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Author Topic: Fine Art Photography Top 16  (Read 22608 times)
Jim Pascoe
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« on: December 22, 2011, 04:08:37 AM »
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I am certainly not a Fine Art Photographer - though I have on the odd occasion produced what I consider a fine photograph, but really enjoyed Alan Briot's summary of some of the key considerations.  It is great when a photographer of Alan's experience can put into words the things that many of us know to be true.  However I was also taught when studying photography that ruthlessly editing one's portfolio is very important too.  One weak image in a portfolio of say 20 images will affect the perception of the whole set.  In my opinion the list of 16 could be culled by one - number 8, the use of Photoshop and layers.  Compared to the other pearls of wisdom this point seems quite weak and not really on a par with the others when considering how best to approach a fine art photography.  Most of my photographs don't go near Photoshop and I print straight out of Lightroom (the raw converter), and quite possibly a few photographers are still using film and quite happy to continue to do so.  Photoshop is a great tool, but I just think it could have been left out and seemed slightly out of place in what is a very interesting list of points.
But then perhaps that is why I'm not a Fine Art Photographer!

Thanks again Alan.

Jim
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2011, 04:14:47 AM »
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Yes, I wondered at that one. Aperture & Nik software plug-ins obviously don't cut it for Fine Art photos
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OldRoy
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2011, 07:28:55 AM »
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I don't flatter myself that I'm a "fine art photographer". I am however grateful when I create something that I'm happy with.

These are an interesting set of criteria. Like the previous posters I too have some difficulty reconciling the "PS not RAW converter" criterion with my own modest experience. Most of the images I'm really happy with come straight out of the converter (CNX2 in my case) with the usual tweaks applied plus a little cropping. PS work is usually confined to cloning out obtruding elements except when an image requires compositing to salvage something promising from a defective original - such as a "bad" sky.

I'd be interested to read Alan Briot's amplification of his original assessment.

Roy
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NikoJorj
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« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2011, 07:32:14 AM »
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I don't sell anything, but had also the same reaction...
For me it was the contrary : switching to LR, and not passing systematically through PS and among others high-pass or complex curves contrast-enhancement layers, helped me to refine my taste and find a more balanced and less overdone processing.
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2011, 08:52:14 AM »
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I'll let Alain address this for himself, but I think that focusing on this topic is a bit of a red herring. We each have out favourite ways of working.

I too now do 95% of my work in Lightroom (and I'm sure that Aperture can do similarly). I rarely go to Photoshop any longer except for a few specialized tasks.

Michael
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Ray
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« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2011, 09:03:28 AM »
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Not sure about this because I don't use LR. Perhaps Alain was referring to Converters in general rather than LR specifically, which I believe has more control in terms of selections than most plain converters.

I tend to the view that the photographer, if he wishes to be artistic, needs as much control as possible over color, vibrancy, global contrast as well as local contrast enhancement, and shadow/highlight control for each part of the image, selectively with feathering.

Does Lightroom enable one to do this? Does Lightroom also have a Proof Color mode for printing?
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kwalsh
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« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2011, 09:05:41 AM »
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I noticed the PS comment, but I've interpreted it (perhaps erroneously) not to mean "you must enter Photoshop" but rather you need to apply local adjustments to the image for the best printed results.  I'm keying on the fact he says "layers".  Things like LR allow you to do the lion's share of layers work in the RAW converter, but many converters do not provide such features.  I thought that was what he was driving at rather than advocating a specific software tool.

The local editing point is very valid, I would say the vast majority of my images are greatly improved by local adjustments - be they the gradient tool and adjustment brush in LR or adjustment layers with masks in PS.  The same was true in the darkroom as well, rarely did I print without some dodge and burn.  I could certainly imagine a preference for PS layers though - I really like curves adjustment layers with masks.  These days I use the adjustment tools in LR and am fairly proficient with them, but the masked adjustment layer curves approach was somehow more natural and powerful to me - I wish LR/ACR would implement that!

Ken
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kwalsh
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« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2011, 09:08:35 AM »
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Does Lightroom enable one to do this?

About 80-90% of that.

