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David Larsen

2 Years Ago

A Good Photo Does Not Always Make A Good Painting

Over the last month or so there has been some discussion about the artistic merit of photography vs painting. This post is NOT to rehash that debate. That horse has been beat to death. Let it be dead. On the other hand, this post IS about painting and photography as artistic mediums -- the differences and similarities.

I had an art teacher once say that the goal of painting is not to make a painting look like a photograph. The goal is to make it look better than a photograph. By saying that, he was not putting down photography as a medium, but rather that was to say, let the paint stroke come through. Let the painting be a painting. The word to describe that is "painterly."

Often, I paint from photos from travels my wife and I take. Afterwards, I pour over our photos and pick out the ones I think will look good as a painting.

Often times, my wife will say, "What about this one?" picking out a great photo from the bunch. I will look it it and try to picture it as a painting.

Many times I will respond, "That is a great photo, but it would make a terrible painting."

What I've learned is that what makes a good photo does not always translate to a good painting, and visa versa. Some things are important for both, like good composition. However, what the camera does with light and what paints do with light are little different. Same goes with color and texture.

This is my painter's point of view. Any photographers care to comment?

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Vivian ANDERSON

2 Years Ago

A photographer, NOT, lol........commenting anyway, David. What is painterly by a painter is incomperable to what is high-art Photography, imo. Though nowadays the two worlds collide because of programmes that can make photos 'painterly'...........so, you really are still on that old chestnut. Programmes even have brushstrokes, now.........
The only way a painting is different now, is that it is a hands-on original artwork on a support.......not a file (printable/painterly/whatever). Cheers......

 

Rich Franco

2 Years Ago

David,

I will take the opposing view, I think any really good photograph will, could and does make a good painting. I would argue the opposite isn't true. Why is that? Find a photo of mine and show me why it wouldn't make a good painting. Not all my images are great photos, but the majority are, but even the "weak sisters" would be good paintings, coming from the right painter.

"Pock" the ball is back in your court!

Rich

 

Vivian ANDERSON

2 Years Ago

Hi Rich...........while David's contemplating replies.........I think he's answered his own question right there at the start...................and, yes, your photos do make for great paintings you have a wonderful eye !!

quote "What I've learned is that what makes a good photo does not always translate to a good painting, and visa versa. Some things are important for both, like good composition. However, what the camera does with light and what paints do with light are little different. Same goes with color and texture."

It's the 'seeing' by a painter vs the 'seeing' by a photographer........those elements, light,colour,texture, are totally differently conveyed in paint......which doesn't mean a photo won't make a good painting, but, the outcomes are entirely different.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Rich, I have an example. Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Paso Robles, California, to visit some wineries. I took a bunch photos there with the idea that I could make some paintings from them. One of the subjects I took over and over again was tasting room photos. I had this idea that I wanted to show a scene at the bar, looking down the bar, with my wife in the foreground and other figures at the bar in the background. When I got home and looked at the photos, the depth of field made it so my wife was in focus in the foreground and the other patrons were out of focus in the background. It was a great effect in the photo, but how do I translated that to a painting? It does not translate directly.

 

Shana Rowe

2 Years Ago

I understand exactly what you are saying David, I see scenes all the time that I think would photograph great but just wouldn't translate well in paint, like certain close ups and landscape etc..It's kind of hard to explain. I find myself saying, if I paint that will the viewer be able to understand it as easily as if I photographed it? Some subjects that are great to photograph aren't suited for painting and vice versa.

 

Marlene Burns

2 Years Ago

david, the answer is clear..become an abstract artist!

ok, seriously...use your photos as reference...nothing more and nothing less...but fuggedabout copying the images persay.
next problem?

 

Jamie Frier

2 Years Ago

I, too, understand what you are saying, David. I had an art teacher say the same thing. He also said (paraphasing), that if a photo looked too unbelievable to be to be true, it would never translate to a believable painting.

 

Phong Trinh

2 Years Ago

Painting is a bit like cooking. McDonald, KFG, Pizza Hut, supermarket ready cook frozen meals or a restaurant treat made by order? I prefer home cook meal that's why I paint!

