Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts On Painterly-Type Images

I had an interesting, but not unexpected, experience today. I was giving an HDR presentation, and several folks in the audience kinda complained that some of my photographs looked more like paintings than photographs. They wanted to see straight shots - many of which I have in other presentations, in my books and on this blog.

Hey, as my dad used to say, "To each his own," which stems from the 1946 drama of the same name starring Olivia de Havilland.

Above is one such HDR image, below is the photograph.

To create the painterly-like image, I first used Photomatix (to created the HDR image) and then used Topaz Adjust (first selecting the Spicify filter, and then greatly reducing the noise).

Click here for info on Photomatix and Topaz - and a discount on Photomatix.

I'd like you to weigh in: Do you think photographs should look like pictures - or painting - or both? Post your thoughts here - so all can see.

Explore the light,

P.S. If you like HDR photography (realistic or artistic) you may like my HDR book. I gotta warn ya, however. Some of the pictures look more like paintings. :-)

Here is a realist HDR image from my book. One could argue, however, that it's not really that realist – because the color has been removed from the scene.


Matt said...

I feel that whether the image should be painterly or not depends on the intent of the artist (photographers are artists!). If the artist is trying to present an accurate rendition of a scene with compressed dynamic range, and perhaps a bit of saturation in the colors, then no, painterly would not be appropriate (because it would not fulfill the artist's intent). If the artist is trying to present an idealized, potentially impressionistic, rendition of a scene with strong colors, the painterly would probably be appropriate.

Personally, I feel the application of the the painterly effect depends somewhat on the subject, too. Not all subjects lend themselves to such presentation, just as not all subjects lend themselves to a straight, accurate presentation. In your example photographs, for example, I feel the HDR image is a much stronger and more pleasing image than the mundane "straight-out-of-camera" HDR shot.

In the end, can't we all just get along, and enjoy what we enjoy, and let others enjoy what they enjoy, in peace and quiet?

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Rick, in answer to your blog question, I believe that the HDR application depends on the image and what the photographer/artist is trying to convey to the viewer, i.e., painterly whether Degas-Monet inspired or more like the oils of Masters... and/or the modern HDR funk/grunge. I personally prefer the more realistic application of HDR but the image itself would dictate post-processing application and old cars, street photography, antiquities and the like look realistic with old grunge application and even an additional appllication of texture, IMHO.

Hankers said...

Whether photographs end up being presented looking like a painting or a picture is entirely up to what the photographer has in mind. To me a comment such as 'that looks just like a painting' would be a compliment as long as that's what I was trying to achieve with the photograph. ;)

Tom said...


If a photograph looks like something someone could have created with a paint and a brush, then, yeah, I might say, why not just paint the scene?

But what I like about many HDR images is that they have a truly unique quality that I've never seen ANY artist replicate with paints or other media- HDR is a whole new way to look at the world.


GenBug said...

I like both, but actually prefer something in between the two. I love the different looks you can get with Photomatix and Topaz together. You do a wonderful job with both.

This is art, and one should do what they like, and hope some others like it too.

mylifeinhdr said...

Well assuming your not a purist or a photo journalist, what does it matter? It's art. It conveys a mood and idea. Unless people want to just post unprocessed Raw images, we're all just doing variations of image manipulation. Once you realize that, how extreme you take it is irrelevant. Nice work Rick (oh and the book is great btw)

Carolyn Fox said...

I think that whether or not a photograph looks good with a painterly-like effect really depends on the photo. I use Photomatix, NIK, onOne and Topaz plug-ins, because I want to have the choice as to how the final product looks. Sometimes, it's just the regular photo and other times it may look like a painting. I think it's up to the photographer to make that decision. Everyone isn't going to agree with you every time or like every piece of art that you create and that's ok, because we all have different opinions concerning what art is and what a photograph should look like. So, the bottom line as far as I'm concerned, is that the photographer should create art that fulfills his or her vision and hope that most viewers will like it or at least respect the decision to create it that way. So just keep doing what you're doing, Rick. :-)

Rob Dweck said...

