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Thread: Aesthetics and digital photography

  1. #1

    Default Aesthetics and digital photography

    This has been on my mind awhile.

    when shooting film and printing, we never saw the nitty gritty of what an image
    no 100% view, no histogram, just a negative
    Sometimes a bad negative helped to create a specific look

    accidents happened in printing
    If you look at a RA4 print you hardly ever see a pure white.

    Many people say that you can recreate a film effect in Photoshop, but alot of times it's not about the final look itself but rather the process that led to discovering that look.
    Which may explain the joys of the Holga and Lomo with all its accidental light leaks?
    The unexpected nature of film grain of different films is not the same as putting a gaussian distribution of noise on an image in post production.

    Many photographers have a specific look in their images, a certain aesthetic.I find that digital photography has a tendency to stymy the discover of one's aesthetic due to the current concentration on technical perfection when exposing an image.
    One thing I noticed is that printing an image out and seeing it on a screen is a very different experience.

    I am not saying that people should go back to film and experiment with it (although that would help) but to take a similar mentality towards digital photography, of taking these technical imperfections and playing with them. Embracing the limitations of digital photography and exploring the possibilities.There are certain interesting effects that come from the quirks of digital photography (banding, hot pixels on a sensor, sensor dust, high speed ISO noise, high dynamic range in shadow areas,pixellation from interpolation)

    Perhaps then people may develop more interesting styles with digital photography instead of mimicking film effects.

    Just a few thoughts I wanted to share.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    this post by mike johnston seems pretty relevant to this topic

  3. #3

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    from the above article:

    "One of the features of modernism was that materials have their own properties and qualities, which should be allowed to come out. Thus, furniture makers exposed the natural properties of wood, paintings could be "about" paint, Rodin used the stoniness of marble as part of the subject matter of his work, and so forth. Digital has about the same problem that plastics have, which is that it doesn't really have its own inherent properties. It's...well, plastic. Yes, you can make plastic look like wood, but it doesn't take an aesthetic genius to realize that the result doesn't have any integrity.

    Still, I wonder why more photographers haven't used the great flexibility of digital to consciously develop a technical style or signature that suits their taste and their vision (and maybe many have, but I just look at too many snapshots). Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about, pulled from my own experiments. Mind you, I'm not necessarily saying that any of these technical styles are good technical styles. But they illustrate part of the range of what might be done with digital."

    caveat...the rodin analogy is wrong though as noted by one of the commentators

  4. #4

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    It's just herd instincts. Common on the ground that people are just repeating what they hear.

    And when others says it's good, it hav to gotta be good.

    Regarding tha plastics and wood comparison, it's because when "plastics" want to be like "wood", it will never be as good as the real thing.... but hey, plastics can be formed to things that wood never dream of.

    Having a "standard" clean, motion freezing shot in dark condition (with high ISO) is also a signature style of digial photography.
    Gallery | Facebook Page Spreading the Good photography.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by CYRN View Post
    It's just herd instincts. Common on the ground that people are just repeating what they hear.

    And when others says it's good, it hav to gotta be good.

    Regarding tha plastics and wood comparison, it's because when "plastics" want to be like "wood", it will never be as good as the real thing.... but hey, plastics can be formed to things that wood never dream of.

    Having a "standard" clean, motion freezing shot in dark condition (with high ISO) is also a signature style of digial photography.
    agreed. My own style is very "plastic" anyway. One thing about digital is the purity of colour I get. Film grain tends to get in the way of a pure slap of colour...
    digital images can become very graphic instead of photographic which is interesting

  6. #6

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post
    I am not saying that people should go back to film and experiment with it (although that would help) but to take a similar mentality towards digital photography, of taking these technical imperfections and playing with them. Embracing the limitations of digital photography and exploring the possibilities.There are certain interesting effects that come from the quirks of digital photography (banding, hot pixels on a sensor, sensor dust, high speed ISO noise, high dynamic range in shadow areas,pixellation from interpolation)
    i know what you mean

    the other day when shooting at night some spastic idiot kicked my tripod and somehow the picture still turned out quite interesting, with some special effects that i personally like

    sometimes some good can come out of mistakes/imperfections

    but for the examples, i would think hot pixels and sensor dust would not really come into the equation, because they are not exactly "unpredictable"

    and in some sense, people would classify overt manipulation of an image as a non-photograph, which is disputable and has no real resolution/conclusion to be arrived at

  7. #7

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post
    agreed. My own style is very "plastic" anyway. One thing about digital is the purity of colour I get. Film grain tends to get in the way of a pure slap of colour...
    digital images can become very graphic instead of photographic which is interesting
    yup. luv some of your pics tho.