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

I have another example. In this case, it is something that is a no brainer in painting, but is difficult to do in a photo. Look at the painting below. Look around the pumpkins. Around the white pumpkin, I've darkened up the background, where around the shadow side of the top pumpkin I've lightened up the background. If you look at the piece as a whole, you don't notice it that much -- only on closer examination -- but it makes a difference to the piece. In photography, light and shadow make a big difference, but you can't just take a little paint to lighten up around your shadows, and darken around your light areas.

The photograph I took of this still life to act as a reference photo is pretty boring. The painting is more exciting.

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Enver Larney

2 Years Ago

paintings of photographs fail to capture a far greater world beyond mere photographs.....

filled with glory and wonder....

.....and rightfully considered as a vastly diminished re-enactment of perceived reality.

 

Philip Sweeck

2 Years Ago

It depends what a good painting means. Is it an idealisation of the world and of what can be photographed or is it a 'truer' representation of the world ( realism ) and where photography's main strength and influence lies, at least in context to the history of painting. Photography freed painting and painters from having to be realistic in the way they painted while at the same time making the subjects painted less idealistic or glorified and depicting realism in the commonplace and ordinary. While not all photographs make good paintings, If you want to make good paintings from photographs then I think the painting should not want to idealize what was photographed but translate the subject in a photographic way, like the way a photograph can crop its subject or be out of focus or show movement or have blown out highlights...

If a good painting means an idealisation of the subject then there's no reason to stay true to the photograph or photography's natural 'raw' depiction of the world ( without manipulation ). But it wouldn't be that hard for a photographer to make and light up any still life ( like in your Pumpkin Pie painting example ) anyway you want, prior or after taking the picture.

 
 

Rich Franco

2 Years Ago

David,

What you and others are saying, is "I can't take a photo as good as I can paint a photo!" and I don't expect you or others that aren't professsional/commercial photographers to be able to do so. Any lighting situation or composition that a painter can come up with, a photographer can duplicate, especially with Photoshop,etc. On the other hand, ask a photographer to paint or even draw an image, equal to a painting and most cannot, I know I can't!

So the challenge still stands, take one of my images, and again all are not great images, but take one of mine and tell me and explain to me why it wouldn't be a good painting!

Pock, back in your court!

Rich

 

James Ahn

2 Years Ago

"However, what the camera does with light and what paints do with light are little different."

When you say what paints do with lights is the artist's interpretation of what the value of the light is... When you paint, the interpretation of color and values are left more to the artist. When you photograph it's dictated by the settings of the camera. However, the photo can be manipulated to the artist interpretation..adding "artifical values and textures" as you do with paintings. Look at Mike Savads HDR's which are photos, but look like paintings because the values of have been pushed to the limits as a painter would with his paints. So, I don't think it has to do with paints or photos..it has more to do with the artist interpretation and how he or she values the painting or photo. Yes, when people think of photos they think of exact copies in real life. When people think of paints they want things that are different..not perfectly exact...Though lot of these ideas are changing due to photo editing software an digital leaps.

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

I take it that what you are saying is that it is difficult to achieve the focal transition and out-of-focus bokeh in a picture like this one:

Art Prints

I can see why that would be difficult but I think that must be as much a matter of the artist's style as anything else. After all, if "photorealistic painting" really exists then someone doing that should be able to copy this exactly.

Actually, for someone who was OK with the background a painting could improve this by bringing the whole flower into focus. The minute depth of field in an extreme close-up like this is often something photographers have to put up with rather than always being desirable (though it can draw attention towards the eyes in a portrait, for example).

 

Xueling Zou

2 Years Ago

I can so well understand the title and agree that not all the great photos are suitable for paintings to each individual artist, or not all the paining styles can copy a photo in certain way. They depend on each other's. For realism style painters can copy the photos, painted as real as what they see/saw. To me, I've noticed that not all the beautiful photos are suitable for paintings, there are too many reasons, they really depends on the style of an artist's or what the artist tries to focus, and creates, or gets inspires from, etc... I never copy any of my own photography exactly, but my own photography helps me to remember the moment I had experience, got inspiration to create some paintings, for certain colors, composition, contrast, light/shadows, textures, or from black and white to imagine the colors, emotion... Just different way to think and create an art piece:)!