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Does Lightroom also have a Proof Color mode for printing?

Not yet.

Ken
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2011, 09:32:34 AM »
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About 80-90% of that...

And the other 10-20% is what separates the men from the boys (i.e., fine art photographers from fine photographers)? I'm just saying Wink
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2011, 11:55:26 AM »
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I am pleased this essay is being well received.  In regards to point #8, optimization through Layers in Photoshop, it describes my workflow.  I simply could not create the images I create without using layers.  

I spend several days, and on occasion weeks or months, working on an image refining contrast, color palette, geometry, etc. By this I don't mean sitting in front of an image for that long but, instead, working on an image on and off until I achieve a version of it that is satisfying to me.

For example, I regularly warp, distort, stretch and do other 'unspeakable' things to the image.  I also try different color palettes and contrast levels until I find the one that works best. I keep all these different versions on separate layers so that I can turn them on and off to compare them.

I have also created a methodical workflow that start by creating a series of technical layers and that continues by creating a series of artistic layers.  The technical layers are the foundation of the image.  If my goal was documentary, I would stop there.  However, my goal being artistic, I use the artistic layers to take the image into an expressive direction.

Once that is achieved I create soft proofing and color matching layers based on the differences between what I see on screen and on print. Finally I create sharpening layers to sharpen the image based on specific print sizes.

I don't mind the extra time and work that this takes because in my view the goal of fine art  is quality not quantity.  This approach extends past the creative process and into the marketing aspects of fine art.  
« Last Edit: December 22, 2011, 11:59:46 AM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2011, 12:04:16 PM »
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Photoshop is a great tool, but I just think it could have been left out and seemed slightly out of place in what is a very interesting list of points.

I think you missed the point...if you have a great image, it deserves the effort to finalize the image in Photoshop because that's the ONLY place that allows the full capability of editing an image. While not all images require all of Photoshop's toolset, ACR/LR is still limited in the ability to control your edits. You don't have paths, you don't have selection edits and layer masks and you are very limited in the ability to retouch.

That's what Photoshop allows you to do and make no mistake, if you want to push the image to the best final form, that's what it takes. That and the fact Lightroom can't (yet) do soft proofing...that alone is the biggest difference. How can you tell what rendering intent to use in Lightroom if you can pre-judge the impact? Sure, you can make a print, evaluate, fiddle and make another print. The printer companies love that type of user.

Me? I want to have absolute and total control over my images and the only place to do that is Photoshop–even if I end up saving the image back into Lightroom for printing. It's that total control that Alain is referring to.
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alainbriot
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2011, 12:11:23 PM »
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It's that total control that Alain is referring to.

You said it better than I could!  Thanks Jeff.
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Alain Briot
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« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2011, 02:19:15 PM »
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That and the fact Lightroom can't (yet) do soft proofing...

Oh, please, please, please.......... Wink
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David
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« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2011, 04:51:25 PM »
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Heck, times have changed.

Now I like Alan's photographs, but when I got my BA Hons in Fine Art (Photography) this was not considered 'fine art' photography, the typical photograph you are citing here would at best be a decorative photograph, a nice landscape, but no, not fine art. And I really don't believe times have changed that much. Sally Mann is a fine art landscape photographer, Andreas Gursky also, and Thomas Joshua Cooper, to name a few. The key to understanding if they qualify is simple, they do what they do, and it is for a wider circle than copyists and friends and commercial allies to anoint them as fine art practitioners. Technical rules and techniques are not to the forefront of fine art and never have been. 'Craft' is undoubtedly a key component, but such that it isn't a formulaic guide to being an artist, rather the tool that helps with the job of communicating.

So no, this is not fine art, its not a game, points one too sixteen towards success. If you have a deep meaning embedded in your images Alan, something you are striving to communicate, that could be the link to 'art'. But how big you print, how proficient in Photoshop you are, or even how many you sell has no bearing on it being art or how good that art may be. A ten stop ND filter and a seascape does not by rote make a fine art photograph, in all probability it makes something to fill a space on the wall.

Steve
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« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2011, 05:50:23 PM »
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So no, this is not fine art, its not a game, points one too sixteen towards success.

