Everything You Should Know About Fine Art Photography


Do you know what fine art photography is? How does it differ from stock photography, and why do some pictures cost nothing and others go for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auctions? Let’s discuss photography fine art, find out how to recognize one, and discover new ideas on how to create visual art.

Fine Art Photography Definition

Fine art photography is an individual world in pictures. They attempt to express the author’s opinion with an image to show a particular vision of the subject. It is a wordless description of feelings and outlook at the time of the shooting. What is interesting, every photographer has their style. Some people like subdued colors and gloomy subjects, while others, on the contrary, shoot imaginative compositions and emotional portraits.

If you look closely at fine art photos, you can learn more about the inner world of the person who took the picture. Many masters in such a field try to stand out each day. To learn how to make really impressive shots, review the ultimate guide to fine art photography. And to understand how to promote yourself online, go to easiest SEO tips for online artists.

The difference between such shots and other variations is that the author aims for more surreal stuff. Though, they express the fundamental vision that only shows specific scenes of this life. It expresses itself, defines the artistic intent, and tells a story through the shot taken.

A Bit of History

Photography originated in the mid-nineteenth century. However, those pictures are not artistic. The first photographers made mainly portraits, as they were a significant source of income. Landscapes were not photographed well, at least because of the poor quality.

Portraits require a long exposure. Embellishments were out of the question. It is impossible to call the photographs of that time artistic or documentary. You can’t refer them to the first type because of the simplicity of the images. The second type would present shots of political speeches, military action, or the construction of important architectural pieces. In the 19th century, technology did not allow us to capture all that.

In those ancient times, masters used a camera obscura to take pictures. One of the other materials with a photosensitive layer applied to it. Before discovering the unique emulsion, it required minutes or even hours of exposure. That’s why it was impossible to make documentaries. It was also hampered by the camera’s large size, which made it impossible to take anywhere.

World’s biggest camera circa 1900’s being set up to take a photo of a train.

Discovering the Roots

By the end of the 19th century, technology had become more sophisticated. Camera dimensions had not yet decreased, but the exposure time had significantly shortened. It now took tens of seconds or a few minutes to get a clear shot. At that point, it became common to take pictures of cityscapes. And that was what experts could call art photography.

We all at least once held in our hands: the postcards with beautiful views of their city. The first such cards appeared just in the 1890s. Photographers would ride to various points in the city with a horse, cart, and camera with obscure or more advanced equipment. Workers copied these black and white photographs en masse as postcards. Then, in the printing house, specialists put a text on top of them with the site’s name.

Often, photographers worked away in other cities. At that time, any camera was a rarity. A select number of wealthy people owned it. As a result, photographers could earn extra money on the road. In addition to the art of artistic photo-making trade, these workers learned the art of ordinary photography. Others regularly hired them to create portraits to add to the family album. This practice disappeared only decades later when photo studios began to appear even in small towns.

There have been disputes over what kind of photo is an artistic one ever since. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, masters and critics differentiated ordinary shots from artistic ones. There were all kinds of landscapes and urban panoramas. The group photos we have already mentioned. Even some portraits could be considered creative if a person looks intelligent on a beautiful background.

Peculiarities of Fine Art Photography at the End of the 20th Century

The crowd paid even more attention to the artistic culture of photography in the second half of the 20th century. Finally, finally, there were more skillful masters in this field. And they must figure out the settings of the equipment and the method of retrieving the images. Most of the people who bought these cameras took pictures of their families. But some went further, trying to get artistic value out of their photographs. They, of all people, understood that fine art pictures are like an art form. So even ordinary people began to have images of flowers, insects, birds, and urban and natural landscapes in their albums.

Artistic Processing of Photos

The impetus for developing features in artistic photography gave the appearance of advertising. The explanation is very simple. The advertiser must present the product or service as brightly and beautifully as possible. Therefore, photographers were required to use all their skills and colored filters.

Advertising worked wonders. Quite quickly, fine art photography began to please the eye in much the same way as fine art. Gradually, photographers began to apply their knowledge to create portraits in the photo studios; for an extra fee, it became possible to put various special effects on the picture, from the standard gold-colored lettering indicating the city and year to the stars in the background.

Artistic photography is strongly developed through studios because indoor photographers can adjust the light and backgrounds easier and cheaper. Various American and European magazines most actively developed Studio types. Playboy experimented with nudity. The others invited movie and music stars for photo sessions, shooting them at unusual angles and in not the most standard attire. You can also learn how to do it creatively, build a recognizable photographer’s brand and promote it online.

Modern Art Photography

It currently continues to evolve. Photographers are more innovative now. They know many tips for taking great pictures. Landscapes are rarely captured during the day, as they look most beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

There are a lot of requirements involved if you aim for an excellent portrait, too. They primarily concern the choice of lens for a particular image. Artistic photos are often taken in studios because making a memorable portrait on the street is much more complicated. But there are a few exceptions. It all depends on the location and the weather conditions.

All of us are familiar with wedding photography. This process allows you to order some memorable artistic shots. A variety of ultra-wide-angle lenses and long-focal-length optics contribute to this.