Hey Rick,

To each his own indeed! I believe that photographs should look how the photographer wants them to look. If our photographs are an expression of our personal vision, then it's up to us to compose and process the shot in a way that is consistent with that.

I love doing painterly as well as more realistic HDRs. The processing depends on the scene. These two felt like they should be processed more like paintings:

I love processing these types of HDR scenes with Topaz Adjust as well as Nik Color Efex Pro. I like to refer to them as "photo illustrations" (to borrow Art Wolfe's term) since they're so far removed from straight photographs.

On HDR images like this one I prefer to go for a more photographic look:

I'm sure there are plenty of people who will disagree with my processing choices, and while there are plenty of other ways to do it, I'm happy with the results.

Dru Stefan Stone said...

The posted photograph reminds me of an Edward Hopper Painting. I'm not certain I would call it painterly myself. Monet is more "painterly" so are some of the other impressionists where form is distinguished more by subtle variations in color. Hopper seemed to freeze time and this photograph and much of HDR reminds me of a moment frozen in time instead of the fluidity of it. It is important as an artist to stretch the boundaries so while I may not enjoy it myself so much, I think it is wonderful that it is a part of photography!

Digital Lady Syd said...

Usually when I take an HDR shot, I am not particularly thinking to make it a painterly look. It seems that once I start to fiddle around with the different effects, i.e., Photomatix Pro, Topaz Adjust and OnOne PhotoTool, Nik, a certain look just fits the image. On occasion I have actually done my processing both ways before I decide which looks best. When I post on Flickr, I notice viewers do not seem to care if the shot is an HDR image, and how it is processed, but totally respond to what I am presenting. Sometimes I get the best responses to images that I think are way over the top in painterly effects. I think that is why I like HDR - it gives you more choices on how you can present your images.

JimC said...

The image should be what the photographer wants it to be! It is interesting that HDR captures image closer to the way our eyes see the scene - details in the highlights and shadows just as a painter would capture the scene. After all, a painter attempts to capture what he/she SEES. The photographic images we are used to are a result of the limitations imposed by the photographic process. So, why can't a photographer capture an image closer to what the eye sees?

Peter Kremzar said...

It depends. I really hate when these paintings look like amateur paintings from elementary school. That's what everyone with 10 minutes can do. This is not an art to me.

But there are some guys who really do some art using HDR with lots of other techniques. One of them was the one who had a onOne webminar last week. He was really good.

Jen at Cabin Fever said...

I get this comment a lot with some of my photos, but usually its with a positive upswing. I actually prefer the realist side of photography and don't want my photographs to be too painterly, but if they are, they are.

I agree... to each his own... and its the artist that decides what is art.

NEK Photography Blog

Hope Vinitsky said...

I think this is a tough question. I like to get it to the point where it's right on the edge of looking like a painting. I like to have the view wonder a bit what it really is. They seem to like it this way.

jem said...

I think it's OK to do whatever you want with your photos.

For me personally, I think it's nice to see these "overdone" HDR photos once in a while but if I see them to often I just get tired of them - for some reason I this doesn't happen with other types of photos.

Anonymous said...

I tend to see HDR as a means to make up for the shortcomings of a camera vs the complexities of the eye, so if it 'looks like an HDR shot' then it's probably overdone for my taste.

But that's my taste and everyone is different.

Barry said...

If I can tell it's HDR from across the room, I usually tune right out.

The Photo-Secessionists were into "painterly" images to prove that photography is an art. I hope we settled that debate long ago. Mostly the Photo-Secessionists outgrew that style 80-90 years ago and much of their work looks really clumsy and dated now. "Straight" photography and the f/64s seem to hold up better.

That being said, it's your vision and you should do what you want. Life would be really boring if we all saw things the same way.

Still, overdone HDR usually bores me real fast, but there are rare exceptions.

Anonymous said...

To thine own self be true...

that said, the first one was over the top to my liking... and the real photo was kinda punchless...

nice B&W though, and the HDR isn't the reason anyone is looking; the nice rendition of the tonal range of nature IS.

enjoy your blog btw. Lyle