Monday, August 2, 2010

Baroque Image Processing

THE MORE I STUDY photography, the more I am convinced that photographers can learn from the older art forms.

Oil painting, "St. Paul", by El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos), 1598-1600, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA

This is a painting of Saint Paul by Domenikos Theotokopoulos ‘El Greco’, found at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Traditional painting is inherently a low-contrast medium — a similar plight found by photographers in their medium. In order to produce an acceptable image with a limited range of contrast, painters would use contrasting color and tones, and outlines to visually divide areas in their paintings.  Here we can see halos of bright and dark paint along outlines, a technique similar to sharpening found in photography.

The folds of Paul's garments have strong contrast applied, and the great difference in brightness is used to good effect to imply three-dimentionality. This is similar to local contrast enhancement, a photographic post-processing technique similar to sharpening. By exaggerating the contrast in local areas of a photo, we can bring out detail in a way that looks plausible; this effect can be strongly applied, as is found in some High Dynamic Range tone-mapping techniques, or as we seen in this painting.

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