Fine art photography is an art form where photography fulfils the creative expression of the artist. The photographer is the artist, and the photographs they take are the art. Each photo is designed to express a concept, and evoke feelings from the onlooker. The compositional elements of the photograph are designed to send a message to the viewer. The photographer, like a traditional artist, can spend a long time planning their photograph.
Other forms of photography can be considered representational as the photographs are created to represent real life. For example, photojournalism is the practice of documenting real-life events through photographs. Likewise, commercial photography has the purpose of marketing products. Fine art photography is different from these forms of photography as it is more artistic. The aim is not to merely reproduce a realistic rendering of the subject on camera, but to communicate a message to the audience.
While the photographer is communicating, as with other art forms, it is not always clear to the audience what the message is, and they may interpret it differently. This is all part of the creative process. Experimentation is encouraged with fine art photography, as trying something new could give your photograph a je ne sais quoi which takes it from good to amazing.
It takes time and practice to find out what style and techniques suit you best as a photographer. We would recommend getting inspired by other fine art photographers who you admire. Look at fine art photography examples that resonate with you and try to understand why you find these prints evocative. You can then use this as information to elevate your photography to the next level.
With fine art photography, there are no hard and fast rules. As it is a creative endeavour, the only limit is your imagination. Like with any artistic project, the first step in the creative process is brainstorming. Don’t hold back during this initial stage. Now that you are inspired, spill all of your fine art photography ideas onto the page, as you can get more specific later. This stage in the process is all about getting your thoughts down on paper. Think broadly about concepts and your message.
Once you know why you are creating your fine art photography, you can get more specific about how you will take it, and what the subject will be. Will you be taking photographs of landscapes, buildings, portraits, animals, still life, or other inanimate objects? Or a combination of these? Annie Liebovitz is famous for her portraiture, while Gerhard Richter is famous for his abstract photographs and Ansel Adams for his landscapes. Fine art photography is very personal and it can take some time to find your niche.
You have a carte blanche in fine art photography, but ensure that the genre and the subject of the photo are aligned with your message. Now that you have planned your photo, you can consider the fine art photography techniques you will use.
Lighting is arguably the most important element of photography. Will you be using natural lighting or professional lighting? Professional lighting is more convenient and easy to manipulate, but natural lighting is notable for its beauty. If you are using natural lighting, note that different times of day has an effect on colouring, and the placement of the sun in the sky yields different exposures. Shooting at midday with the sunlight directly overhead can produce dramatic photos with harsh contrast. Shooting at sunrise will produce a wonderful golden cast and give your photographs a soft quality. Consider your mood and which lighting will best suit this.
Perspective is also incredibly important as the angle of the shot has a profound effect on the viewer. What perspective do you want your subject to be seen from? Even if you have a vision for how you want your photograph to look, try to shoot from a variety of angles to see how this impacts your photo. Varying your focal length and depth of field can also significantly change how your photo looks. An out-of-focus picture with a bokeh effect can create a dreamlike quality in your picture. Experimenting with zoom can also yield exciting results. Experiment with perspective and surprise yourself.
How will you be framing your photograph? Where your subjects are placed within the frame has an impact on how your image is perceived. Will your subject be far in the distance or close up to the camera? Will your subjects be in the centre of the frame, or off centre? This all plays a part in the visual storytelling of your picture.
The texture in your picture is another artistic compositional element to consider. Whether the photograph is smooth or grainy will constitute part of your aesthetic.
Will your photograph be in colour or black or white? There is a conception that artistic photographs must be shot in black and white. This is in the vein of famous fine art photographers such as Ansel Adams and Hiroshi Sugimoto. Black and white definitely has its place in fine art photography; you can also experiment with colour.
Prominent fine art photographers William Eggleston and Cindy Sherman are recognised and applauded for their deliberate colour usage. It all depends on the mood you are trying to create. Don’t feel restricted to shooting in black and white, when colour can be equally emotive. You can also play with colour in post-production editing to experiment with its effects.
Will you be editing your photograph in post-production? There is also a conception that fine-art photography is only acceptable in its raw form. Many fine art photographers are employing post-production editing techniques to their photographs, and with great success. Editing has become standard practice in photography as you can airbrush blemishes and rectify issues with exposure and colour rendition.
Not only is it reparative, but it can be artistic. You can play with saturation, and exposure in editing to achieve the desired artistic effect. It can be extremely beneficial to manipulate colour, texture and the clarity of the picture in post-production. Retouching small details can have a big effect on the overall feel of the picture.
Experienced fine art photographers have a distinctive flair to their work which sets them apart from other artists. Their distinctive quality is found to be consistent across their body of work. Cohesion is important in your work as it helps contribute to a distinctive aesthetic which sets you apart from other fine art photographers. There may be one defining characteristic that distinguishes you from other artists, such as your use of colour, or your subject matter.
You may already have an idea of what this is or it can take time to find your footing. Keep experimenting and over time you will find that your techniques, genre, and style of photography recur across your body of work and contribute to a distinctive aesthetic.
If you require any help with your fine art photography, do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of the Splento team to enquire about our reliable, on-demand photographers who provide a service at a fixed, affordable rate.