The differences between the approach of most photographers and artists can almost be summarised as a difference between black and white.
Today I listened to a great podcast, TWIP Family ep 49.5: Trey Ratcliff On Becoming an Artist. If you haven’t already listened the discussion between Jenny Stein & Trey is really natural, full of inspiration and worth listening too. One of the topics is about analogy that your cup is always being filled (with creativity and inspiration) we just need to be able to get to appreciate the good stuff inside the cup. That analogy of a glass half full or half empty is perfect for this post.
I need to begin at looking how tonality is represented in each medium. An easy way to understand tonality is just to desaturate an image to remove all colour. I’m using the basic tonal range names from lightroom. Black, Shadow, Mid Tone, Highlights, White.
When taking the photo I have to make sure that the highlights don’t get blown out. I begin at the whites. It is easier to find at least some detail in the blacks and shadows, but post processing the image, whereas once the whites are blown out that’s it, nothing can be recovered (even from a RAW file). If I can make sure that the other tonal zones are well represented I will probably have a well exposed image.
When starting to sketch the same subject I’m using a well known artist trick of drawing a series of 5 boxes (some artist use 4 boxes, other prefer 7 grey tones) and use the pencil to stipple a set of graded grey tones. and I have matched them to the lightroom names. I’m sketching directly from the simple still life by observation not copying a photo by the way. The key difference is I begin with the darker tones. I personally start by blocking in the mid tones and then move to the darkest tones (lightroom’s shadows & blacks) and then finally back towards the highlights, leaving parts of the paper to be the whites. My darker tone marks thus define what is consider highlights and whites. They hold the composition of my image together.
While photographers generally exposure for the highlights, artist will generally study the shadows and sketch these shadows to define the composition.