You sure? By what yardstick are you measuring? Your work? Sally Mann ain't a landscape photographer, she's a fine art photographer that sometimes turns her lens to the landscape. Andreas Gursky is an urban landscape fine art photographer. Thomas Joshua Cooper is a fine art photographer who does abstract landscape. Alain (you might do him the honer of correctly spelling the name) is an idealized/representational landscape fine art photographer. He shoots in color and uses color quite well, 2 of the previous noted individuals only shoot B&W. Same with you. So, if Alain shot in B&W, would that elevate him to a fine art photographer in your eyes?

The fact is, he goes to beautiful places and makes beautiful images–does that make it mandatory to place him in a decorative arts photographer category?

I think your world view is uncomfortably narrow...it actually says more about YOU than Alain...I don't think you can see the forrest for the trees (which you seem to shoot a lot of :~).
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douglasf13
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« Reply #15 on: December 23, 2011, 06:24:11 PM »
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Heck, times have changed.

Now I like Alan's photographs, but when I got my BA Hons in Fine Art (Photography) this was not considered 'fine art' photography, the typical photograph you are citing here would at best be a decorative photograph, a nice landscape, but no, not fine art. And I really don't believe times have changed that much. Sally Mann is a fine art landscape photographer, Andreas Gursky also, and Thomas Joshua Cooper, to name a few. The key to understanding if they qualify is simple, they do what they do, and it is for a wider circle than copyists and friends and commercial allies to anoint them as fine art practitioners. Technical rules and techniques are not to the forefront of fine art and never have been. 'Craft' is undoubtedly a key component, but such that it isn't a formulaic guide to being an artist, rather the tool that helps with the job of communicating.

So no, this is not fine art, its not a game, points one too sixteen towards success. If you have a deep meaning embedded in your images Alan, something you are striving to communicate, that could be the link to 'art'. But how big you print, how proficient in Photoshop you are, or even how many you sell has no bearing on it being art or how good that art may be. A ten stop ND filter and a seascape does not by rote make a fine art photograph, in all probability it makes something to fill a space on the wall.

Steve


  While I'm not going to undertake the dubious chore of attempting to define what fine art photography is or isn't, I do find these sixteen steps to be a little bit self-aggrandizing.  What I often see on photo forums is more Thomas Kincaid than Francis Bacon, but it can be difficult to explain the difference.  I've assisted for well known art photographers, and, while these sixteen steps may or may not have been used at any point, there were certainly no rules to speak of during the process, other than the artist being satisfied with the process and final result.  One is as likely to shoot a successful fine art piece with a polaroid camera as they are with an MFDB and photoshop layers.

« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 06:30:16 PM by douglasf13 » Logged
Schewe
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« Reply #16 on: December 23, 2011, 06:45:22 PM »
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One is as likely to shoot a successful fine art piece with a polaroid camera as they are with an MFDB and photoshop layers.

Yes...and no. I came into the industry in the early 1980's and discovered that technique & process and the ability to conceptualize the image isn't the same. Far too many photo-education students and teachers (that came from what I consider an bastardization of BFA's getting MFA's and teaching the same old crap to under grads) got locked into "process" and failed to graduate to the importance of the final image. Judge the image by the fact it's hanging on the wall and moves the viewer more than whether or not it fits into some preconceived definition of what constitutes "art".

The techniques and process of creating an image is only one aspect of the final image. It doesn't matter if you shoot the image with a pinhole camera or a Phase One IQ180, the final image is the image to look at and evaluate. The fact the final image looks "nice" should not adversely impact whether or not it's a fine art image...lot's of art looks like hell, other art looks like heaven. Who's to say one approach is any more valid than another? Critics...and critics are not, by definition from active members producing the "art". Anybody actively engaged in the art of fine art photography is not really a useful critic...they are the competition. And as such, their perspective must be must be considered in the context of human nature...the world is pretty darn competitive out there, so take what competitors say with a grain of salt. (And we all know we should be cutting down on our sodium intake, right?).
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alainbriot
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« Reply #17 on: December 23, 2011, 08:00:31 PM »
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Attempting to define fine art on the basis of 'meaning' or 'content' is iffy at best.  While some consider 'beauty' to be a disqualifier, others consider it a qualifier.  The same holds true for postmodernist content, or political, negative, positive, social commentary and other content.  Clearly what content the artist decides to feature is based on the artist's inspiration, personal taste, philosophy, message, vision and so on.  There will, and there are, massive differences between artists in this regard. These differences are one of the main attractions of art.

