Fine Art Printing and “manipulation”

Fine art prints are by definition modified versions of what the camera captured.

The concept of creating a “straight fine art print” from a negative, a transparency or a Raw file is a myth. A legend. A dream. It was so the darkroom age, it is still so in the digital age. It’s just not true.

Why? Because there are two photographs: the one the camera captures, which is on film or on the flash card, and the one you visualized in your mind’s eye, which is in your mind. The two are not the same because there are many differences between what we see and what the camera captures (see my essays on the subject: “The Eye and the Camera” and others.

What the camera recorded is objective. It is precisely what was in front of the lens when I clicked the shutter.

How I arrived at a final image that shows what I experienced is subjective. It is not only what was in front when I took the photograph but what I felt and experienced.

If you make a straight print you will ony show what the camera captured objectively. In order to show what you visualized, what you saw in your mind’s eye, you have to modify what the camera captured. You have to make the objective less objective. This is where image optimization and what some call “manipulation” comes in. These are the tools we must use to transform what the camera saw into what we visualized, into what inspired us.

This is why there can be no “straight fine art print.”

Alain Briot

Subscribe to Reflections:

Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner

1 thought on “Fine Art Printing and “manipulation”

  1. Having enjoyed, learnt and been further inspired from reading you excellent book ‘Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style’, it is great to read some of your further thoughts on the artistic approach to photography in this article.

    Having done some face to face exhibits at craft fairs it is always interesting to hear people’s reactions to my work vs. the mystery of why people have kindly bought my images from one of the handful of galleries selling my work.

    Many comment generously and encouragingly on the emotional and visceral depth of my images; the light and mood of the scene I have chosen to make photographs of; the images’ often ‘timeless’ qualities and how they often feel invited to ‘step into the frame’. Some are fascinated by the processes used such as graduated filters, HDR or exposure fusions and are happy that as you put it I have chosen to do some “image optimization”.

    Then there are always ones (who generally have no intention to buy anything) who come over to ask, often in a holier than thou manner, “how much have you photoshopped that?!…./ …..It’s very painterly, surely you must have manipulated it in some way…etc. So for responding to those people I shall try and remember you eloquent and thought provoking comments above on the objective nature of the camera vs. the subjective vision of the photographer…. hopefully that will give them something to ponder on whilst I talk to the ones who accept my images for what they are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *