Do You Just Document Your Subjects – Or Create Art With Your Subjects

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


Last year I did a interview for The Candid Frame and the interviewer Ibarionex Perello had made a statement that I found very interesting, and at the same time it was a compliment about my macro work that I was honored by.
Ibarionex Perello said,
“When ever I have viewed macro photography, it always looks like the photographer is just documenting their subjects, and when I view your work, it has an artistic look rather than a documented look”
I have always felt this same feeling when viewing photographer’s work, but never could put in words what I was seeing, until Ibarionex made it clear.
Most macro photographers are documenting subjects.
Documenting subjects is what you see in text books when learning about a subjects, whether it was flowers, plant life, birds, critters, etc. Text book images are not to be artistic, but just to let the viewer know what the subject looks like along with the environment it live in.
I think most macro photographers are trying to create artistic images when they shoot their subjects, and they may not have thought of the fact they may be documenting rather than create art.
Take a look at your portfolio of images and be very honest with yourself.
Are you creating artistic images with your subjects or just documenting them.
If you have shot a flower straight on and positioned it in the middle of the frame, then you are pretty much documenting your images. If you take the same flower and view it from some unique angle, or with an interesting depth of field then you have a better chance of creating art.
Here is a Cyclamen flower that has the documented look. Just a simple flower in the middle of the frame.


And the same flower with a little more artistic pose.


Using a shallow depth field gives this Trillium a more artistic feel.



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  1. Kat Enns says:

    This is a very true observation. In my previous life, I was continuously trying to sneak the art into the documentary. To me, however, both of your cyclamen photographs are artistic, the second more obviously so. Documentary photography must record subjects in their typical classical form, and its also difficult to get that particular image, I would say almost as challenging as art form photographs in some ways, because it must include an intimate understanding of the life story of the subject and how it normally looks in nature. Of course if you are following prescribed rules of photography, you get there eventually anyway. Perhaps it is easier to recognize an artistic view if you are unfettered by the taxonomy, physiology, life cycle, and other biological etceteras. Or maybe not everyone has that je ne sais quoi. You obviously DO have it. So I have always learned more from you than any grumpy old botanist, lol.

  2. Dave says:

    I also noticed this when watching some Youtube videos about macro photography. A lot of guys insist on that “bullseye in the middle of the frame,” “totally sharp from front to back” snapshot look that seems so totally unaesthetic.

    But then, in all areas of photography I think there are examples–sometimes teachers/presenters even–of technically proficient shooters without the aesthetic eye.

    As for both examples of the Cyclamen being artistic, I think Mr Moats probably couldn’t even find a bad example in his shooting, since finding artistic angles/choosing subjects with character is a habit for him!

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