 

Christine Till

2 Years Ago


To me, as a non-painter, a painting always shows the painters interpretation (wider view) of the theme.
Pure, not manipulated photography can't do that to the extend a painting can. So I'm with David on this.

 

Vivian ANDERSON

2 Years Ago

Xueling's got it.......'create'........either by painting, or enhanced photography.........different outcomes,supports.......but, a good image with good bones,colour,etc etc.....is inspirational to all creators.........just the outcome is different.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Rich, this one would not make a good painting. There is no possible way I could reproduce the lighting effects in paint. What makes in an interesting photo is the time lapse of the swirly lights. It is an optical effect. It is 100% the camera that makes the image (well that and the man behind the camera).


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Absolutely!

A painting made of a badly aligned, cropped, or just boring photo, will be a badly aligned, cropped, and boring painting.

We see so many people take a bad photo and think that, because they paint it, all is well.

Wrong

This is one of Robin's biggest bugbears

Edit...I see you may be talking about light etc? I think I will leave this though as it is still on subject

 

Enver Larney

2 Years Ago

..after an image has been mechanically captured...

why on earth does this image need to be reproduced with paint? What is the painter trying to prove...or disprove? Is the act of painting merely to copy pre-existing imagery or does it offer greater challenges to a seriously curious individual. Are we birds that "parrot" the sounds and images that we hear and see or are we higher evolved creatures with talents beyond our own belief?, capable of miracles?

Photography itself offers unimaginable creative resolve but paintings which are crafted by intuitive will, offers much more for the serious Artist. Those who regard the Arts as merely a vehicle to gain finances at weekend markets, will obviously be entertained by the question put forth in this thread but if you have tried swimming in depths greater than your own height, then you have merely tasted the immense world beneath your very own feet.

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

Enver ... I'm not a painter but I thought that, too. Isn't one of the advantages of painting the ability to recompose and alter reality to order? A photo might be handy as a guide to particular details but its usefulness would stop there. BTW, trying to copy the out-of-focus area is simply mimicking the limitations of a lens, it's not what the brain sees in the real world (since our eyes persuade us that the whole world is in focus by instantly refocusing on whatever we switch attention to).

 

Philip Sweeck

2 Years Ago

"Photography itself offers unimaginable creative resolve but paintings which are crafted by intuitive will, offers much more for the serious Artist"

Speak for yourself.


A painter could have never imagined painting reality like this :

Photography Prints

Or this :


Sell Art Online

Or this :

Sell Art Online


Or...

 

Vivian ANDERSON

2 Years Ago

There are many fine photographers whose work lends itself to abstraction, or grayscales studies...easily ! Your rock, Philip, is a case in point, for me anyway....I love all the nuances of light/dark/gray and woudl enjoy 'responding' (operative word) in my own 'way' ... not a copy......a painterly response......and it would be a valid painting to compliment your vision. But..not a copy. No intuition in making a copy of a photo, as the Master said.

And lots of intuition on your part to take your photo. No contest.

 

Philip Sweeck

2 Years Ago

"why on earth does this image need to be reproduced with paint? What is the painter trying to prove...or disprove?"

To prove the subject of pure perception and pure perception being the subject, which is what the best 'straight photography' is about ( look at the work of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore ). No need for bold strokes or form, "just" vision.


http://www.unstage.com/2010/05/10-photorealistic-painters/

 

Shana Rowe

2 Years Ago

I think that was David's point of this discussion Phillip, none of those photo's you just posted would make good paintings, but they make awesome photos, that was the reason for this thread, and you made his point beautifully.

 

Philip Sweeck

2 Years Ago

They would make good photorealistic paintings, like the paintings from my link above. The point remains, that a painter could have never imagined or seen them, or *reality* like that when four frames are being put around it, by their own.

 

Philip Sweeck

2 Years Ago

It annoys me that painters and photographers too but more often painters, proof to be so visually illiterate in their statements when it comes to discussions about photography and painting and often have a very narrow understanding of photography or about what drives some photographers.

 

Loretta Luglio

2 Years Ago

It depends on the subject at hand. You don't always see the details that well from a photo. Of course, painting from life is best but not always possible. I don't have a problem with landscapes using photos but still lifes have more detail,pronounced light and shadow. Portaits seem more straightforwsrd then objects for me.

