Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thought Of The Day: Art Is Not Science

The Samsung NX200 review I posted last week has received a fair amount of attention. There has been a lot of feedback--about an even mix of positive and negative.

I've thought about why there has been such a divided response, and I think there are two types of camera reviews that one will find on the internet and in magazines. One type focuses on actual image results from in-the-field use. The other focuses on technical details and lab results. One is opinion, based on experience. The other is opinion, based on graphs and studies of 100% crops.

There is nothing wrong with either type of review.

My reviews are opinion, based on in-the-field use of the camera. For me, what is most important is what I see when I print the photograph. Is it how I wanted it to look? Am I able to get the results I desired?

There is nothing wrong with being concerned about data sheets and test results, but those things don't necessarily translate into actual image quality. A camera or lens can be off the charts in some respect, but, when used in reality, not be able to create what it is you wanted it to create.

I think sometimes people care too much about statistics and charts and not enough about the final print.

When I talk about the final print, I'm not talking about the fine technical aspects of it, but whether or not it speaks what you want it to speak in the way you want it to speak it. Does it reach the viewer in some way?

An image that communicates clearly to the viewer but doesn't score well on test charts is far better than an image that scores well on test charts but speaks nothing.

So I don't focus on data sheets and 100% crops. I don't completely ignore those things, either, but I don't make them a high priority. If finding tiny differences when comparing 100% crops is important to you, there is a good chance you will never create a great image.

I think those that were upset at my review are those that appreciate the technical data. I said that some things were unimportant (and they are). To those who look at data sheets and test results, what I called unimportant is highly important to them.

Art is not science. Art has no rules. It's creative, messy, sometimes illogical. Art must provoke some kind of emotional response.

As painter and photographer David Hockney said, "Art has to move you and design does not, unless it's a good design for a bus."

Design is science and is not art. Photographers tend to focus too much on pixels and noise and features and not on the art of the image. It doesn't matter how many or few megapixels a camera has, or how much noise it has, or how sharp the fine details are when enlarged to mural size.

What matters is if the image you captured moves the viewer.

If the photograph doesn't move the viewer, the technical details (which the viewer cares nothing about) don't make a difference whatsoever. And if the photograph does move the viewer, the technical details (which the viewer still cares nothing about) also don't matter.

Any camera can capture great photographs in the hands of a skilled photographer. People should worry less about what equipment they have or don't have and more about making meaningful photographs.

The details that those in the market for a new camera worry endless hours over are not nearly as important as they probably think those details are.

Technical details are for scientists. Don't be a scientist, be an artist.

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