Difference Between Painting and Photography

Both painting and photography are two different forms of art that are pursued in different ways. But one thing common between them is the person pursuing either of them should be a very keen observer.


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While painting requires a great deal of observation, a photographer can capture hidden stories unfolded through a camera. 

Painting vs Photography

The difference between painting and photography is that painting is a traditional form of art and it is considered to have a higher degree of originality because it is not manipulated by any modern computer software. On the other hand, photography is more of a modern form of art where we try to capture raw moments but the result can be manipulated. 

Painting vs Photography

Painting is a form of expressing ideas, stories, emotions, etc with the help of various mediums on a surface. Some of the commonly used mediums for painting are oil, acrylic, watercolor, crayon, etc.

Paintings have different forms from large canvases to scrolls to painting on clothes. Apart from the medium and the form, an artist’s technique is also very crucial.  

There are various technicalities that one needs to learn to become a photographer. Photography is not only about studying the art but also understanding how to handle the types of equipment.

Since photography is a modern form of art, the advancement in science results in ever-evolving photography gears and one to maintain the learning pace. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPaintingPhotography
DefinitionPainting is a form of art that mainly includes applying paint on a surface to narrate a story, an action, or expression. Photography is a form of modern art that deals with capturing light with a digital camera or film and forming an image. 
OriginPainting is a very old form of art and some evidence shows that it was started almost 42,000 years ago when nomadic people painted on the walls.  Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, a French person is known as the first successful photographer who took his first photograph in the early 1800s. 
ToolsA lot of tools are used for painting like brushes, rollers, knives, sponges, scalpels, etc.Nowadays, a digital camera or a smartphone is all that is required to click photos. 
PerspectiveIt is not necessary for a painter to draw the same image that he/she sees in real life. A lot of imagination and manipulation comes into play while painting. When clicking a photograph it is all about capturing moments. We can portray different stories through a photograph but it can’t be manipulated like a painting. 
TimePainters can take a few hours to several days to complete a painting. It’s only a matter of seconds before we press the shutter button and take a photograph. 
EducationA painter may or may not have a formal education but the most common degree for painting is Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA). B. A. in Visual Arts and Photography is a very common undergraduate program for aspiring photographers. 
CareerSome of the career choices as a painter are commercial artist, muralist, graphic designer, art director, etc. There are several career options like a photojournalist, fashion photographer, advertising agency, film photographer, videographer, etc. 

What is Painting?

Earlier in history, ancient people started drawing on the cave walls in the form of storytelling. Pictorial representation of stories of various tribes and civilizations can be considered the beginning of the painting.

The medium became more expensive as we evolved with time and entered into more sophisticated societies. Once which was just a mere way of keeping the history alive, to leave evidence for next generations are now appreciated through the world, exhibited in galleries, and auctioned for fortunes. 

Pictorial representation of mythological stories, devotional representation of gods and goddesses through paintings are also very famous among various nations and religions. Sometimes scrolls are also painted (more like traditional strips of comic books) used as a means of storytelling.

Traditional designs like Kalamkari and Madhubani are also painted specially in sarees and traditional clothes. Several painting styles are practiced across the world like surrealism, modernism, abstract art, cubism, etc. 

Since India is also a land filled with rich art forms, various states of the country have several unique painting styles. For example, the famous Madhubani or Mithila painting emerged from the state of Bihar, Phad painting is a type of scroll painting narrating religious stories that emerged from Rajasthan, Warli paintings are tribal art forms that are practiced for more than 2,500 years, and the list can go on.

It can take years after years for a person to educate himself about every form of painting that ever existed or still flourishing. 

What is Photography?

Photography has various genres that one can explore and each genre has a very promising career. Some of the well-known genres of photography are street photography, portrait photography, wildlife photography, astrophotography, fashion photography, etc.

Every genre comes with an opportunity to enter a whole new world that requires building specific skills to bring out that stunning photograph. But, every photographer should be a keen observer with high reflex to capture the right moment. 

When starting to understand the world of photography, there are three foundational principles that one must understand. They are ISO, shutter speed, and aperture.

These are the three primary factors of the gear and by manipulating them exceptional photographs can be produced. When starting as a photographer, buying a camera seems to be a rather expensive option.

So, the initial learning stage can be started with a smartphone. Apart from the main gear, other tools such as tripod, reflector, lenses, etc are also very important. 

Pursuing photography can be rather expensive and once you start climbing the ladder, there’s always scope for better pictures meaning better equipment. Unlike painting, the raw image we capture in the camera is not the final one.

In photography, there is a lot of post-processing involved using computer software to manipulate the color, white balance, saturation, etc of the picture to make it more professional. 

Main Differences Between Painting and Photography

  1. Painting is a traditional form of art whereas photography is a modern form of art.
  2. Painting involves applying paint on a surface to narrate a story, an action, or expression whereas photography involves capturing the subject in presence of light.
  3. The history of painting dates back to several thousands of years ago whereas photography started only earlier in the 19th century. 
  4. Tools used in the painting are brushes, rollers, knives, sponges, scalpels, etc whereas heavy equipment like a camera or smartphone is used to click pictures. 
  5. A lot of imagination and manipulation comes into play while painting whereas photography can be manipulated only using computer software after it is captured. 
  6. Paintings take a longer time to complete as compared to clicking a photograph. 
Difference Between Painting and Photography


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41209804
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.7312/eder91430/html
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