There are also fashion trends, for example the postmodern, social criticism and relatively negative content that a lot of high end galleries and museums tend to favor.  Clearly, this is in opposition to my work which is focused on exploring natural beauty, positive in its message and not containing postmodern references. I could easily do the opposite and present an image of nature that focuses on ugliness, negativity and containing postmodern references.  In fact, if you look at contemporary French art and culture, doing so would be expected of me since I am originally from France.  I have extensive knowledge of postmodernism, having read just about every author who published on this subject, therefore the fact that I chose not to go in this direction is a personal decision rather than a cultural shortcoming.

In the second chapter of my 3rd book, Marketing Fine Art Photography, I provide a detailed definition of fine art.  I do so because I consider it necessary to define fine art before going into a discussion about how to market fine art.  This definition focuses on 3 areas: technical, artistic and marketing.  I purposefully left out 'content' because it is simply too much a matter of personal taste.  For example, if we ruled out 'beauty' as a qualifier for fine art, we would by the same token rule out Impressionism as a valid art movement.  What a shame that would be.  Beauty is an essential component of art, even though at the time a number of people consider it to be a disqualifier.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 08:05:55 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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« Reply #18 on: December 25, 2011, 04:24:39 AM »
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I think your world view is uncomfortably narrow...it actually says more about YOU than Alain...I don't think you can see the forrest for the trees (which you seem to shoot a lot of :~).

Yes, but you can at least see some of my images, like them or loathe them, I'm not going to say things about other photographers without having the balls to put my words into context. If you come back armed with some images I can link to I'll perhaps take you seriously.



Alain, you will appreciate the sixteen points to being a fine artist are what gets my goat, not your work. But if you take any work and strip away context it becomes meaningless in terms of 'fine art'. And the reason it becomes meaningless is that art is driven by society and culture, investigations into ideas, new perspectives on older ideas, new techniques (yes!) that redefine how people percieve the world. But to be successful art is never art for arts sake. This is what tripped up the Pictorialists, there was no connection with the world that the photographer inhabited. And so as a movement it died, but not before Strand and Adams and Evans etc jumped ship and put themselves into the real world, with real world concerns to explore. The demise of Pictorialism was nothing to do with style, it was the lack of content.

You mention Impressionism as an icon of beauty. I wouldn't disagree. But hark back. Impressionism when newly out of the box was considered ugly daubing, not only were the artists using colour like it had never been used before, but their subject matter was of things that had never been painted before. They painted the modern world in a modern way, and the cultural context was clear. But above all it was the ideas that made them artists. So beauty has its own historical context as well.

While your sixteen points may be a primer to get onto the ladder of art there is nowhere to go when you get to the top. You reach the goal and can do all those things to perfection, but why? The guy who can mount a bigger and better print isn't going to be a better artist than the guy with an idea, even though ironically they may be a better paid. A more worthwhile sixteen points towards kitting out an artist with idea's and opinion's about the world would perhaps be cultural stimuli, lets imagine the first few,

1/ Watch John Ford's 'The Searchers'
2/ Read Tom Wolfe's 'Bonfire of the Vanities'
3/ Read Susan Sontag 'On Photography' (if you can stay awake)
4/ Listen to Aaron Copland
5/ Listen to Eminem
and etc.

You cannot teach somebody to be an artist, they either respond to stimuli or they don't. But you can teach somebody to be a technician, very good photographers, but a world away from artists.

Steve




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urbanpicasso
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« Reply #19 on: December 25, 2011, 05:22:55 AM »
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You cannot teach somebody to be an artist, they either respond to stimuli or they don't. But you can teach somebody to be a technician, very good photographers, but a world away from artists.

+1
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