What Is Fine Art Photography?

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Fine art photography is more challenging to define than you might think. The genre is particularly confusing due to its vague definition. Despite falling into the vast, subjective realm of art, fine art photography has an objective criterion. So, what is fine art photography, and how can you take you’re fine art photography skills to the next level? Read this article to find out.

A detailed look at Fine Art Photography

Fine art photography is photography created to express the subjective intent of the photographer, rather than the objective reality. The genre focuses not just on capturing what the camera records, but bringing to life what the artist sees.

This is the principal criterion that distinguishes fine art photography from other genres. Unlike representational photography genres such as documentary photography, that aim to capture people, objects, or significant events for historical records, fine art photography focuses on the artist. A camera is merely a tool for the artist creating a work of art.

To quote iconic landscape photographer Ansel Adams- “Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.”

Fine art photographs are captured solely for their aesthetic and imaginative qualities. Therefore, for a photograph to be defined as ‘fine art’ it needs to go beyond the literal representation of the subject. It must involve original, deliberate creation of elements, and every aspect of the photograph must portray an expression of the artist. The goal is to express an idea, an emotion, or a message.

The Elements Of Fine Art Photography

1. A Vision

Fine art photography starts with a vision, an idea, or an emotion of the artist that needs to be portrayed through his work. It involves bringing a vision or an idea to life. This is the essence of fine art photography. As opposed to simply capturing the subject in an artistic way, it involves conveying a message to the viewer.

2. The Techniques

The genre is about portraying a message in an aesthetically pleasing way. It involves meaningfulness and beauty. Both these concepts can be very subjective, which means that the genre often breaks the conventional rules of photography. For example, a photograph completely out of focus is seen as a technical error in most situations. However, in fine art photography, it could be used as a means of expressing an idea. The genre often involves abstract subjects, creative editing, and breaking composition rules as a means of expression.

Fine art photographs aren’t just candid snapshots. Each and every photograph involves careful planning and tweaking. These photographs are created as carefully as a painting, with great attention to detail and composition.

Fine art photography gives you the liberty to experiment with various techniques in order to get the desired results. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with shutter speeds, exposure effects, unorthodox compositions, and unique color grading and processing styles.

3. An Artist’s Statement

An artist’s statement is a short explanation of what the photograph is about, why it is created, and how. It helps the viewer identify the intentions and the perspective of the artist, and the techniques involved in creating the image.

4. Finding Your Inspiration

Before you begin your fine art photography project, you need to figure out an idea or concept you want to work on.

Brainstorming is a great way to put your thoughts together by writing them down. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What topics do you feel passionate about?
  • What vision do you have in mind for the project?
  • What are the ideas or messages you want to convey?
  • How do you plan to convey your message? What sort of techniques are you planning to use?

The key to brainstorming is writing down whatever idea comes to mind even if they don’t make sense. Once you’re done, you can pick and choose the ideas you like. You may discard a lot of your initial ideas but you will get a sense of the direction you want to head in.

Taking A Break

Finding inspiration can be a struggle at times. If you find yourself struggling to come up with new ideas, you may be better off taking a break. Taking your mind off photography and just focusing on seeking new experiences is a great way to overcome the creative block.

Follow The Work Of Famous Artists

Typically for artists, a good rule of thumb is to not follow other artists or trends. However, looking up fine art photographers that inspire you is not a bad idea. It can help you grasp the nuances of the complex genre of fine art photography. As long as you develop your own unique style, looking for inspiration from other artists is a great way to learn.

Fine Art Photography Equipment

Fine art photography isn’t about demonstrating your technical skills, instead, it focuses on creativity and artistic vision. Therefore, you don’t need the latest equipment and gear to get started. That being said a good camera can certainly help you take better quality photographs and up your photography game.

a. Use Your Camera’s Manual Settings

For fine art photography, experimenting with your camera’s manual settings can help you produce the best effects. In fact, auto-settings such as autofocusing and auto-exposure can actually break you’re fine art photographs. So, experiment with your settings to see which ones can best portray your vision.

b. Use a Tripod

A tripod is a great piece of equipment to invest in for fine art photography as it provides you with more opportunities to get creative. A tripod can make things easier for you while you set up your camera. It also allows you to experiment while shooting and try out long exposure effects or create HDR images.

How To Create Fine Art Photography- Final Thoughts

Fine art photography is about your purpose- the central emotion, idea, or vision you want to convey. It offers you the freedom to express yourself and your ideas in a creative and innovative way. If you want to click thought-provoking and captivating images, you cannot be afraid of experimentation. Experiment with various techniques, ideas, and subjects until you can get your point across in the most artistic way.

A single photograph may not be enough to portray an idea, therefore fine art photography does not need to stand in isolation. You can use several fine art pieces that are part of a series to convey a message. To create a cohesive series, you will need a central purpose and common technique in all the photographs. At the end of it, all photographs of the series should work together to bring your vision and idea to life.

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Marco Downs

Marco Downs

Marco Downs is our second founder and he is the creative head of this website. Marco stumbled upon photography only in college when he joined the photography club. His parents could never afford a camera for him as a child and it was in college that he saved up and bought his first camera. He now writes in-depth buyer guides and informational articles to assist the buyers. 
Marco Downs

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