How to Define Fine Art Photography

How to Define Fine Art Photography

Fine art photography, many photographers call their photo a fine art. But many others who saw the same photo will say it not. And why is that? This is probably one of many questions that I always ask. What is Fine art and how to define fine art photography.

I did some research about it. When I said research, I mean google it.

Credit: Nude composition 19 from 1988 by Jaan Künnap from Wikipedia


According to Wikipedia

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.

Another from

“It refers to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the cameraman. The basic idea behind the genre, is that instead of merely capturing a realistic rendition of the subject, the photographer is aiming to produce a more personal – typically more evocative or atmospheric – impression.”

Or this from

“In fine art photography, therefore, the artist uses the camera as one more tool to create a work of art. The camera is used to make an art piece that reveals the vision of the artist and makes a statement of that vision rather than documenting the subject before the lens.”

There are more, but for now let just see these three in how they define fine art photography. In these three definitions, we can see some similar word and meaning.

So here I conclude in what they say about fine art photography:

  1. It’s a photographer’s vision
  2. It’s a concept or idea of photographer
  3. It’s more than visual documentary

Okay, that’s all I got. So those definitions talked about the three of these. Let’s explore one by one.

1. Photographer’s Vision

“Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?”

I really like this quote. If you don’t know, this is a quote from HBO TV series, Westworld. When I heard it, I tried to implement it meaning into photography. When one person can say one thing about a photo, another person can say the complete opposite about the same photo.

Vision, in this matter, isn’t what we see. But what we think about it in our perspective.
Simply put, “You call it junk, I call it art.”  Something like that.

For example, some people see a plastic bottle as a junk. But a photographer can see a plastic bottle as an interesting subject where you can shot in a lot of interesting way.

2. Concept or Idea of Photographer

When we talking about concept or idea, we thinking about a plan to make a photograph. It including creativity on how to make a photo that photographer want. But before all that, we must start from the beginning. It all begin with a reason why you want to take the photo in the first place.

“Why I want to take a photograph?”

If you just some dude with a camera, you probably think that you just want to shot without thinking deeply about it. But if you a fine art photographer, according to the definition, you have deep reason, like to give a message through your photo.

Now you have a reason, you can begin being creative on concept or idea of the photo.

Now let’s take the previous example. I want to make environment cause message through a photo from a plastic bottle. I can make it look left at nature site, or something. Basically the idea is to convey that message to the viewer.

3. More than Visual Documentary

It mean that fine art photography is not just photograph taken by a camera, but more. It mean both in concept and in visual. And for that, I think we must look back a bit.

We want the photo have a meaning. An idea implanted into a photo will make a total different in photography. Gave that photography have a meaning and those who see it can empathize with it.

We also want our photo look different or more. So we add something to the photo, visually. Like add something to the frame of photo or photoshop it to make it look like what we imagine.

So conclude it, I think that to make photo more than visual documentary is what the end result of photography gonna look like.


So to recap, we can see a fine art photography as a photography that based on concept or idea that give a perspective vision for the photographer so in the end they can create a photograph that has more meaning than what it actually look.


6 thoughts on “How to Define Fine Art Photography

  1. Well done. I think this is where I’m supposed to say, “Great minds think alike,” as this morning I posted on the difference between illustration (a commercial art) and fine art photography. Everything there also applies to the difference between commercial and fine art photography, and you nailed it in you own way.

    I’m glad you did because it seems that many people still don’t know the difference, as you pointed out in your opening:

    “. . . many photographer call their photo a fine art. But many others who saw the same photo will say it not.”

    1. Thank you!!!
      I must ask, when you said, “great minds think alike,” are you talking about me? If so then I’m glad that you have the same idea as I have.

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