Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why is bAd Art preferable to Good Photographs?

First I would like to clarify the title (bAd) I used, as I don’t really mean bad art in the technical sense, even though it may apply sometimes, but I was referring to impressionist or non-realism styles (heavy brush work where very little detail is present except fort the crude brush strokes with colour mixing).

Secondly this is not based on any scientific study but only from my own experiences in dealing with other people, both buyers and artists.

Raw layer (ACR) for sky clarity set to –10 to soften the noise, which always tend to show up in skies and dark and reduce saturation and luminance of blue channel as this was a bit underexposed.
Another RAW layer for land and water parts, increase clarity for more general contrast, increase vibrance; curves up for mid-tones; large increase in luminance of red/orange/yellow/green/aqua and reduce for green and blue; Increase saturation red/orange/yellows/aquas, reduce saturation for greens/blues. This enhances the turquoise transition zone in the water and for the foliage increases the colour contrast in the yellow/greens by making the lighter grasses stand out more.
Curves layer to lighten the sand/rock-face. Added a brownish-orange layer and set this to colour mode with mask for sand rock face (opacity 29%). Darkened border areas of hillside.

I am in the process of painting the above scene and in the end it may really be bad or mediocre artwork. With a bit of luck in picking the right bush techniques and colours I believe that many people will prefer the painting to a printed image in the same size.

I know that if I used the smudged technique to create a painting effect they might even like that version better that the original especially if printed on canvas.

The images in the article are taken from the north tip of Mors Island, which is situated in the middle of Jutland. Denmark is very flat, but occasionally there are these larger hills normally near the sea, which rise a few hundred feet at max. The next 2 images show the adjusted version, followed by the original RAW. Nothing great but I find a quaint charm in the country setting.

Once again 2 RAW layers. One as above to soften sky. The other increase clarity, luminance for red/orange/yellow. Added curve for white shed to lighten white and at the same time the yellow grass in front on the left. Cloned out a mud blemish in front grass and removed a white object in the back field. Added orange layer and set to colour mode and with mask used to tint the corrugated roof of shed. Lightened front of posts and darkened shadow parts.

This is the original RAW image unprocessed.

I wonder if in people’s minds a painting is perceived as a one-off and with a printed photo there can be many copies. I also have a opinion that people tend to think that with a painting a person is creating something new and unique, but with a camera, its the camera that is doing all the work and we are just along for the ride. As photographers we really do understand the work that can go into creating an image. Yes some are gotcha moments but we do plan for season, time of day, camera position. With studio work are not these one-off creations with all the careful placement of subjects and lightening?

I love the rolling texture on these hills.

I know with my own better photographic images I regularly spend 1-2 hours working on the digital file and this doesn’t include that time to plan and go out and acquire the image.

This is about the same time it takes to a one-session painting. Currently from 1-3 hours. So far my photos are better.

I just don’t know what all this really means to us as artists, but I do know that there is still al lot of work ahead to educate the public about our artwork and by that I mean the images hanging on people’s walls .

When the public sees the licensing of images at the ridiculously low prices which give the owner the ability to print many images how can we justify to them why the should spend more for just one printed image.

I do think, that in this is one area were we artistic control. It is important that we preselect the paper that enhances image qualities we are after and also to ensure the ink/archival qualities. We shouldn’t let the customers choose their own paper and ink system. These are a lot like the skills of a painter (medium and canvas). I think a lot can be done with marketing and branding of our work.

Reduced sky brightness and saturation. Darkened the rocks and increased contrast. Increased contrast of boat.

This image has do more with a standard joke we have in our camera club about judges always seeming to say for a water scene, if there was only a red boat it would add more punch. Well no there is lots of punch.

I would love to here your thoughts on this topic or any suggestion you have where we can promote some of our work more in the artistic vane.

This is a small 5”x7” study I did in preparation for the larger 16”x20” final painting I am in the process of completing (first image above). I wanted to check the balance of the various greens and also ensure that the front ridge (longer grasses) was separated from the middle ground foliage.

Niels Henriksen


Paul said...

Interesting post and some things that I've wondered about myself. In trying to think objectively about it, I would have to say you touched on it. Many people think that the photographer was just along for the ride. Never mind the time spent scouting, preparing, photographing, post production, framing, etc.

The idea seems to be that any monkey with a camera, if they are lucky, could have come up with 'that' shot. Meanwhile, it would seem, the majority of people cannot paint, so even a mediocre painting would seem out of their reach, and therefore more valuable.

The ubiquitousness of impressive photos also seems to dimenish their value.

Of course, this is pure conjecture and speculation on my part. As a photographer, if I see someone wanting several hundred of even above one thousand dollars, I'm likely to say: Yeah, right! I could have taken that picture myself! I realize what went into it, but I realize that it is NOT outside my realm of possibility, while I believe that painting just might be ... or, it could take me years and years to get there and a lot more time and material than the cost of the painting!

nielsp said...

The one think I have learned from selling my photos at art fairs is that interacting with the customers does help in selling images.

In some ways a person sees an interesting photos, which they like and might consider purchasing. It is not unit they have engaged me in conversation about my art that they really start to consider a purchase.

I also discuss enhancements made to add visual context of image, the quality of paper and ink and how to best display or frame, if not already framed, that they come to understand this is not just some random photograph, but a work of art.

I do recommend if you are interested in selling images that you set up in art fairs as opposed to craft fairs. Costco has a good price for a 10x10 aluminum foldable tent with removable sides.


Anita Jesse said...

This one has been rolling around in my addled brain, since I read it yesterday.

I'm fascinated by all the information packed in this post. The perception of value comparing photography to other art work is enough to chew on, then you have added the bonus of all that technical information on your processing.

I think if people saw anywhere near as many paintings, sketches, watercolors, or sculptures over time as they do photographs, things might be different. I suspect that the old wisdom "familiarly breeds contempt" is a small part of the explanation. Photos are ubiquitous. (After all, most anyone can produce a photo.) The marjority of people see many fewer examples of other art works and that shapes perceived value.

Even with my very limited experience, I recognize the accuracy of your judgement that interacton with the potential buyer is a big key.

This post is a treasure trove. It will take some time to extract all the useful tips out of this. Thanks again for another of your stellar posts.

Jill Berry said...

Awesome photos in this post. Certainly a charming place.
Interesting topic - comparing the work involved in the two mediums.
That was a good landscape to paint, how did it turn out?

nielsp said...

I must admit that even though I am well aware that I am just learning there is still fear of the unknown in doing a 16x20 canvas. I have blocked out the tones, not just to do the real painting part.

Do take a look at the latest post “Use ACR Clarity to create shallow DOF” where I did a landscape that I was able to add my own creativity (colours) to scene.



photo retouching services said...

I have never been able to paint very well. I used to be very frustrated by not having a creative outlet until I discovered photography. This give me all the satisfaction that I was looking for, but I still feel that a truly great artist can create and not just capture.


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