Photography vs Painting

Both painting and photography are respected art mediums. When well-executed, a photograph or painting can be beautiful, emotional, and powerful. In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between painting and photography.

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What Is a Painting?

A painting is an artwork created using paint applied to a solid surface. Painting is an artist’s method of applying paint, or another medium, to a surface – usually a canvas. You can use the term “painting” to describe both the act of creating a painting and the resulting artwork. More about what is painting >


What Is a Photograph?

Photography is the process of capturing images and light with a camera. This process produces an image that can be digital or printed onto paper, known as a photograph. Learn more about photography here.

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What Is the Difference Between Painting and Photography?

There are many differences between a painting and a photograph. In most cases, the audience will easily be able to identify a photograph from a painting (hyperrealism painting can be the exception).

One of the most significant differences between a photo and a painting comes from the artistic process itself. A painter will start creating with a blank canvas. Many photographers, however, work with a scene and the lighting they have available. An exception here is studio photography, where photographers may stage on a blank set. 

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Artists view painting as an additive process because it creates something from nothing. However, photography can be considered subtractive because photographers simplify a three-dimensional reality down to its simplified, flat, and powerful essence in a two-dimensional image.

Photography is usually representational, while painting has impressionistic possibilities or can be entirely abstract. Paintings aren’t constrained to portray what things actually look like; they can interpret scenes, emotions, or feelings as they desire. Although photography can be impressionistic or abstract, it is less common.

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Timeliness is another crucial difference between paintings and photographs. Photography results from an immediate reaction that captures an exact moment in time, while painting is a long, slow process.

A painter uses paint to create an image, while a photographer uses light. Light cannot be mixed or manipulated in the same ways that paint or pigments can, but a photographer can manipulate light work within its limits. 

Photo Vs Painting

Painting and photography may seem very different in the contemporary art world, but both art forms originally served the same purpose.


How Is Photography Similar to Painting?

Both photography and painting use the same fundamental elements of visual art. These include considerations such as space, line, color, balance, depth, texture, and more. Any good piece of artwork comes with a similar understanding of each of these aspects of art and uses them within the creation methods.

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Both painters and fine art photographers can use their artworks as a means of self-expression. Therefore both photography and painting can be classified as fine art.


Does Photography Replace Painting?

For centuries the fine visual arts were limited to drawing, painting, and art sculpture. But in the mid-nineteenth century, photography was invented, and its arrival changed the fine art world forever.

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While photography has never replaced painting entirely, it certainly took the place of paintings in many facets of life. Before the invention of photography, artists used paintings or drawings to capture any scene or object. Paintings document a moment in time or create a portrait, or a family scene. 

With the introduction of photography, paintings were no longer needed to document. Paintings were slow and labor-intensive to create, and they couldn’t compete with the realism and accuracy of photography. 

Paintings were also more expensive to create, limiting visual art to only an elite few in the upper class. Photographs democratized the visual image, and in many ways democratized art.

Indeed, when photography was a new medium, it posed a threat to painting. When photography came out in 1839, the artist Paul Delaroche famously declared, “Painting is dead.” However, Delaroche would be proven wrong.

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Photography took the place of paintings as a form of accurate documentation, but instead of dying out, paintings moved on to different styles and aesthetics.


Is Photography Better Than Painting?

Each of these artistic mediums fulfills its own purpose. A photographer captures life and moments, and the painter creates pictures. Art is always a subjective topic, and some critics will always believe one art form or style is superior to another. However, at the end of the day, the “best” artwork is a matter of personal taste. 


Why People Think Painting Is More Interesting Than Photography

Although fine art photography is a very respected artistic medium, photography, in general, has become common, especially in this hyper-digital world. 

Some art collectors and critics, therefore, see painting as being superior or more complex than photography. A painting is rarer, it is one of a kind, while a photograph can be more easily produced. However, both forms of art are respectable and interesting.


Is Painting Harder Than Photography?

Anyone can create a painting or take a photograph. But to create truly beautiful, unique, and important artwork requires great skill and talent. Both painting and fine art photography need artists to master specific fundamental skills and techniques. 

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While it may seem easier to use a modern digital camera than to paint with brushes, a true photographer must hold skills in both compositions and development and post-production editing. Both photography and painting are equally challenging to master at a high level. 

Photography has the advantage of being able to capture multiple frames and create multiple prints. But a painter is more limited to their original work with less room for mistake.


Why Do Photography and Painting Go With Each Other?

While photography initially posed a threat to painting, the two have worked well together over the past century. The relationship between these two mediums has proved fruitful since photography’s invention in 1839. In many ways, photographers freed painters from the constraints of portraying reality. 


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We can directly credit the invention of photography with pushing painters to explore impressionism and abstraction. There was a period of intense change and artistic development in the space of a few decades directly after photographs were invented. Photographers can also look to paintings for new ideas and techniques. 

Many artists, such as David Hockney, work with both mediums, applying painting and drawing skills to photographs through computer editing or other techniques.


Buying Original Artworks

Collectors or art investors can buy photography art and fine original paintings for sale in galleries or crypto art marketplaces. Both paintings and photography make excellent art investments.


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