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To Create, or Not to Create?

Preston Moochnek RPh. (massulo)

Keywords: preston_moochnek, abstracts, composition, massulo, digital_artistry, postprocessing, photoshop

According to the dictionary of Merriam-Webster, the definition of photography is “... the art or process of producing images by the action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface, such as film...” The process was introduced as a gift to the world in 1839, a date generally accepted as the birth year of practical photography. We, as photographers and artists, have come a long way since.

I feel that photography predates this to the days of Da Vinci. Leonardo’s drawing skills created an exact method of recording his observations, similar to what our cameras do today. He viewed an object and created his masterpieces on paper and constructed it from print.


Click for an enlargement


I have been a Gold Member of the Nikonians Community since May 2002. With over 14,967 posts I have gained an enormous amount of knowledge within this community. I have won several monthly contests and I am very proud of having my photographs twice chosen as a winner in the prestigious Nikonians Best Photograph of the Year contest! I would like to transfer some of my ideas in return to the community, for all that I have garnered here.

This is my treatise of this article. Let us look into the definition of photography as “the art or practice of taking and processing photographs.

Within the scope of "photographic art", "artistic photography" and so on, the term "fine art photography" has no universally agreed meaning or definition: Rather, it refers to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the cameraman.

There are about 30 types of photographers by category. Which one are you?

Since this article is about creating, we will ask if you are a purist, whereby no changes to the photo will be made. Or, do you rather believe in abstract interpretations in the manner that you shoot and post-process your photography?

My belief is that there is a finite set as to how to shoot a scene before the viewer gets bored. How many realistic pictures of an elephant could you view before you would become bored and move on?

Due to this, I have added an "Artistic Genre" to my repertoire whereby I have increased the number of styles I create. This results in my work getting more views with its larger variety, which obviously the public enjoys.

It started for me a couple of years ago, being an abstract thinker but not having the skills to translate it through my post-processing to the final result I desired. This made me sign up for a class on the Internet titled: "AWAKE: The Photo-Artistic Life". It changed my photography from plain to expressive and resulted in improved knowledge with a whole new, artistic world being available to me. I now had the tools to accomplish my goals: To create Artistry from Realism.

How to begin?

Start with asking yourself these initial questions: What do you envision your final output to look like? Do you photograph merely for the beauty of the subject, or do you have an idea for a future derivative?

In my early photography career, I could only create standard industry photography. This was due to the lack of my understanding of the steps involved in creating abstractions. For example, what software does what? Do I have enough backgrounds, either owned or purchased online? Please note: Backgrounds need to be licensed if they are not yours.

Backgrounds are paramount in the alteration for your creative works and the more of them you have collected the better it is.

Next vital question will be: Do I know Adobe Photoshop well enough to produce a professional looking final product? Now that I have a more educated knowledge of the variables that are required for creativity, I can envision most of my final products before I shoot the original photos.

More questions to ask your self

You must ask yourself the following questions, they are really the key questions that you as the Artist Photographer must ponder:

What do I want to achieve with my post-processing?

Where will my final product be viewed?

How will I arrive there?

Of course, we must begin behind our computers, refreshed and ready to work.

Where shall the artwork be shown?

The Want is the most variable and tenuous portion of the journey: How do you wish to have your photo perceived and remembered by the public? So, this can be very time consuming for the photographer of any skill level. It is critical for the photographer to understand beforehand who will view his products because of the inherent values of art in the world for each individual.

You would not create the same artwork for a picture hanging in a museum as you would for a Facebook post!

How to process?

The next vital question is: How do I attain my goal? Do you have the required skills to accomplish this?

In my post-processing I use Photoshop CC 2019 and have thousands of backgrounds, plus many plug-ins and ancillary programs to choose from. That is though not totally necessary for the process itself.

Some of the most important post-processing skills to manage well are:

  • Knowledge of blending modes
  • Masking, and...
  • To cleanly extract your subject from its surroundings and place it into its new background. This is the most important skill of them all.

What to change?

The "What" is another conundrum that we must address. What can you change in a photograph? What are you "allowed" to change? Are you satisfied that your photography reflects your personality, for example, are you a purist, whereby you would never change any major aspect of the photo? Or, are you okay with changing the background to address its quality in relation to the subject or maybe even extract the subject from its surroundings and place it into a new scene?

Are you a dreamer or living in the abstract world of photography, where any change is okay? Something that would rightly be frowned upon in Journalistic Photography.

Some examples

Below are some examples of my work.


Example 1. "Osprey" - Original image.

Click for an enlargement



Example 1. "Osprey" - Final result.

Click for an enlargement


I decided to extract the Osprey from the above image to enhance its artistic appeal from its rather boring blue sky. I began by extracting it from the original background by using selections and deletion layers. I then placed the Osprey on the new layer.

With the help of the "Match Color" function in Photoshop, I was able to properly blend the coloring of the two layers into a realistic color profile.

With an addition layer, I was able to further enhance the photo. We will discuss this advanced workflow in a future article.



Example 2. "Eagle" - Original image.

Click for an enlargement



Example 2. "Eagle" - Final result.

Click for an enlargement


In this second example, I processed the image in a similar way as to my first capture in example 1.


In conclusion, the choice is totally yours as to which path you want follow in your photographic career. You only have to answer to yourself in whichever direction you choose!

In an upcoming article I will delve deeper into the complex process of transforming a photograph into Artistic Art, using complex examples for illustration. I will detail the various steps and reasoning involved in the creation of this derivative.

Editorial note: You might be interested in our Digital Artistry Discussions and our ongoing Digital Artistry Contest

(11 Votes )

Originally written on April 17, 2019

Last updated on April 17, 2019


Paul Blais (PBlais) on May 17, 2019

Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign

Ansel Adams said: "Photographs are made - not taken". As far as I'm concerned, Anyway that works! He sure did a lot of what we now do in digital - the hard way with weeks in the darkroom. He did envision digital before his death but never got to see it. The skills to become an artist is still possible in digital. Cameras are still not as good as being there - but artists are! Be an artist is my rule. Lots of bad ones out there too. We are not monkeys pressing buttons! The hard rule is to do things you mean to! I also consider that being lucky still counts. We all don't get it all the time. No greater joy than when the magic works!

David Summers (dm1dave) on April 28, 2019

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

(Edited by dm1dave Sunday, 28 April 2019 ) Great article, Preston! Thanks for sharing your thought process and your creative work.

John D. Roach (jdroach) on April 19, 2019

Fellow Ribbon awarded. John exhibits true Nikonian spirit by frequently posting images and requesting comments and critique, which he graciously accepts. He is an inspiration to all of us through constant improvement in his own work, keen observations and excellent commentary on images posted by others. Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his most generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous contribution to the 2019 Fundraising campaign Awarded for winning in The Best of Nikonians 2019 Photo Contest

Excellent Article, Preston. Those of us who choose to present in alternative ways and create compelling images that do not submit to simply purist ways of capturing and presenting an image, applaud your simple and direct explanation of how we can see in new ways as artists now and as artists have attempted and done through the ages.

Marsha Edmunds (meadowlark2) on April 18, 2019

Donor Ribbon awarded for her support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Fellow Ribbon awarded for her continuous encouragement and meaningful comments in the spirit of Nikonians. Donor Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for her generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Awarded for her in-depth knowledge and high level of skill in several areas.  Awarded for winning in The Best of Nikonians 2019 Photo Contest

Preston - Your creativity with photography has no bounds and I really enjoy seeing how you express yourself adding to the context in which you showcase many,many of your subjects. Thanks for sharing information about resources and some of your work. You really have honed your skills matching it with vision.