    But at the end, what matters is who your pics are for. For most cases, they are for clients or for friends and relatives whom might not appreciate the finer details of aesthetics. So no choice loh.
    Gallery | Facebook Page Spreading the Good photography.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    i know what you mean

    the other day when shooting at night some spastic idiot kicked my tripod and somehow the picture still turned out quite interesting, with some special effects that i personally like

    sometimes some good can come out of mistakes/imperfections

    but for the examples, i would think hot pixels and sensor dust would not really come into the equation, because they are not exactly "unpredictable"

    and in some sense, people would classify overt manipulation of an image as a non-photograph, which is disputable and has no real resolution/conclusion to be arrived at
    yes there's that debate about manipulation...and another aspect of it is creating things that weren't there in the first place http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/2007...ow_1.html#more
    which is so common now we take it for granted...like when we clonestamp out things we don't like

    We have various methods of create an aesthetic, including:
    a) manipulation of subjects via postproduction to create a specific look ala Jean Paule Goude or Loretta Lux,

    b) a consistent and obsessive focus and approach towards subjects ala Andreas Gursky, bernd + hilla becher, richard avedon,

    c) a specific technical treatment of photographic surfaces and color (which can be and usually is very dependent on the type of camera/film being used e.g. Polaroid, 35mm, 8x10 cameras all have very different renderings of similar scenes) ala Sarah Moon

    d) a certain emotional consistency, "mood", world viewpoint ala Nandav Kadar, Paolo Roversi, Martin Parr

    the list goes on and alot of these points are interconnected of course...so it's not set in stone.

    Just a note:
    A pioneer of retouching is Jean Paul Goude, famous for his work on Grace Jones. He literally cut up pieces of slide film and recombined them like a collage to adjust the proportions of his model, and then painting over the collage to create a seamless image. This was before the days of photoshop...

    His method of working included cutting up multiple slides and piecing them together like a collage, and then painting over them to create a distortion of the human proportions.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by CYRN View Post
    yup. luv some of your pics tho.

    But at the end, what matters is who your pics are for. For most cases, they are for clients or for friends and relatives whom might not appreciate the finer details of aesthetics. So no choice loh.
    Sorry I don't ever want to hear the words "no choice"

    Let's talk about photography to please our narcissistic souls, photography for photography's sake
    Forget about all the idiot friends and relatives...heh

  10. #10

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    how far can you push digital photos until it becomes photo realistic illustrations?

    The amount of randomness that goes with shooting film is cut down dramatically with digital shots --- grain, leaks, bad processing.

    This is different from art direction though, which contributes to the look of a shot.

    But while on this site, primarily it being a photo centric one, the focus is just on getting shots, where else there's a great burgeoning group that view photography as a means of getting images into a digitally digestible format to be used in other areas.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Is developing a certain technical style of paramount importance? Or does the type of photos you take and the message you are trying to send across take precedence?

    With digital technology, there is always this constant drive for perfect images. Heck people don't even see the bigger picture anymore. They are more interested in scrutinsing dots magnified 1000 times over a 19 inch screen. If its not good enough, delete it, take again, send lens for calibration....... you heard of these crap from the film era? People's intolerance with imperfections have gone through the roof, be it for right or wrong reasons. "

    "A digital camera is a clinically mass produced machine and should not deliver anything less than what was promised on the brochures." Now imagine my $7,000 1DMK3 has a light leak..........

    Given the circumstances, people just can't think like film users anymore, especially when they don't have prior experiences with film. They don't even know what they have missed and so rightfully, I can say that they didn't miss a thing.

    Compared to film, digital is still relatively young (I'm pointing to the mass market) and distinctive style takes time to develop. Or who knows? Maybe many styles had been developed, we just don't see them because we are still wearing the film hat. Is it fair to judge digital wearing a film hat at all?

    And with the convenience of digital technology, people who have not take a single photo in their life has started to do so. The objectives of these people vary so much, it goes way beyond (or will never reach the stage of) developing a particular "photography style". Its more like "different ways of using a camera". These are people who are just happy snapping away and sharing their pictures online, which you happened to come across as "snaps".

