Why Artistry Is Harder Than Technique

In this important and insightful video, a professional photographer tackles the complex balance between the technical and artistic aspects of photography. He contends that while the mechanics of operating a camera can be readily taught, cultivating an artistic eye is far more nebulous. As a consequence, many amateur photographers overly fixate on technical perfection in critiquing photos, rather than considering the photographer’s intent, and it's to their detriment.  

Coming to you from James Popsys, this fantastic video essay discusses technical skills versus artistry in photography. To illustrate his point, Popsys shares several examples from his recent travels in Portugal. The bright, blown-out highlights and crushed shadows evident in many shots directly contradict textbook techniques for proper exposure. However, he argues that purposefully manipulating light and darkness serves to minimize distractions and draw the viewer’s eye towards the main subject. He maintains that as photographers, the central aim should be utilizing all available methods to emphasize the subject over ancillary details.

While some photographers may scoff at blown highlights as the mark of an amateur, the use of light and shadow transforms distracting backgrounds into moody, atmospheric abstraction. The resulting images showcase Popsys' assertion that artistic intent outweighs rote technical standards in creating compelling photographs. It challenges us to reconsider the difference between taking technically precise photographs and creating effective and impactful art.

Ultimately, the combination of strong artistic vision and mastery of technique is what separates the snapshot-taker from the true photographer-artist. This video serves as an important reminder that while technical skills provide the tools, developing a refined artistic eye is what elevates photography into an interpretive art form. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Popsys.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Excellent! Putting the emphasis on your subject by hiding distractions. I like it. Well done. So true about the teaching of the science vs the art.

The technical aspect is the learn and forget process the learning basic you keep for the rest of your life. If you want to over or under expose, do it in camera, there is so much to learn from taking a chance, plus every camera has a screen and it's pretty much risk free to expose as you feel compared to film days. I'm afraid this is more of a sponsored clip than an artistic tip.

A consistent and unique vision and cohesive body of work is far more important than technical expertise.