Artistic vs. Technical Perfection


When browsing photography on the Internet it appears to be one huge quest for technical perfection. A plethora of websites deals entirely with photo gear and its evaluation. Pixel peeping has become an obsession for many. Message boards are groaning with perpetual arguments about the superiority of one camera system over another.

Then, there are thousands of photos so immaculately processed and photo-shopped that their technical perfection creates awe and envy in aspiring photographers. But many of the photos remind us of others we have seen before. They somehow feel plastic, artificial and cold. They lack emotion and authenticity.

In contrast, when you look at the images from the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastiao Salgado and others, you find thoughtful compositions, subtle moments and moods. Are they the most technically perfect photographs and the sharpest images you have ever seen? I don’t think so but somehow your eye feels content, your brain slows down and your visual emotions are elevated.

What strikes us is that those who produce a body of great work often don’t consider themselves photographers. They grab any camera and create art – they are artists. When Cartier-Bresson started shooting with the 35mm camera, other photographers of his time dismissed his new tool as a toy (back then only large format cameras were considered serious). But we should learn from artists. They see way beyond pixels and MTF charts. For them technical augmentation is just a distraction.


So why are we so occupied with a litany of technical do’s and don’ts? Why do we ask the wrong questions so many times: Which camera should I buy? How do I sharpen photos? How do I apply layers? Which software should I use? and so on.

Don’t get us wrong – we like photo gear and are well aware of our ‘contribution’ to this plaque. However, each time we put everything technical in the back seat and let our emotions and inner artistic self rule our photographic process the results always astound us.

Sure, it’s not easy. But the next time you think your photo is not sharp enough, your images are grainy or your camera doesn’t have elephant resolution this may be the best thing that has happened to you. Maybe it is the right moment to stop and re-focus on seeing.


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2015 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.


11 thoughts on “Artistic vs. Technical Perfection

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      1. Ha, ha! I read this article with much joy (as always) and admiration at the images (love, love, love the coastal landscape shots and the church in the heavenly shafts of light) … and at the end of it I heard myself say “Hear, hear!”. Tickled by the coincidence of thought as I then scrolled to the first comment! Very good 😉

  2. Amen, amen and amen. Having chased the finesse of fine art prints for the past few year (and succeeded reasonably well in a crowded market), at the beginning of this year I needed to embark on something new. A black and white portfolio of one “keeper” each day and a “story” behind each. Immaculately processed? No. Photoshopped to technical perfection? No. But beyond the pixels is my soul. For the first time in years. My soul. And I’m having a ball.

  3. and this is the main reason I follow your blog and photos. I don’t find myself looking at your images for sharpness or technical skill. They just catch my eye. I don’t wonder which lens or camera you were using, I just see a lovely landscape or subject. By doing that you have created a great image. People who get up before dawn to capture mist and that wonderful morning light are after the feeling, the light and the subject. You have said it now in print and not just with your images. keep up the great work, always a joy.

  4. Olaf’s photoblog, the only place I know on the internet where we can read wise words about photography. In an age when billions of photos are taken, to be deleted or forgotten almost immediately, the only way to produce photos that will stand out is ‘simply’, as Olaf said, in seeing.
    It is not playing with modes, layers or pixels, but in the act of seeing, even before touching the camera. It seems simple, but is not only the most important, but also maybe the hardest thing to do.
    Thank you for your great blog.

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