What is Fine Art Photography?
What is Fine Art Photography? Before setting out to actually write this article, I did a web search on the question. I found that while some photographers differ on the exact meaning, most agree that one of the distinctions of Fine Art Photography is its ability to express and communicate an idea or a concept. Let me explain…
You may have met with the question, “Was that really there in the original scene?” If your answer to this question is “no”, then you may indeed have entered into the realm of Fine Art Photography.
At the heart of Fine Art Photography is the desire to go beyond merely a documentation and to convey something more. Fine Art Photography may start with an image of reality, but the final product may not be what was actually seen by the naked eye. A Fine Art image is not just a snapshot of something outside the photographer, but it includes a piece of the photographer as well.
On the other hand, documentary photojournalism seeks to capture the real, the authentic. What really happened that day? Was the the sky clear or overcast? Were my floors swept and clean, or were there crumbs and dust all around my children’s feet? What did it really look like that day?
This leads to a good question, “Where is the line drawn between Fine Art Photography and Photojournalism?” This is where it gets more complicated and, I believe, photographers begin to disagree. I know many photographers who would consider their work Fine Art but would also look at their style as more documentary. Good photojournalism must contain an element of art along with it in composition, lighting, and story to be interesting.
So, what distinguishes Fine Art Photography from photojournalism? I submit that it is intention. All good photography, whether Fine Art or otherwise, will contain some element of artistry. However, I believe that a distinguishing mark of Fine Art is the intention to convey something beyond just a moment in time.
At this point you might be asking, “Are my images Fine Art?” Well, when you set out to take a photograph, what is your intent? Do you want to document an event? If so, your style may gravitate more toward a photo journalistic style. But if your intention is more about the image and less about the event, then I believe you are on your way toward creating Fine Art images.
Fine Art begins with a good image in lighting, focus, and exposure. (Composition is not quite as important in-camera, as it can be created in post, but it definitely is something that needs to be considered when snapping a photograph.) Once you have a clean image, you can then take that image into an editing software and polish your artwork. I like to think of my in-camera photos as an artist’s canvas that is ready to be manipulated into a work of art. (That said, when photographing people, I always seek to keep them looking like a true representation of themselves.)
Can Fine Art be accomplished without changing the composition of the image? My answer to this question is a hearty, “Yes!” As stated above, I believe that Fine Art has everything to do with the intent of the image.
For example, I am personally in the middle of a 365 day challenge of my daily life. As I progressed in this challenge, I began to push myself to not only document my life but also to convey a story along with it and blend some Fine Art elements with the documentation. My intent is to add a little bit of story into the images through perspective, composition, and post-processing.
So, what are your thoughts on what makes up a Fine Art image? I’d love to hear them! Please, feel free to comment below.
Sonya Adcock is a fine art photographer based in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. She specializes in artistic child photography. Sonya’s artwork has been featured in Photography Monthly Magazine, Bella Grace Magazine, and Redbook Magazine. In the hectic pace of a digital era, her artwork encourages you to slow down and remember the joys and magic of childhood.
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