Nowadays, even the average person can get an artistic photograph due to its affordable price. For example, have you ever made an ordinary picture of a cat crossing a roadway? Unfortunately, the subject is nothing special, and the shot doesn’t play with colors. But a graphics editor can fix it via Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro, or even the free GIMP.

You can even perform artistic photo editing in a mobile app. Apply some filters to the photo, add some antique look and enjoy the result. Or turn up the color saturation and sharpness as much as possible. Different means can achieve different effects, making viewers stare at your photo.

Often, the programs for photo processing does not make the user a retoucher. Just like having a SLR camera does not make a person a professional photographer. In the case of fine art, even professional skills are not enough, you need to have also artistic skills.

You can use mobile applications, for photos on Instagram this will be enough. But when viewing a photo on a large screen or when printing, artifacts, blurs and other distortions caused by automatic filters will be visible. To achieve the result of photo processing as they do in a professional photo studio, photo editing apps won’t be enough. There is a whole team with highly artistic and retouching skills working on this.

Artistic Culture of Photography

Now there are many genres of artistic photography. The digital cameras and powerful graphic editors helped their development. For example, today, you can create panoramas of cities automatically. In addition, new systems and SLR cameras have gained the ability to shoot in HDR mode, which also opens up a unique style.

The emergence of smartphones has contributed to the development of the mobile type. Take a look at Instagram, where you can find many interesting images. Also, suddenly, styles that used to be known for painting are back. But, first, we are talking about still lives. And all of this is just the beginning. If you want to understand how marketing works in today’s photography world, you can learn more about How to Market Your Fine Art Photography.


The author puts a piece of the soul while composing art photography shots. The resulting shots go beyond a literal representation of a scene or subject. Instead, the photographer focuses on what he considers essential. Every element in the frame, the light that falls, the way the image is processed, and the print format will show you the author’s individuality.

The rise of professional art photography began in the 70s and 80s of the last century. Photography developed and became a new type of art. At this time, the subjects of photographs became more elaborate through the efforts of famous artists such as Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, and other bright, creative personalities. More often, staged poses, sharply placed objects, and intricate lighting are in the frame. The photographer skillfully catches people’s emotions, the wind blowing, and leaves whispering. You look at such a picture, and it seems to come to life.


It is most often created to remember important life moments, like, creating a family, birth, growing children, vacations, etc. Such event photos are primarily aimed at a clear reflection of reality so that years later, one could use the photographic material to pass the information on for posterity.

The Difference Between Amateur and Professional Types

Time has always influenced the look, form, and treatment of photographic material. Now, social media has become the leading platform that sets the trends in modern amateur photography. The genre imitation of art photography is evident. Taking pictures of a beautiful sunset or an autumn forest is a landscape; taking photographs in a studio with bright accessories and branded clothes is fashion, and photos from holidays or gatherings with friends in a café are a reportage.

Professional art photography can be seen on social media platforms; it reflects the behavioral characteristics of people in the moment, captures emotion, and shows the depth of soul and awareness of action.

Telling the difference between professional and amateur art photography is difficult. The purpose of the photo is the same, to show the author’s vision or the subject, but the execution is different. Visually, we always feel how experienced the master made the picture.

Modern Art Photography

There are many kinds of contemporary photography. However, it has become closely related to painting. In the past, creators used the composition under the name still life exclusively in painting; today, you can find this genre among the shots of contemporary photographers.

Technology has also become an assistant in developing this visual art. For example, it is possible to take images that could only be previously viewed with a microscope, using macro mode, and not worry about camera performance in all weather conditions. In addition, photographers improve their skills by learning the different trade rules and become successful, recognizable media personalities already at the beginning of their careers.

Nowadays, anyone can make an artistic shot. There is nothing special about the subject and the picture itself. Any graphic editor can help you make it more memorable. Even without professional help, you can do similar artistic processing in a mobile application, for example, to impose a selected filter on the photo, change the saturation of colors, or partially blur or shade the image.

We can achieve the desired effects and artificially create an artistic image out of the ordinary ones. The picture may not seem perfect, but it definitely carries a specific message and vision of the author.


Modern photography is an entirely new art form that does not have centuries of tradition in creativity. Today, photographic art is developing in different directions. First, just a few years ago, ordinary pictures did not interest anyone that much and played an insignificant role in the lives of ordinary people. They served the audience to remember the happiest moments of life. Now a lot has changed, and old photos are of particular interest and preference to many art historians. Many of them occupy places of honor among many works by famous masters.

Secondly, developing photography as an art form is the creation of a beautiful masterpiece that reflects the inner world of the creator, his interests in life, and his preferences. The artist knows how to deform reality’s cast thanks to various modern techniques and methods. With the help of several negatives and the photographer’s skill, it is possible to create an image that does not fully correspond to the captured nature. To achieve high-quality pics, you need to study the best examples, take a lot of advice, buy tutorials, and take classes.

Nowadays, professionals who want to establish themselves in the art world show their work at various exhibitions. That’s where their creativity and their work are significant. And this is the most important achievement for every artist because many people admire their work.

For more about diving into photography, here is an interesting read about photography and it’s power for self-expression and social change.





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