What can photographers learn from painters?

DeeJayK

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I was recently led to a post on the 121 clicks blog which identifies "25 Paintings Every Photographer Must Study".

When I saw the headline, I thought to myself: "that's gonna be just a click-grab list-ical," but I took a look anyway and I'm glad I did and I suggest you do, too. It's not the one-painting-per-click gallery-style article I expected, but rather a very thoughtfully written piece that shows a variety of different famous paintings and add a brief comment about each one that relates to photography (lighting, composition, etc.)

An example:

23. Chez le père Lathuille by Édouard Manet

http://121clicks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/23_paintings_photography.jpg" title="Chez le père Lathuille by Édouard Manet"/>[/URL]

[SIZE="3"]This could be a street photography shot. This is the decisive moment before Bresson. Look at that expression and anticipation of every word that comes out of her mouth. By studying this you will be able to see decisive moments better on the street.[/SIZE][/FONT]
 

Promit

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I've come to the idea lately that photography is, at its heart, a degenerate form of painting. If you ignore what painters spent millenia learning, then you are a foolish photographer.
 

BigTam

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Promit said:
I've come to the idea lately that photography is, at its heart, a degenerate form of painting. If you ignore what painters spent millenia learning, then you are a foolish photographer.
+1. I wouldn't use the word 'degenerate' though ...

Art, especially painting, is the perfect instruction manual for photographers
 

Hikari

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And painters were the first to learn from photographers. Degas is a prime example.

As far as art snobbery, you are also conveniently forgetting all the really bad paintings made over the centuries.
 

Liamness

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There is one technique which I fell translates well; the use of increased local contrast to emulate a higher dynamic range than the medium is capable of. Painters were doing this even before they had perspective sorted. It was like HDR, but in the middle ages.
 

Grant

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I am a strong advocate of studying art to improve your photography. In the long run your camera is just a tool, it is what you create it that counts! Understanding art will help you far more than an acquisition of a new piece of gear. The only problem is understanding art is that it requires commitment, time, and work; while new equipment just requires a few dollars.
 

Chuck Pike

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I try to learn from artist.

I own a DVD from "The Great Courses" The History of European Art. Great Courses tries to get some of the best professors in the country to teach these courses. In this case it is taught by Professor William Kioss, Independent Art Historian, The Smithsonian Associates, Smithsonian Institution. It is great to watch and shows and gives examples of how light works to bring out a subject.

When I go to uptown Charlotte, I almost always drop down into one of the many art museums we have, some free, and some that I keep a membership in.
Images for books, magazines and calendars | photosbypike
 

meyerweb

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"...forgetting all the really bad paintings made over the centuries.":tongue:
That Manet sample can be one of them. My fine arts professor panned that piece as a particularly bad example of what NOT to include in the scene.

For me that Manet piece leaves a few questionable things in the image that undermines the composition.

My eyes are instantly drawn to the green facade that bisects the man's shoulder and keeps it there. The tree trunk is too much the same color as the lady's hair. The lack of contrast between the two points makes for poor juxtaposition.

The second point of interest, the server to the right, has always baffled me regarding the painter's intent with that. Is the server waiting to go over to the table until the crescendo of the moment dissipates into the dwindle of the conversation, or is he a would-be jilted lover about to cross a social barrier.

The server doesn't bother me particularly. I would hazard a guess he's there to balance the composition, But my reaction to the pole, and the tree growing out of the woman's head, was just the same as yours. Sometimes I think any painting by a "great" painter is automatically given a pass, where the same (or very similar) painting by an unknown would be ripped to pieces. This is limited just to painting, or course. I've seen supposedly great photographs by famous photographers that, if I submitted them, would probably get ignored. And I suspect you can find similar examples in architecture, sculpture, and any other moderately artistic field.

In fairness, though, Manet did really capture the mood of the couple.
 
M

MikeR_GF1

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For those in the US Mid-Atlantic - I recommend "Grounds for Sculpture"
[ Grounds For Sculpture - New Jersey Sculpture Garden ]
where some famous paintings are replicated in sculpture. The neat thing is, a present day person can join the tableau.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

Here is this particular Manet painting, seen from another angle. The people in the background are some of my family. We're taking a coffee break.

I confess that this was not taken with a M43 camera. It was in 2005. A Canon A75.
 

Grant

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"...forgetting all the really bad paintings made over the centuries.":tongue:
That Manet sample can be one of them. My fine arts professor panned that piece as a particularly bad example of what NOT to include in the scene.
While I really don't agree with your fine art professor's conclusion I do think he made a point that was not lost on you. You studied this Manet and came away with your impressions. No one should study art mindlessly or accept what has been stated, but study them deeply and see what works and doesn't work for you. If we study art and only try to reproduce what was successful then we don't create but we parrot. We should study art to lean what we like and dislike and use that knowledge to help us create.
 

RDM

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kinda sorta right

I've come to the idea lately that photography is, at its heart, a degenerate form of painting. If you ignore what painters spent millenia learning, then you are a foolish photographer.
I don't agree with any opinion about photography being a form of painting.. Because it like asking if in my opinion water is wet. Is it a fact, not an opinion. The word Photography literally means 'painting with light'. SO like an artist uses a brush to capture a scene that hes looking at , so can we capture a scene we choose too. Our tools Are not brushes and paint, but cameras, light and Photoshop/darkroom.
Of-course we need to learn from paintings and drawing. Painting and drawing classes are part of every single Colleges photography degree program for that reason.
 

GaryAyala

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I am a strong advocate of studying art to improve your photography. In the long run your camera is just a tool, it is what you create it that counts! Understanding art will help you far more than an acquisition of a new piece of gear. The only problem is understanding art is that it requires commitment, time, and work; while new equipment just requires a few dollars.
Not to argue with you Grant, as I see great value in what you say, but (the big but), I'm an advocate for studying photography as a way to improve one's own photography.

G
 

DeeJayK

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While I really don't agree with your fine art professor's conclusion I do think he made a point that was not lost on you. You studied this Manet and came away with your impressions. No one should study art mindlessly or accept what has been stated, but study them deeply and see what works and doesn't work for you. If we study art and only try to reproduce what was successful then we don't create but we parrot. We should study art to lean what we like and dislike and use that knowledge to help us create.
Not to argue with you Grant, as I see great value in what you say, but (the big but), I'm an advocate for studying photography as a way to improve one's own photography.
IMHO, there's no reason that studying the works of painters and photographers need be mutually exclusive. I feel that both can provide tremendous value.
 

DHart

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I was a commercial photographer for many years... Later in my career I decided to open a retail portrait studio and specialize in fine portraiture. At that time I invested in some art books and closely studied the great portrait painters of the past and emulated some of the lighting, posing, and compositional factors displayed in the great 'painterly' portraits... It was extremely helpful to me in developing my portrait skills.

Its hjelpful to learn 'the rules' as well so you can be guided by them initially and then can break them with abandon as well. There is no right nor wrong to 'art'... Just what you like and others respond to.

There are a lot of elements to learn from those painters in lighting, color quality, posing, composition, expression, what to do with hands and feet, etc. And, of course, I studied many of the great photographers who came before and were also contemporary to me. There is no end to the learning for us as image makers... you can live and work for hundreds of years and never come close to learning it all, nor reach the end of your development potential. After decades of successful work as a photographer and retiring from needing to earn a living at it, I still love studying and learning from all that there is to learn from.
 

GaryAyala

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That is a factor which I most love in photography ... you never reach a final destination.

Gary
 
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