Clean images are not always what we want. So let’s dirty up your photography.
If you think back to analogue photography, we often made use of very grainy film, soft focus, blur or rough forms of printing to create a particular look. There is no reason not to do the same with digital. There are lots of ways we can get down and dirty with digital photography. The obvious areas are in terms of resolution, lens, processing and printing.
We don’t always need to shoot at the highest of resolutions. Lower resolution images blown up larger than theory suggests will have their own look, their own structure. You can take this to a great extreme and blow up so large that the pixel structure becomes a core part of the work. Alternatively you can take it up to a lesser degree but still allow the low resolution to have an impact on how the image looks. Related to this would be to deliberately over compress the image when saving as a JPEG, or even repeatedly so, to exaggerate the aliasing artifacts that this produces.
It is a sad fact that lens and camera designers go to great lengths to create crisp, high contrast images and photographers often like to dirty this up. But it is true. Hence the popularity of the Lensbabies, cheap, plastic lenses in a bending mount so that you can get blurred images with your expensive dSLR. The reality is that the imperfect image looks more natural, more handcrafted than the production line perfection of standard lenses.
Once you get an image into Photoshop (or similar) there are so many things you can do to dirty up an image. You can add noise, blow out the highlights and block up the shadows, exaggerate the contrast, apply scratches and brush mark layers, the list goes on and on.
Lastly in output you have more options for dirtying the image up. You can print on the wrong sort of paper, print on cardboard or handmade paper. Once the print is made you can take to it with sandpaper or steelwool, scratch it, crumple it, walk on it, splash water on it, apply paint over it, partly burn it, commit all sorts of transgressions by normal photography standards.
Perfection and sterility is not always the best breeding ground for creativity. It may be time to get dirty.