WHAT IS FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY?

Seattle, Washington

WHAT IS FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY?

We use the term fine art photography and fine art photographic prints a lot in today’s art world. But what does this mean? Is it the quality of the print, the size, the type of photograph? According to the dictionary, fine art is "creative art, especially visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content."

Most art collectors think of artists like Peter Lik, Ansel Adams, or Alister Benn, to name a few. The purpose of fine art is to convey a feeling, idea, or emotion unlike representational photography, such as photojournalism. We create fine art photography for aesthetics and creativity to tell a story that’s more than what the camera sees. When I started my photography journey, I associated fine art with minimalist, black and white images but soon learned there is much more than I realized.

Sunrise with Polaris pass in the background in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

Polaris Pass in the background from Horseshoe Pass. We hiked at least 45 miles one way uphill in the snow to get this view. It was hard but we made it with not food or water left. We had to eat grubs and sticks the rest of the time we were in the Wallowa Mountains. The Wallowa Mountains are a small range in eastern Oregon that not many people know about. All of our time was spent in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the lakes basin hiking to the many lakes and the top of Eagle Cap Peak. Eagle Cap Peak sits at 9572 feet with a trail that goes right to the top. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY

Have you noticed how everyone is a photographer these days? With all the smartphone cameras, taking photographs is much easier than it was just 10 years ago. Using your smartphone is a great way to capture a representation of the scene in front of you. Fine art photographs go beyond capturing the scene. Besides, most photos taken with a smartphone are selfies so people can show off to their friends. This is not fine art. These images are representational like family, vacation, and school photos. Fine art photographs focus on composition, lighting, leading lines, and many other factors to create the image. They’re created for artistic expression and an outlet for the artist.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD FINE ART PHOTOGRAPH

A fine art photograph goes beyond the recognition of a scene. It’s art that’s created by the artist, not the camera. Every artist has a style and that creates the art. A faded look, high-contrast, blurred image, etc. are all styles of different artist. The image has a compelling composition to tell the story using one of the many “rules” of photography. One of these is the Rule of Thirds. I mention this one because it’s the most common and easy to use but as long as the image has a strong composition, the rules don’t matter. The image has intention. What I mean by this is the choices made by the photographer are clear. Not a random snapshot. The elements in the photograph are located where they are to create the story. The rock in the corner, the river starting in the left corner instead of the right. All these are choices made by the artist.

intentional camera movement on some aspen trees in the tumwater canyon.

Fall color on the aspen trees in the Tumwater Canyon near Leavenworth, Washington. Sometimes when I can't get a photo to work, I move the camera with the shutter open and create an abstract image with Intentional Camera Movement (ICM). Sometimes you can use Photoshop for the same effect but since I already had my camera in hand, I thought some ICM would be perfect. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.


WHAT IS A FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINT?

A standard “photographic” print uses the chromogenic printing process. This process uses chemical reactions to create the colors seen on the paper. Chromogenic printing uses lower quality paper but a harder finish that is less prone to scratching. This process is great for bulk printing when quality isn’t much of an issue.

Fine art photographic prints use archival inks and Giclee printing. This process uses pigment based inks and acid-free paper. Fine art printing creates an image that will not fade and withstand the test of time. This is how fine art galleries have their work printed.

Traditional fine art prints were on an archival paper like the Hahnemuhle Baryta, framed behind anti-reflective, museum quality glass, and a high-end wood frame. This traditional look is still popular, but with the cost of framing, new materials may be a better choice.

In today’s market, fine art prints are made with new mediums like acrylic where the image is mounted on plexiglass. Lumachrome face mounted acrylic prints offer superior resolution, clarity, and vibrancy with 3D quality to the image. Acrylic fine art prints are anti-reflective, block 99% of UV light, and will last well over 100 years. These new prints come framed with Italian Roma Moulding or unframed. Both versions are ready to hang from the print shop.

Metal prints are a great choice for a fine art print. The best choice is for the dye-sublimation print on Chromaluxe® metal. Dye-sublimation is the process by which they infuse the ink onto the metal using pressure and heat, bonding the print at the molecular level. Chromaluxe® is a specialty coated metal that allows dye-sublimation printing. This is far superior to printing on a metallic paper, then mounting the paper to a metal substrate.

You can view the fine art prints I offer on my Prints and Framing page.

sunrise from pier 66 on the Seattle Waterfront

Sunrise of the waterfront in Seattle taken from the Pier 66 rooftop. One of the best photography locations of Seattle. During the winter, shooting sunrise from this location is the best way to get color in the sky. WIth the park not opening until 7 am, sunrise photographs aren't possible in the summer. One of the best things about this location for sunrise is almost no one shows up. Limited edition of 100 prints available.

HOW TO BECOME A FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHER

Practice, practice, practice. Remember, practice make persistent, not perfect. Study other photographers. Why do you like their work? Is it the editing, style, lighting, etc? Learn the techniques of your favorite artists. This will start you on the path to creating your own style of photography. Your first images won't be very good, but as you practice and study more, the better they become. Once you have high quality photos, get some prints made at a well known print shop like Nevadaartprinters.com or Bayphoto.com. They make large paper prints for a great price. Once I started printing, I realized many of my images were not great. I had to re-edit a lot of images to make them print quality. But this is the process to get fine art photographs clients want and will proudly display on the walls of homes around the world.

Now that you have prints and a portfolio with a decent amount of images, make all the images Limited Edition. Limited Edition adds value for art collectors. Most fine art photographers set each image in limited quantities of 50-200. This is up to the artist so set your quantities according to your goals. Art collectors are want assets that increase in value. Open Edition prints don't increase like Limited Edition. As the quantity gets low, the artist will increase the price causing all sold prints of the image to increase to the same amount.

CONCLUSION

Fine Art photographs are more than pictures. They’re designed to create feelings and emotion in the viewer. The entire photographic process is carefully thought out like composition, editing, printed medium, etc. Creating fine art photographs is a great way to see the world in a different way. Seeing the light, colors, composition and how they all work together are what take an image from picture to fine art photographic print.

macro photo of plants at the bellevue botanical garden.

Wandering around the Bellevue Botanical Garden I came across this small plants that look like miniature palm trees. They make for a great abstract/macro photography subject. In 1981, the Short family deeded their "arboretum" land to the city of Bellevue with the stipulation it remains a public park. In 1984, the city of Bellevue added an additional 10 acres to the land for a total of 17.5 acres. This was the start of the botanical garden. Limited Edition of 100 prints available.

abstract photo of pine needles backlit by the sun.

What drives your passion? What gets you up in the morning? The fire inside that drives me to become a better human is what was going through my head these pine needles were being backlit by the sun. I was about the leave the Bellevue Botanical Garden when the yellow light on the needles caught my attention. The Lensbaby Velvet 85 lens is perfect for these conditions. The soft glow is created by the lens at a wide aperture.