Fine Art photography is a term which is often misunderstood. Unfortunately, just because you take a photo with a camera and have it digitally printed on cotton rag paper and framed does not necessarily mean that it will fall under the category of fine art photography.
While there is no definitive answer to sum up exactly who a fine art photographer is, there are ways to help identify if your photography leans towards this category or not. Fine art photography usually involves a slightly more in-depth approach than simply taking a photo and printing it but if your photograph has thought, purpose and an underlying message that you are trying to convey it may very well be considered fine art. I have comprised a list of five steps that would normally be undertaken by an artist when they embark on the process of creating a work art.
I have also attached a before and after image below of what I believe would be categorised as fine art photography.
Like most artists before they commence a project, first they need to give thought to what they are trying to create. What message do they want their piece of work to convey? Is there depth to this message? What type of feeling are they trying to reflect upon their audience? Depending on how involved the project is, these are the types of questions that are usually thought of by the artist prior to commencement.
Unlike photographic journalism which involves the process of visually documenting certain subjects or a series of events. Fine art photography differs in a sense that when the photographer sets out to photograph a subject they will usually have a vision in mind for the piece of work they are aiming to create. The photographer will then use this image like a canvas and begin conceptualising their vision. This is done by digitally manipulating the image in post processing in order to help better represent the thoughts and feelings they aim to convey. In some cases this may involve the process of completely changing the look of the photograph to a point which may not even resemble the original image.
Editing & Digital Manipulation
Once the photographer has completed their work in field, they would then commence the editing process. This is where the magic starts to happen. Here the artist will edit and play with the image to achieve their desired look, normally this will go beyond basic editing and correction adjustments. The vision that the photographer has in store for the image is completely subjective to how they want the final image look. This process can take the image in a total different direction to where you thought it may have originally ended up.
You may have thought that the process was completed once the editing was finished and in the some cases that can be true. But for most artists the work hasn't been completed until you have a tangible piece of work in your hands and there are no more steps which can be taken to improve the work. Similar to the editing process, the type of media that a fine art photographer chooses to display their work on comes down to personal taste and the look they are trying to achieve. Whether the photographer chooses to print on a museum grade archival cotton rag paper, a metallic pearl or something in between, the correct choice of media can be a crucial decision and has the ability to really enhance the work.
Framing & Presentation
Unlike the previous steps which help to identify the difference between a photographer and a fine art photographer, the framing & presentation process is a little less symbolic. Framing is always a good option as it presents the artists work professionally and can help to aid in its longevity by protecting it from any potentially destructive elements.
I would also consider the above image another example of fine art photography. Let me explain why...
I was asked by a friend if I was interested in doing a pregnancy shoot for them prior to the birth. At which point I began thinking about the type of image I wanted to create for her. I knew that I didn't want to just do another ordinary pregnancy shoot and wanted to give it a creative edge. I began to get an idea in my head of how I was going to achieve the desired image and the type of message that I wanted it to convey:
Regardless of whether we submerse our selves in it or merely listen to the sound it can make, water has a calming and soothing quality. For me the ocean has always been a refuge, a place of tranquility and peace, a place you can go to free your mind. So for the concept of this portrait, my aim was to reflect the womb like state in which we are carried in order to try and demonstrate the deeper connection that we have with this element.
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