    Some people actually like plastic wood look-alike because they don't rot, they are willing to take it as it is. I really don't see the reason why every piece of furniture in my house had to be made out of wood.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post
    yes there's that debate about manipulation...and another aspect of it is creating things that weren't there in the first place http://www.jmcolberg.com/weblog/2007...ow_1.html#more
    which is so common now we take it for granted...like when we clonestamp out things we don't like

    We have various methods of create an aesthetic, including:
    a) manipulation of subjects via postproduction to create a specific look ala Jean Paule Goude or Loretta Lux,

    b) a consistent and obsessive focus and approach towards subjects ala Andreas Gursky, bernd + hilla becher, richard avedon,

    c) a specific technical treatment of photographic surfaces and color (which can be and usually is very dependent on the type of camera/film being used e.g. Polaroid, 35mm, 8x10 cameras all have very different renderings of similar scenes) ala Sarah Moon

    d) a certain emotional consistency, "mood", world viewpoint ala Nandav Kadar, Paolo Roversi, Martin Parr

    the list goes on and alot of these points are interconnected of course...so it's not set in stone.

    Just a note:
    A pioneer of retouching is Jean Paul Goude, famous for his work on Grace Jones. He literally cut up pieces of slide film and recombined them like a collage to adjust the proportions of his model, and then painting over the collage to create a seamless image. This was before the days of photoshop...

    His method of working included cutting up multiple slides and piecing them together like a collage, and then painting over them to create a distortion of the human proportions.
    well if you're talking about that sort of style then there are people who obviously have their signature style

    when i look at an eikin photo, for example, i know that it is taken by eikin
    same goes for zooshh and of course, mattlock

    it is not easy to develop a style, god knows i'm pretty sure i don't have one
    and of course "mistakes" wise it is after all, personal preference
    perhaps a and c are more predominant today, actually from what i see

  13. #13

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    Is developing a certain technical style of paramount importance? Or does the type of photos you take and the message you are trying to send across take precedence?

    With digital technology, there is always this constant drive for perfect images. Heck people don't even see the bigger picture anymore. They are more interested in scrutinsing dots magnified 1000 times over a 19 inch screen. If its not good enough, delete it, take again, send lens for calibration....... you heard of these crap from the film era? People's intolerance with imperfections have gone through the roof, be it for right or wrong reasons. "

    "A digital camera is a clinically mass produced machine and should not deliver anything less than what was promised on the brochures." Now imagine my $7,000 1DMK3 has a light leak..........

    Given the circumstances, people just can't think like film users anymore, especially when they don't have prior experiences with film. They don't even know what they have missed and so rightfully, I can say that they didn't miss a thing.

    Compared to film, digital is still relatively young (I'm pointing to the mass market) and distinctive style takes time to develop. Or who knows? Maybe many styles had been developed, we just don't see them because we are still wearing the film hat. Is it fair to judge digital wearing a film hat at all?

    And with the convenience of digital technology, people who have not take a single photo in their life has started to do so. The objectives of these people vary so much, it goes way beyond (or will never reach the stage of) developing a particular "photography style". Its more like "different ways of using a camera". These are people who are just happy snapping away and sharing their pictures online, which you happened to come across as "snaps".

    Some people actually like plastic wood look-alike because they don't rot, they are willing to take it as it is. I really don't see the reason why every piece of furniture in my house had to be made out of wood.
    actually numerous styles related to digital photography have been developed
    look at Jim Fiscus, Loretta Lux, Jill Greenberg, Mert & Marcus.
    I'm assuming that the people interested in reading through this are open to new ideas in relation to the potential of photography, so those who are just happy snapping away, good for them but that's not relevant here.

    I think it is interesting to look at photographs in the commercial field done 15 years ago and photographs done now. The difference is stunning, there are very distinct digital styles I feel.

    This thread is not about film vs digital, it's more about a mentality of worrying less about a technically perfect image and exploring the aesthetic possibilities of digital photography inherent in the digital medium (a few elements of which I mentioned earlier...)

