Visual art is an endless playground where imagination and technique collides and bursts into beautiful results. One of the major forms of visual art, photography, has itself branched out into many other forms and processes such as art from photos. From the crude methods of the earliest cameras, to the sleek processing with modern software, photography has been constantly evolving, constantly expanding. And still, the results never fail – photographs are stunning, appealing, affecting. From this wonderful sandbox comes the spellbinding power of art.
The earliest creation of art from photos is arguably the most magical. It was as close as humans could get to wizardry: to literally play with light and capture it on a flat surface. As early as the 5th century BC, philosophers and mathematicians, including Aristotle, had already proposed the idea of using a simple camera obscura (Latin for “dark room”). Their version was basically a box with a pinhole through which light can enter and form an image, this was the beginning of art from photos.
Much later, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, Louis Daguerre, and Hercules Florence became some of the first to use chemicals such as silver nitrate, iodine vapour, and mercury fumes to ‘fix’ a black-and-white photos onto a plate. Many significant discoveries had been contributed since then, but it was in 1884 when George Eastman made a pivotal turn towards modern photography. He replaced photographic plates with dry gel-coated paper – the great ancestor of film. Yet another development in the history of art photos.
In modern times, photography has developed so much and at faster rate, going on to explore colour and digital processing. Art from photos remains essentially the same, but it is the rendering that has been changing and branching out. For example, portraiture has been popular since the 1800s, and until now, it is still a principal branch of photography. In the early days of art from photos and photos to art, people had to make do with plain backgrounds, soft lighting, and sitting still to keep the focus on the subject of a picture. Now, with modern devices, art from photos can be done in practically any environment and with any pose, but the focus remains on the person being photographed and creating stunning art from photos.
More importantly, the purpose of art from photos has never changed. That is to encapsulate the features and looks of people – a crinkle on the eyes, the gentleness of a lady’s fingers, a slight emerging smile – so that they may withstand the passing of time. The development of various kinds of equipment and devices has been a key factor in the evolution of art from photos. Cameras, complementing equipment, and post-processing software are now commonly used to produce art from photos.
Modern cameras now provide photographers with options on how to produce art from photos. Digital cameras provide more ease than ever before in capturing, reproducing, and sharing pictures. These digital devices have themselves branched out into two major types. The compact digital cameras, also called point-and-shoot cameras, are generally handier and more widely used. Meanwhile, digital single-lens reflex cameras, or DSLRs, allow more professional control such as in the amount of light controlled through the aperture, or in the speed of capture controlled through the shutter.
Recently, there has been a growing support for vintage cameras. Unlike their digital counterparts, these older devices provide little room for adjustments and refinements. Thus, they produce distinct art – whether with a washed out colour, or a grainy look, or an obvious flaw in capturing light. But these ‘flaws’ are not considered inferior. In fact, they are valued because they add a subtle touch of nostalgia – a softness that brings back a poignant atmosphere of innocence.
There has also been a wide appreciation of black-and-white photographs and cameras. The lack of colour is perfect for eliminating unnecessary clutter, highlighting only an aspect or two of a certain scene. The results are usually beautiful, dramatic art from photos, devoid of anything but pure focus on a subject.
To add to the power of cameras, complementing equipment are also available for better-quality art photos. Some of the most common are tripods and mono pods, which are basically stands for holding a camera still. There are also lighting equipment such as flashes, reflectors, and different kinds of bulbs. Most of these are great for wonderful vivid images, as in emotive facial expressions on a sunset and gentle loving gestures during a wedding. All make wonderful art from photos.
And then there is the post-processing of photographs. Post-processing refers to the enhancement or alteration of a picture that has already been captured. In other words, it is a kind of retouching. This is done mostly on computers with the use of specialised but accessible software. Thus, post-processing is usually under digital photography. This processing can be used in many ways to create wonderful art from photos.
Some of the most basic techniques in post-processing to create art from photos are cropping to cut away a certain part of a picture, rotating or tilting to alter the perspective, and tone adjustments to slightly change the colour of the picture. Then there are the more advanced processes, such as blurring, lighting adjustments, and erasing certain elements that are not supposed to be present in your art from photos.
Post-processing can greatly enhance or alter art from photos, and thus, it is not approved of in practical uses of photography such as for documentation and studies. It is mostly exclusive in artistic photography. But modern art takes photos one step further with the use of computer software. And here is the territory of digital photo-based visual art.
It sounds like a broad field, but digital art that’s based on photos is actually a niche of its own. While other forms of digital art involve sketching and colouring with software, digital art from photos does not require those. It only takes a photo and uses software to turn it into a new artwork, be it a vector art, a dream-like imagery, or even a pop-art poster. It is much different from the usual retouching techniques in post-processing, because it creates a new picture altogether.
With such rich history and amazing processes in visual art, it is no wonder that art from photos have become interesting symbols of life. The memories they hold, the time they represent, the emotions they stir – they all form part of an enchantment.