Reality and Digital Pictures

December 16, 2005 Comments Off on Reality and Digital Pictures

In short, when you look at a snapshot you took at the beach, the limitations of the camera mean that three-quarters of the scene will have been lopped off, the range of tones will be compressed tenthousandfold, and the information that remains will never be what you saw. Any appearance of realism will be an inference informed by learning and shaped by convention. It is not realism but verisimilitude.

Photographs may seem realistic but the technology of film prevents escaping photographic conventions, which are actually quite limiting. Less limiting is a paintbrush. A brush can produce every effect a camera can plus a great many more. Before photography, skilful and observant artists spent millennia working out how to represent reality on flat surfaces using this superior tool. Their work forms the most complete guide available on realistic ways to put pictures onto paper.

I’ve always felt that a painting or drawing should be more than a photo, more than a realistic representation of the surface of something or someone. This article explains that and details how to improve digital photographs by incorporating the principles of perception and art.

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