I'm a studio painter and was taught that the photo is only a loose reference. Many times I use more then one photo to make up a composition. The painting process takes a sterile, static photograph and brings it to life. It gives interest and dimension. You create the light and shadow, not recapture what has already been captured!

 

Enver Larney

2 Years Ago

.....as I have said in another thread....truth needs no cumbersome or any other defence......

the qualities of photography as opposed to, or/and that of painting cannot be uttered in the length of one sentence or via determination of conviction.

but...don't mistake the two by painting photographs for the sake of reconstructed "realism" (which is actually wrong) or any other....

lest an oxymoron be let loose upon the innocent.

 

Elizabeth Lane

2 Years Ago

 

Elizabeth Lane

2 Years Ago

Art Prints
I shall try again, as my above post disappeared.
This painting is from a photo I took while visiting this place. It is pretty much as the photo, with some editing: I enlarged the open area in the background, changed the trees in the middle ground and added people. The woman and two children walking on the path-way behind the flower beds is as they are in the photo, with minor changes in positions.
I "framed" the composition in my camera lens.
(I do not think no matter how hard one tries, a photo cannot be totally duplicated in a painting).
Over time, a painter begins to "see color" in the photo and use it in those areas of dark/black shadows that appear in photos, or in grassy fields, or in trees......whatever. That is what gives it that "painterly" affect.
(A side note, photoshop programs have yet to come up with the ability to duplicate that :).
As to the question of whether [some] photos make good or bad paintings and vice versa. It's all relative to what the artist wants to depict.

 

Rich Franco

2 Years Ago

David,

You almost got me there! I think my image "could" become a painting, but would it get better, probably not. But with that being said, it does still prove, at least to me, any good photo could make a good painting,not a great painting, but a good painting, which is your original thesis.

Here's my "real" web site and if you follow the link : http://www.richfrancophotography.com/index2.php#/rgallery/5/

and look at a few of my still lifes, especially the fruit, you'll find that these might make very good paintings, they are kinda painterly already. But what I think I am hearing from some earlier posts, isn't what the photo shows, but what painter uses the photo for, to exactly try and duplicate it or just use it as a reference, and that's not the issue, at least with your original post.

So again, I would suggest any good photograph and by good, technically and artistically produced, would make a "good" painting, maybe not a great painting, but something pleasing to the eye. Just maybe not my "Ball of Light"!!!LOL

Rich

 

Kevin Callahan

2 Years Ago

People sometimes ask me why don't you do a painting of that? Meaning a nice shot I captured. I say it is too good a phot as it stands I could add nothing. Ido think one of the common misconceptions/mistakes made is to assume one is trying to mimic a photo or recreate reality. Which in my case is far from the truth. I use photos as a starting point for my paintings but I try to remove the subject from the photo by painterly techniques.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Here is another one that would almost be impossible to pull off in paint. It is an amazing photograph -- the texture and light. You almost don't know what it is at first, but when you figure it out, you are in even more awe.


 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

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Sorry, I forgot the photo.

 

Marlene Burns

2 Years Ago

case in point: abstract painting. ;)

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

When I saw this photo for the first time, I was blown away. One of my first thoughts, however, was, how would I ever paint something like that? What makes this photo is the detail. In painting, often times it is not the detail you put in, but rather, the detail you leave out, letting the mind draw it for you. Rembrandt was the master of that.


Sell Art Online

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Good point, Marlene.

 

Shana Rowe

2 Years Ago

"It annoys me that painters and photographers too but more often painters, proof to be so visually illiterate in their statements when it comes to discussions about photography and painting and often have a very narrow understanding of photography or about what drives some photographers"

I surely hope you are not talking to me, as I also have interest in photography as well as many other artistic pursuits. What bothers me is how wound up people get when it comes to discussions about photography and painting. Since I do both I think I have a pretty clear understanding of the differences and similarities between the two, do I think the differences are a bad thing? NO. Some photos stand alone, and just would not translate well into paint, because they are fantastic the way they are, other photos may make great references, but I do think they should be used loosely. I'm not a fan of painting a photo blindly as I like the more painterly approach, and love using my imagination. Here is one of my photos that I wouldn't want to paint, could it be painted? Probably but I'm not sure the message would translate as well in paint, as I feel the photo brings the message along wonderfully!!

