What Is Fine Art Photography

Fine art photography is a style of photography created by an artist. Fine art photos are photographs created purely for their aesthetic and imaginative qualities. Fine art photographers create work that goes beyond merely capturing what is in front of the camera.

In this article, we’ll explain how fine art photography differs from other photography styles, and how to create artistic photography.

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Fine Art Photography Definition

Fine art photography, also known as “photography art,” or “artistic photography” is photographic artwork created in line with the artist’s vision. Fine artists use photography as their chosen medium for creative expression. 

Fine art photographs express an innovative idea, emotion, or message which is unique to the artist. They do not serve a commercial purpose and are the opposite of documentary photography.

What’s the Difference Between Photography and Fine Art Photography?

These days, almost everyone, even children, has a camera in their cell phone. Anyone can take photos. While photography has become widespread, there is a significant gap in the quality of different photographs. Not to mention there is a diverse range of photo styles. 

It can be hard to narrow down precisely what photography is and what kind of photographs are still a form of art. Many types of commercial photography are not considered fine art

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These non-artistic photography types include adverts, news photography, passport photos, photographic evidence, etc. Personal or family photography, such as selfies, everyday portraits, vacation pictures, school photos, and family snapshots are also not considered fine photography art. 

Commercial Photography and Fine Art Photography

Fine art photographs are not created for a commercial purpose; they are created to be an artwork and outlet for artistic expression. Fine art photography uses the same essential elements and principles as other classical fine art forms like painting and art sculpture. Fine art photography may also be present in mixed media or experiential art installations. 

Many striking and exceptional photographs are created for commercial purposes and are not fine art. These include representative photography such as magazine photography, unstaged documentaries, or news photography. 

While these photographers can have exceptional talent, and their photographs can be widely influential, they are not considered fine art photography. 

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This distinction comes down to the purpose of the photography; in the case of photojournalism, that purpose is to tell the story and document, not to express the artist’s own creative visions and ideas.

Fine Art Photography Examples

The work of many famous artists is an example of fine art photography.

These are just some of the most famous examples of fine art:

  1. Dalí Atomicus, 1949, by Philippe Halsman
  2. Untitled Film Still #21, 1979, Cindy Sherman
  3. Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter, 1979, by Robert Mapplethorpe
  4. Immersions (Piss Christ), 1987, by Andres Serrano
  5. Milk Drop Coronet, 1957, by Harold Edgerton
  6. Luxury Queen, by Jonas Leriche
  7. Rose and Driftwood, 1932, by Ansel Adams
  8. Dancer Martha Graham, by Barbara Morgan
  9. Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924, Man Ray
  10. Appaloosa Horse & The Beauty, by Herve Lewis

What Makes Good Fine Art Photography?

Anyone can take a photograph, but not everyone can be a fine art photographer. A fine art photograph must go beyond the basic or literal photographic representation of a scene or subject. A fine artist will have a unique style or show a progression over time in technique or themes. Fine art photographs are considered, not snapped at random. 

Fine art photographers use artistic elements and principles in their artworks. These fine artists will consider factors such as line, space, balance, color, space, depth, form, texture, and of course: light. 

A fine artwork must deeply convey the feelings and artistic vision of the photographer. It is not just a photograph created by a camera, but something created by an artist. Good fine art photography is original and evokes an emotion in the audience or causes them to pause for thought. 

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Fine Art Photography Ideas

Fine art photography combines both photography skills with the development of and conceptual ideas as a process. Fine art photography is a creative style of photography, so you should rely on your own thoughts and vision to be successful. Fine art photographers who are more groundbreaking and influential clearly convey their unique original ideas through their photos.

Fine Art Photography Techniques

Fine art photography can be created using a digital or an analog camera. Some fine art photographers are traditional and don’t use digital techniques or post-production editing. 

Photographers can alter their images during processing, whether in a darkroom or a digital editing suite. Many modern artists will use digital applications such as Photoshop to edit their photos. Photographers can also choose to shoot outdoors or in a studio, depending on their style and concept.

How to Do Fine Art Photography

Fine art photographers will need to understand the basics of photography. Many fine art photographers undertake formal training and learn the basic skills of both digital and analog photography, and development techniques. 

These are the foundational skills behind photography, but they do not make an artist. Before creating a work, an artist should also envision what their work will look like and convey. Fine art photography needs to express this vision and idea to create a message or an emotion. 

Fine Art Photography Tips

What makes fine art good is always subjective, but there are some tips that budding photographers can take on to improve their artworks. 

  • Study the works of great photographers
  • Create a cohesive body of work
  • Experiment with color and unique color grading
  • Experiment with processing styles
  • Focus on a specific subject for your entire body of work
  • Master the technical elements of photography
  • Avoid presets created by other artists
  • Stay true to your personal vision

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How to Edit Fine Art Photography

Photographers can edit and alter their images during traditional or digital processing. Both of these editing techniques require some learning, whether in a darkroom or a digital editing suite. While many applications now offer presets or pre-made filters, a fine artist should edit their work uniquely and originally. 

What Does It Take to Become a Fine Art Photographer?

Many photographers will undertake postsecondary education or earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts or a related field. While this education is not required to become a fine art photographer, it can help improve an artist’s skills and employment prospects. Formal art education can help an artist learn about experimentation, develop technical competence, and progress their stylistic development.

Buying Fine Art Photography 

Many art collectors enjoy displaying and buying photographic art. You can invest in original or one-of-a-kind fine art photography at physical and online art galleries. Fine art photography can also be purchased in the growing world of crypto art collecting and investing.


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