacent colours and shades.  This is fortunate because otherwise you would not like the way your computer's monitor appears.  It does, however, mean that having a tool that can identify a colour accurately regardless of outside influences is handy to have.

I don't follow Robert's assertion that colour cast is somehow related to either exposure or an infra red filter, or that after the image is converted, it proceeds to an infra red filter.  Frequently infra red filters are found over the sensor.  Some people have had the filter removed so they could explore infra red photography in the same way as they used to with infra red film.  Ultra violet is also removed by a filter over the sensor, or the sensor is not sensitive to it, which makes UV filters useful only as mechanical protection for the front element.  Colour cast is the result of the camera's (or your computer's) processor using a different wavelength value for doing calculations than the actual wavelength of light present when the photo was taken.  If you are shooting JPG, the camera throws out huge amounts of data so if the value was off by a lot, your options are limited.  If you are shooting raw, you can simply tell your computer to use a different value and it will recalculate the image to remove the cast.  Colour cast has nothing to do with the quantity of light, only with the frequency of it.  The quantity of light and length of exposure may cause colours to be more or less saturated

A quick note about colour spaces.  If you have a Canon camera, and probably even if you have some other brand, you should set it to use sRGB, not RGB.  RGB is a larger colour space than sRGB, so you might think that would be good, but it will make colours look less saturated on your monitor and perhaps your printer, depending on the model.  If you are certain of what your hardware can do, set things up appropriately.  If there is any doubt, use sRGB as most devices can handle that colour space correctly.  If you shoot raw, colour space is not relevant until you are processing the file.  Set the colour space to sRGB to make your camera happy (the Canon manuals all recommend using sRGB unless you have a good reason not to, and they say the camera's monitor can not handle RGB, only sRGB) and convert the colour space to the required space during processing.

Aamir  and Robert both referenced the psychology of colour.  It may be useful to have a grasp of psychology, and to know your audience.  Would you wear red to a wedding?  How about white to a funeral?  Well, probably not in Europe or North America, but you might in China.  Some of the colours we assign a meaning to may have completely different meaning in another region of the world.


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