Is it photography or is it art?


If you’re a reader of this blog , then you already know that photography is accomplished with a device (a camera), with an opening (a lens), through which light passes, and is recorded, along with it’s respective shadows and colors, on a medium (film or a sensor), in order to create an image.

And if you know anything about art, then you know that that also involves capturing an image, composed of materials that represent light and shadows and colors, on a medium (canvas, paper, sidewalk), with a device (brush, pen, chalk).

Similarities abound, but photographs and art typically are the result of different processes and exist in different orbits around those with creative spirits.

But as digital photography advances, and technology, both in-camera and in software becomes ever more powerful, that line between art and photography begins to blur.

Case in point, the above photo, I mean artwork, umm, well, what I mean to say is that that image started as a photo I made last week on Cape Cod, with my digital camera, imported into my iPad and edited in iPhoto. iPhoto can handle all of the basic editing functions of sharpening and cropping, lightening and saturating. But like so many photo editing programs today, it also comes with some creative, artistic features, one of which yielded the photo/artwork you see above; (best viewed large).

Is this art? Under any circumstances, that’s a subjective question. Does it’s color and light evoke any feelings, any emotion, some memories perhaps? I believe with technology blurring the distinction between art and photography, it’s hard to say, and it’s definitely a personal choice.

For me, this is art. I feel it’s energy, and I recognize both it’s resemblance to reality, and it’s similarity to watercolors. How it came into existence becomes irrelevant. I just like it.

But that’s just me. I welcome your thoughts on the subject. And thanks for visiting 2GP.


About Ed Spadoni "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
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9 Responses to Is it photography or is it art?

  1. fcg says:

    I think photography is an art because of the ability of the photographer to capture beauty as well as to compose it. 🙂

  2. Kara Stewart says:

    Photography IS art. Technology has changed SOME of the methods used in creating that art, just as technology has changed the way that illustrators draw (on a computer with software now many times for books, cartoons, etc. instead of with drawing pencils, crayons, pastels). Photography, as an art, has advanced and developed more options, just like pencil and paper drawing has. To me, your question of “Is it art?” is unnecessary dichotomy and division – it would be like looking at beautiful illustrations in a children’s book or gorgeous best seller book covers that were created digitally (as most are now) and asking “Is this a digital drawing or is this art?” Just because something is digital doesn’t meant it isn’t art. They are ALL art, all under the art umbrella. We are simply making our umbrella larger because of new things we have learned how to do. And even ‘straight’ photography is art. So the answer to your question, “Is it photography or is it art?” is yes.

  3. Yes, I agree with Kara: Photography IS art. I would also agree with her sentiment vis-a-vis digital rendering of the image: just because something is rendered digitally does not diminish it’s artwork in any way. Case in point: much of the music you hear today in film and on television is digitally rendered. Is the music any less vibrant? Can you (or anybody, other than the composer) tell the difference if a piece was actually performed in the studio and later digitally “altered”? I challenge anyone today to discern the difference. Simple answer: you can’t tell.

    Let’s apply this to modern day digital photography: can you tell if an image has been “photoshopped” or not? Of course you can’t. An image is an image, regardless of how it has been altered. To be sure, some photoshopping is over the top (such as some of the “hyper-real” HDR effects so prevalent today), but most “corrections” are completely transparent (i.e. correcting the white balance, bringing back any lost highlights, shadows, etc.) and therefore completely indistinguishable to the average viewer (and many professional photographers too).

    The example above could’ve just as easily been painted…replete with an easel and pastel colored brushes…who’s to say the difference? BTW, it appears that this was done with a popular app (ToonPaint)…am I correct? Here’s something for you to think about: I know of real estate photographers that use similar apps to “render” digital images of homes for sale as mementos or keepsakes. Don’t you just love innovation?

  4. Debbie says:

    It is art! Even when something is manipulated digitally it is an artistic interpretation and creation of an original image. If you gave the exact same IMAGE to each photographer, you would get a wide variety of post processing. Now wouldn’t THAT be a fun thing to do on the dailies?

  5. Rodney says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the above comments. And this photo is FUN art to me.

  6. Kara Stewart says:

    Oooo – Debbie! What a great idea! I just hope I don’t miss it since I am not on the dailies much lately. Maybe Ed can run it on his blog? That would be SO cool to see different interpretations of the same image! Wow!

    • 2guysphoto says:

      Thank you’s go out to fcg, Kara, Frank, Debbie and Rodney. It looks unanimous to me – the source is irrelevant, and whether you call it art, photography or something in between, the image is what matters.

      I think Debbie’s idea is excellent: later on I’ll post the original photo from this post, and you’re all welcome to right click and save, (click once first to bring up the larger size), and have at it. Interpret the scene as you wish and email your finished products back to us at We’ll publish them all in a follow up post.

      If there’s enough interest, this could become a regular feature!


  7. Pingback: Photography or art? Now it’s YOUR turn. | 2 Guys Photo

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