Re. Photos vs. illustrations

Subject: Re. Photos vs. illustrations
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 22 May 1996 11:34:01 -0500

The main difference between technical (as opposed to "art") photos and
illustrations lies in the degree of abstraction. (Simplistically,
abstraction represents the amount of simplification of detail or
focusing on only a subset of the total visual information in an
image.) Photos provide considerable context ("everything including the
kitchen sink") and as a result, have a relatively low level of
abstraction; conversely, illustrations remove considerable context,
leaving only what is necessary for comprehension, and thus provide a
high degree of abstraction. There are certainly "realistic"
illustrations that fall somewhere in between these two artificial

Neither visual form is "better" than the other: each serves a
different role. Indeed, some of the most effective graphics combine
photography with illustration, such as overlaying arrows, text, or
even schematics on a photograph to focus attention on specific points
without removing the overall context. (The same can be said of words
vs. graphics: neither is "better" because each serves a different

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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