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Thread: Photographic resolution and visual resolution

  1. #1

    Photographic resolution and visual resolution

    What makes photographic resolution? We all know that there are pictures that stimulate our minds and ones that just don't, even though they may be of the same subject. Some photographs are simply more luminous, more stimulating, and more incredible than others. Why?

    The following are two images from internet. The fact that they are showing on our browser already should tell us that they are not the highest possible resolution possible, less than 200 dpi. I know that this was a question that Chuck Close was really concerned with. Is it pixel size? The colors? What makes thes photos so luminous?

  2. #2
    I think that resolution, per se, is not the true issue, and that there is a popular confusion between resolution and quality. We can draw a parallel with the reproduction of music, where people will go to extremes to achieve high fidelity, while the actual music being that is being reproduced often seems to be of secondary interest, and may be of mediocre quality. However, music played on relatively primitive equipment can still be beautiful and moving.
    The photograph that you attached is certainly attractive. However, I would say that its spatial resolution is at least that of my eyes, at least at reading distance; in addition, the color resolution is excellent, probably better than the resolution of color that my eyes/brain can achieve. In other words, its photographic quality is as good as or better than my ability to process it.
    It is interesting that, if the same picture is saved in black-and-white, it is still appealing, although clearly of low photographic quality. To me, this is like the same symphony, played on a cylinder phonograph. A movie, filmed in back-and-white, may be as effective or perhaps even more effective, than one filmed in color.
    That goes to your real question, which is what makes these reproductions (visual, audio, or what have you) appealing, relatively independent of the quality of reproduction? I expect that's what has been argued about through the ages - what makes a painting great? what makes music great? That's beyond me, and I have to fall back on unsatisfactory words such as "I know what I like," or the words of others. An ongoing discussion of this topic is found here. There's an interesting short essay here, comparing videos of two jugglers. One juggler is perhaps technically better, but the other gives a more compelling and beautiful performance.
    - Richard
    Last edited by rfbdorf; 03-24-2007 at 11:29 AM.

  3. #3
    One art professor described my watercolors as "luminous" without saying it was good or bad. But as a watercolorist he liked the way I layered the color up and the white of the paper shown through for maximum color effect.

    Another professor was a stickler for procedure in film photography: use the best lens at it's optimal f-stop, using the finest grain film producing the closest thing to true gamma readings from maximum white to maximum black and a wide laditude in between. Get the negative perfect in other words. Then there was darkroom procedure, developing temperatures, times and action used for agitation. And then came composition and the paper used. High key, low key, high contrast, color recoprocity ... all this and he'd still rag on your subject matter if the background was distracting. "I haven't seen a picture yet I couldn't critique." And he mean't find fault with.

    Another professor was bigtime concerned with the thick and thin of lines white another would push gray values around (and he was brilliant).

    Early on in art I heard that "biomorphic" shapes are pleasing to the eye. And while girls are more biomorphic than guys (and you gotta like that)... so is Mickey Mouse.

    I have not seen Chuck's work lately, but if I recall correctly he was as much concerned with light and reflectivity in both color and background surface and scale of the dot.

    His work being best viewed at distance but marveled at up close begs the age old question "is it art?" But dada (the movement) advocates art is in the thought and perception.

    Basically, you like what you like. Some things are more readily and universally accepted.

    My vote goes to subject, lighting, color balances and in the case of the blond "mood." While I appreciate blondes, I will profess a preference for brunettes.

    Go figure, it could be the color balace on the monitor. I think resolution has little to do with it, but perhaps the viewing ratio to a point.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2002
    CA, USA
    I opened the first photo in Photoshop and sure enough it is only 72 dpi, so it is not the pixel size that gives such beauty to the photo. The superior craft of the photographer, I think, is mostly responsible for our response to this photo. The backlight through her hair causes a beautiful etherial effect. The subjects skin is so smooth and flawless while the twinkle in her eye and the joyful nature of her attitude can't help but add to the luminous "feeling" from the photo.

    Even though the resolution is low it reminds me of the sensation I had when I first spotted an HDTV while walking through a store some years ago. It took my breath away and I just had to stop to watch it transfixed. Now I find the extra cost of HDTV one of the necessities in my budget. It is gorgous, especially now that they are shooting with HD cameras.

    But the photo is 72 pixels per inch. Fascinating.
    "A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner"

  5. #5

    It is so great. You made the point that I was trying to lead to. These photographs are luminous because our visual system added color and details that are actually not in the photograph. We not only see what is there but what our visual system adds to a picture. Certain colors, certain tones, certain impressions are added by our brains. Here is another picture, lower in resolution but albeit it remarkable. If you click the link, you will see the true high resolution image.



  6. #6
    I love mosaics!

    As for what we see, create in our brains and what is actually there, the Duff pic reminds me of pointilism using only primary colors. By painting the "correct" combination of dots, by placing them in the correct "sequence" on the canvas, paper or other surface, the brain thinks it's seeing oranges and greens and violets and every color inbetween ... not just blue, red and yellow. However, upon very close inspection one can see only the primary colors.

    When it comes to the first picture in this thread, I think it's all about the light. In any work it's always about the light. Yes, color and shape and form and texture and pattern and scale and rhythm matter. However, the light is what pushes any photo or painting or visual into the realm of the truly fabulous. Without it a work remains ordinary.

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