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.
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.
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.
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.
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.