I read, via link over at Chantal Stone's blog, about various dos & don'ts of photography. One that came up was on the use of the word image for photography (a definite don't). I disagree - part of my internal editorial style. That got me thinking about how I use and define certain terms relating to visual arts. Here's my take on a few:
Picture - Covers pretty much anything in the rest of the terms. Not necessarily art, though. Really any form of "flat art": be it paint, collage, photo etc. would be a picture. A simple holiday snap would also.
Art - I'm an "art as noun" type at heart, so art is the product of a creative process. It's non-judgemental, art can be as much bad as it is good. Fine art definitely has to be good.
Painting - picture produced with paint, obvious really. Generally picture painted could be called art.
Photograph - the product of capturing light through a lens on a capture medium. Before digital, I'd have said "on film" and I'm not sure of a collective for sensors & film as media. Not necessarily art, not necessarily and image.
Image - to me, this is art as a representation of something real. A carefully worked photograph transforms into art, usually this means an image is the end result. The raw picture from the camera (the photograph) isn't really an image by this definition.
Whilst not necessarily strictly by the book (dictionary), I'm thus attempting to use a degree of categorization to be able to talk about various issues in specific ways. Maybe it's time I dug out Roget's to come up with some extras. This is certainly a tricky area to land precise terms for specific meanings as there is a continuum of representation from the simple holiday snap right through to the most creative works of photographic art.
Part of the reason I try and mix up the terms I use stems from the way I was taught English language at school: variety was always the benchmark - the ruthless avoidance of repetitive words and phrases (except in maybe a rhetorical style). As a result I like to try to use language in precise ways. In some ways that is also the scientist in me coming to the fore.