Peka Peka Sunset
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 Blog  12  July  2010:  Is  Photography  an  Art  or  a  Science?


Hello, I am a photographer from New Zealand, and I enjoy sharing my blogs and photographs with other enthusiasts. The above sunset was taken at Peka Peka, which is located on the Kapiti Coast in the North Island of New Zealand.

In keeping with the conventional blog tradition, the blogs on this site are presented in date order and include, for example, random thoughts and projects, and references to discussions on photographic forums that I have found to be very interesting.


Is Photography an Art or a Science?

I started thinking about the above question when a person posting on a "Digital Photography Review" forum asked whether he is a point and shoot "P&S" photographer or a "real" photographer! You can find this discussion thread here:

My thoughts on this question are as follows:

I have seen magnificent photographs taken by artistic people who are inspired by a scene and who rely totally on the automatic functions of a simple camera. On the other hand, I have seen photographs that do not inspire me that have been taken by professional photographers who have all the latest gear!

So, think in terms of the end product, not the camera used! A "real" photographer is one who is inspired by beautiful scenes and who can pass on this inspiration to the viewer. For example, I was inspired by  this wonderful scene,  and I hope one or two others may be also!

But I realise that not all photographs need to be "inspiring", and that a professional photographer often has to take the photos that clients want, not necessarily the ones the photographer wants!

I like to think in terms of the quality and inspiration of the end product, rather than the camera used to take the image! So, although digital photography can be very difficult from a technical point of view, I think that inspiration and artistic ability are the main things! Even if you have only a simple camera, if you are inspired by a scene, and if you have the artistic ability to depict it with sensitivity, then it's likely that your photograph will also inspire others!

Way back in 1955, a famous photographer, Andreas Feininger, wrote a book called “The Creative Photographer”. Andreas included a chapter in his book titled “Why People Take Photographs”. Andreas said that, in his opinion, whether amateur or professional, people take pictures for one of the following reasons:

Because they wish to make visual records
Because they are fascinated by gadgets
Because they have to earn a living
Because they feel the need to express themselves

So which of the above categories would you place yourself in? With regard to the last category, Andreas said that creativity is independent of hobby or profession, and creative photographers are found among both amateurs and professionals. One of the most mysterious forces in man is the drive to create. Creative photographers are driven by a compelling urge, which is the root of any creative work, they must express these opinions in tangible form and share them with others. It is this compulsion to create which makes great photographers.

So, if you put yourself in the “need to express yourself” category, you can do this with a “P & S” camera or the most expensive camera available. However, the more you know about your camera and post processing, and the better the camera is, the better your images are likely to be. So, in this sense, a "real" photographer needs to be artistic, creative, and have the ability to inspire others. In addition, the photographer should also have a reasonable knowledge of some of the fundamental scientific / technical aspects of photography.



Andreas Feininger (1955). "The Creative Photographer", Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

F. David Peat, "Art and science"   and    "Art & science: Marriage or illicit liaison."

Alex Sirota, "Photography - a new art or yet another scientific achievement. On the web site of "".


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