Art vs Science in Photography

There’s the famous saying that you’re either a “left-brained” or “right-brained” kind of person.

Left-brained people thrive on the logical connection of frameworks and processes, to achieve fastidious levels of organisation and scientific achievement. Right-brained people thrive on intuition and artistry – more likely to be found swooping buckets of paint onto large, burning canvas masterpieces; or romanticising their words in a heartfelt expression of emotion.

When it comes to photography, I wonder where we all fit in on this spectrum.

As for me, my heart tells me I’m more on the artistic side than the scientific. It’s the artistic creativity that draws me in. The opportunity to enter my own little world of escape – to observe and express what I see of the lives going on around me. I like to freely create – not to concern myself over processes or rules. And I like to experiment creatively with a new angle or method. This is what really inspires me to keep going.

But my head tells me I’m just as much a scientist too. I find it difficult to let go of my traditional control over camera settings. I like order, symmetry and structure. And I’m a bit of a worrier – I do find myself obsessing over settings, technology and fine-tuning with my post-production. I’ve taken a lot of photographs where I can well and truly see my left-brained side at work.

I wonder what would happen if I went too far down the left-brained, scientific path. Maybe I would build up a portfolio of technically competent, but ever more contrived and formulaic photographs.

And if I went too far down the right-brained, artistic path I may find myself with an abstract collection of spontaneous light paintings that only I and a few other brightly-coloured souls will ever appreciate or understand.

So maybe being in the middle is a good thing. Because I don’t think art and science should be enemies. They are designed to work together, to complement each other and allow us to produce the best balance of work we possibly can. They’re like two partners leaning back against each other. It might be a bit wobbly at times, but together they’re balanced as one. Take one of them away, however – and the other will quickly fall down under its own weight.

Maybe you see yourself more as a right-brained artist, or as a left-brained technical master. But let’s not neglect one side over the other. For art and science are friends. And without the one, I think the other is just a little bit lost.


Art vs Science in PhotographyA left-brained photograph. Methodical and carefully composed, with a graphic symmetry and considered placing of the subject.
In my portfolio if: I wanted to showcase a level of technical ability and compositional awareness.


Art vs Science in Photography

A right-brained photograph. Rejection of usual photographic methods in favour of spontaneous experimentation. I’m really pleased with the aesthetics of this one, and it speaks to me on a much more vivid emotional level.
In my portfolio if: I wanted to invite deeper interpretations over artistic meaning – or show more intense, abstracted expressions of emotion.

I wonder where you place yourself on the spectrum?

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  • Hugh Rawson15th February 2018 - 9:07 pm

    Well expressed Chris. I think photography is fairly unique in that you need to have some level of understanding of the science behind exposure, for example, in order to be properly creative. It truly is where art and science collide. You’re right that technical proficiency brings a set of very competent but soulless images. Go the other way and you may not be a SLT to produce the image you wanted for lack of technical know-how.ReplyCancel

    • chrissilk15th February 2018 - 10:50 pm

      Hi Hugh, that’s very true. I think what’s so important is maintaining that balance of how both sides are contributing to our photographs. Developing the technical side in order to produce quality, and yet being creative enough to keep our work interesting and dynamic. Thank you for reading and commenting!ReplyCancel