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What Makes Photography Art?

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Given the sheer amount of photos out there, how can you figure out if your images are fine art? What makes photography art?

Almost anyone can take and retouch a photo. The Internet is full of creative selfies and abstract compositions. There are even images that took years to perfect.

In fact, social media depends on both professional and candid photos.

What Is Fine Art Photography?

We all see beauty in different places. What stands out to you might seem unappealing to someone else, and vice versa.

Fine art photography doesn’t have a definition of its own. But it does attract those who share a specific vision.

Fine art photographs are created as carefully as paintings. They’re often difficult to create in one session. They stand out because of their details, compositions, and meanings.

Most importantly, they’re visions that are far more than simple snapshots.

These descriptions sound vague because fine art itself is ever-changing. Here are a few examples that might give you a better idea of what this genre is all about.

A fine art photo of a woman posing outdoors with balloons - what makes photography art
Many conceptual photos, especially surreal ones, are considered to be fine art. Some involve optical illusions, carefully placed objects, or even heavily edited compositions. These take a long time to perfect.
But you don’t need to be a Photoshop master to create a conceptual image. Oleg Oprisco finds and creates eye-catching compositions without depending on an editing program.
Other photographers, like Alex Stoddard, prefer to do the opposite.
A fine art photography close up of a leaf on black background
Fine art doesn’t just focus on portraits or surrealism. Sometimes, a fine art photograph just focuses on a simple object, like a leaf, that has a lot of interesting details.

Are My Photos Fine Art?

Atmospheric fine art photography landscape
Your photos can be anything you want them to be. Your faith in your own work will help it evolve into something even more magnificent than you imagined.
This might sound really fluffy, but it has helped me trust my own creative instincts.
Another thing that has helped me is asking myself simple questions about my photos. Here are a few that you can ask yourself as you study your own work:

  • How does this photo make me feel?
  • How long did it take me to plan this photo shoot?
  • What’s the lighting like in this photo? Is it artificial or natural, controlled or spontaneous?

We often take photos without thinking about or appreciating our abilities. Your answers won’t give you any specific results, but they will give you a better idea of the kind of work you create.
Taking the time to study your work will help you sharpen that fine art photography instinct.

Fine Art Should Make You Feel Something

In his podcast about art, photographer Martin Bailey perfectly described fine art. No matter how unusual or simple the subject is, it will make you feel things.
It doesn’t have to inspire you to go out and conquer the world. But it might speak to your heart through its beauty, its colours, or its subject’s pose.
Some fine art photos won’t speak to you through anything at all. Their simple existence will just remind you of a personal experience. They can create feelings of nostalgia, sadness, joy, or something completely different.
Here’s an example.
A portrait of a female model posing out doors - what makes a photo fine art
Even though this photo was taken in Georgia, it reminds me of my hometown, a place that’s far away from Georgia. Thanks to the cat and summery atmosphere, I’m reminded of my childhood. I feel at home when I look at this portrait.
Depending on your life experiences, you’ll probably feel something different when you look at this image.
What do you feel when you look at it? What kind of photos have the biggest impact on you?

Expose Yourself to Your Versions of Fine Art

A stunning coastal seascape at evening - what makes a photo fine art
The definition of beauty is flexible. Nobody can tell you what should or shouldn’t be fine art. The best way to create fine art photos that you love is to expose yourself to your version of art.
Study your favourite photographers’ photos. Find artists whose work makes you feel, no matter how obscure or popular their genre is.
The more images you expose yourself to, the easier it will be to discover your taste. Don’t worry about subconsciously copying their ideas or styles.
Once you have a better idea of what you admire about art, you’ll be able to take photos that accurately and uniquely reflect that admiration.
If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few photographers whose work is considered fine art by many artists:

  1. Paul Apal’Kin takes photos of people in studios.
  2. Rosie Hardy photographs people in magical locations.
  3. Daniel Fleischhacker captures the true beauty of nature.
  4. Alexandra Sophie takes atmospheric photos of women.
  5. Yuichiro Miyano photographs people in square format.

Fine Art Photography Ideas

You can learn more about fine art by working on various photography projects.
Here are a few that will help you familiarise yourself with the genre:

1. Moody Lighting

Photograph an object in moody lighting. Your lighting doesn’t have to be professional. It can be direct or subtle, natural or artificial.
This will enable you to work exclusively with light and find potential in details.
A close up fine art photography still life of a violin on black background

2. Play With Colours

Play with colours. Fine art photos don’t have to be realistic. If you enjoy colour correcting and editing your photos, experiment with unnatural tones.
This will encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and embrace unusual themes.
A strikingly colored fine art photography landscape

3. Use Simple Backgrounds

Take photos in simple locations. To make your subject stand out, photograph it in a location with very few distractions.
This can be a field on a cloudy day or a white room with no furniture.
A fine art photography shot of a white dog - what makes photography art

4. Photograph Patterns

Find patterns and symmetry in nature. The great outdoors is filled with an abundance of fine art subjects including trees, beaches, and skies.
Symmetry, curves, and even crookedness can all be used to create an eye-catching photo.
Artistic photo of a path running through a forest

5. Try More Creative Angles

Experiment with angles and rotation. A simple rotation can completely change the meaning of your image. A slight change in perspective can transform a simple location into one that someone would want to hang on their wall.
Don’t be afraid to play with angles and rotations during your photo shoot and in your editing program.
A fine art photo of a girl on a beach at an upside down angle -


So what makes photography art? The answer to this question depends on your photography style, where you find inspiration, and how you take photos.
Brightly colored shot of a cloudy sky, photography art
In my opinion, what makes photography art is the imagination, dedication, and time that you pour into your work. It’s the time you invest in researching, understanding, and admiring the fine art genre.
Many photographers agree that what makes photography art is something anyone would want to exhibit in a gallery. It’s a work of art that would make almost anyone feel something.
It’s something you’d want to see on a wall, in a gallery, or on the cover of a book.
What do you think?

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