    Of course certain elements such as light leaks and other technical "mistakes" are cut out now with digital..but I think there are many possibilities we're not looking at
    Some fashion photographers started using CCTV images as part of their work, due to the inherent pixellated low resolution look of the CCTV images, for example
    Also, there's the possibility of our digital printouts, and scanners.
    By taking the digital image out of the computer into the multitude of physical mediums, they can create more possibilities. Example, if I print a landscape on canvas, and then scan that canvas print, chances are the image will take on a different feeling due to the quirks of the scanner, the texture of the canvas, the colour shifts that come about from "degrading" the image.
    (some people scan their colour prints for web use instead of posting up the scanned negative because of similar reasons)
    Last edited by mattlock; 16th October 2007 at 01:07 AM.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post
    This thread is not about film vs digital, it's more about a mentality of worrying less about a technically perfect image and exploring the aesthetic possibilities of digital photography inherent in the digital medium (a few elements of which I mentioned earlier...)
    Its really difficult to look past imperfections with digital isn't it? With film, I can take out my light leaking camera to take an imperfect photo whenever I like, knowing that I can always turn to a better camera to deliver technically perfect photos. We couldn't possibly turn on the "banding mode" in DSLRs can we? Would you send it a banding camera for fixing?

  15. #15

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    Its really difficult to look past imperfections with digital isn't it? With film, I can take out my light leaking camera to take an imperfect photo whenever I like, knowing that I can always turn to a better camera to deliver technically perfect photos. We couldn't possibly turn on the "banding mode" in DSLRs can we? Would you send it a banding camera for fixing?
    well knowing how to attain that effect allows us to do it. I can get a banding effect from using a very high ISO on my camera, so if I use a high ISO intentionally in a well lit setting, the image I get may be something really different from what I'm used to

    Or notice how the colour shifts when you underexpose an image and try to bring the shadow detail back, or when you overexposure you get a patch of white that's got a magenta tinge to it.

    Hell, with the way camera prices are dropping who knows, maybe someday I may have a pentax dSLR specially for the way its sensor renders certain things, and my Mamiya for other things, and my Canon for other other things (yes its' 1 am I am not making sense)

  16. #16
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by mattlock View Post

    Of course certain elements such as light leaks and other technical "mistakes" are cut out now with digital..but I think there are many possibilities we're not looking at
    Some fashion photographers started using CCTV images as part of their work, due to the inherent pixellated low resolution look of the CCTV images, for example
    Also, there's the possibility of our digital printouts, and scanners.
    By taking the digital image out of the computer into the multitude of physical mediums, they can create more possibilities. Example, if I print a landscape on canvas, and then scan that canvas print, chances are the image will take on a different feeling due to the quirks of the scanner, the texture of the canvas, the colour shifts that come about from "degrading" the image.
    (some people scan their colour prints for web use instead of posting up the scanned negative because of similar reasons)
    So if I take a print of mine and bury it in the backyard, will I get a toned print in a year's time?

    There are people who are mugging around with these ideas but like I said, they need more time..... for recognition and acceptance.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    From this, I have another question. Instead of asking why people are so obsessed with perfect photos, what does imperfection does for you? What's in it that make people like light leaked, banding photos? An addiction to the process?

  18. #18

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Kit View Post
    From this, I have another question. Instead of asking why people are so obsessed with perfect photos, what does imperfection does for you? What's in it that make people like light leaked, banding photos? An addiction to the process?
    What is a perfect photo?I never talked about perfect photos, rather "technical perfection", which to clear things up is the whole bunch of exposing to the right, getting a full histogram, etc etc.

    I see so much of this advice in magazines and online that I thought it was important to actually raise a different viewpoint towards this.
    There's much more to aesthetic treatments in digital photography than the examples I mentioned for sure.

    I think somehow the computer forces a clinical mentality into people when dealing with images on screen. I think that in itself is one way of treating photography, and there are a great deal of examples of people who have made this a strong style (look at all the beautifully clean images online, or really dramatically stylized through photoshop images. or beautifully retouched images of skin)

  19. #19
    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    Probably should say technically competent photo.

    So what's in it for people who loves imperfection?

  20. #20

    Default Re: Aesthetics and digital photography

    what's in it for people who like imperfections?
    How about just stylistic differences in photography. These differences make photography interesting. 10 people can take a picture of the same person and come out with totally different pictures. Or they could take pictures which you can't differentiate from the next.

    are you just being the devil's advocate or do you truly believe there's no point in what I'm suggesting?

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