Photography Prints

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

One thing I think photos can have that you cannot possibly capture in painting is a direct emotional connection with a subject. A painted person is an artistic interpretation but one of Sebastiao Salgado's shots of people suffering screams the reality of their lives at you, and you feel that.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Hmmm, that I might have to disagree with, Paul. The first thing that comes to mind is The Scream, by Edvard Munch.

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

The scream is not a depiction of a real human being, it is a depiction of an emotional state. Isn't it? Do you think that is more powerful than this

http://www.masters-of-photography.com/images/full/salgado/salgado_ethiopia.jpg

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Paul, I agree that that is a powerful photo. However, I do not think that photography has a monopoly on emotion.

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

I didn't say it did. I meant only that you could not create a painted version of that kind of image and have the same impact because the artist would have come between the subject and the viewer in a way that the photographer does not.

That photo was used by Oxfam, by the way.

 

Vivian ANDERSON

2 Years Ago

How about this.....There are times when it is pure love of the paint itself that brings forth a finished work, abstraction, an artwork that no photographer could reproduce from scratch, in camera.....I think this should be understood by photographers,........your thread/concept works both ways......horses for courses.......

 

Lawrence Supino

2 Years Ago

A Good Photo Does Not Always Make A Good Painting

Absolutely true...but not because of "all" the reasons listed in this thread. Some images just lend themselves better for photography...plain and simple. ;)



@Paul..."I meant only that you could not create a painted version of that kind of image and have the same impact because the artist would have come between the subject and the viewer in a way that the photographer does not."


Depending on who painted that image...it could certainly have the same impact to "a" viewer. (are you meaning if the two images were side by side?)

In any event...There are countless paintings (especially by old masters) that evoke that emotional impact and more.

Many would say...to achieve that emotion through a painting... is the true art.

btw...I understand what you meant by the scream and I'm not trying to debate you...just bringing up another reality. ;))

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

A great master might, perhaps, produce a painting depicting a human drama that is even more striking than Salgado's. After all, religious paintings were the masters' stock in trade in the Middle Ages and many of them depict depict suffering, martyrdom etc., but personally I could never believe that a painted picture is as honest a record of human tragedy as a photo. Anyway, that's me. Others will aproach images in their own way.

 

Paul Cowan

2 Years Ago

A great master might, perhaps, produce a painting depicting a human drama that is even more striking than Salgado's. After all, religious paintings were the masters' stock in trade in the Middle Ages and many of them depict depict suffering, martyrdom etc., but personally I could never believe that a painted picture is as honest a record of human tragedy as a photo. Anyway, that's me. Others will approach images in their own way.

 

Shana Rowe

2 Years Ago

I agree with Viv that it works both ways.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Connecting to the audience in some deep emotional way really is the goal of most artists, including film makers, writers, poets, actors, painters, photographers, and so on. Think of your favorite movie or book. In all likelihood it touched you in a very deeply personal way, like you were there first hand, the same way that the photograph above did. When that happens, the artist has done his or her job.

 

Shana Rowe

2 Years Ago

I agree David, I see this with music especially, I don't know of anybody who does not have at least one song that has touched their soul, and they can relate to on a very emotional level.

 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Perfect example, Shana!

 

Lawrence Supino

2 Years Ago

@Paul..."but personally I could never believe that a painted picture is as honest a record of human tragedy as a photo"


yes...a "record" or "moment in time" when frozen by the click of a shutter is as real (or honest) as one gets without being there.


Case in point...Malcom Browne's ( who just passed away recently) shot of the monk burning;



 

David Larsen

2 Years Ago

Maybe a photo is best to represent "a moment in time," as Lawrence said. I can agree to that. That is journalism at its best. However, Paul's original statement reads, "One thing I think photos can have that you cannot possibly capture in painting is a direct emotional connection with a subject." That is what I disagree with.

 

Lawrence Supino

2 Years Ago

@David "That is what I disagree with."

and rightfully so. ;))

 

This discussion is closed.