If you've started to appreciate nature photography, you've probably landed on several web pages like mine with the words "fine art photography." But what does that mean? This should make it easy for new collectors.
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.
There are many types of photography:
- Architectural photography
- Portrait photography
- Candid photography
- Documentary, War, and Photojournalism photography
- Sports Photography
- Fashion photography
- Food photography
- Landscape photography
- Wildlife photography
- Aerial photography
- Night-long exposure photography
- Conceptual fine art photography
- Commercial & Product photography
Sometimes the genres overlap. For example, an architectural photographer may add aerial photography to their point of view, a product photographer may choose food as their specialty, just as a nature photographer may choose wildlife as their main subject matter. All of these genres require a different skill set. Wildlife photographers invest in camouflage gear that I will probably never need because it is much harder to sneak up on a sasquatch than it is a glacier. Technique, camera settings, and workflow is vastly different as well.
While I cross over into a few of these genres in my work, my main focus is Landscape Photography.
What makes landscape photography "fine art?"
I look at "Fine Art Landscape" photography as a subgenre of Fine Art, not a subgenre of Landscape photography. It just so happens that I choose nature as my subject matter most of the time rather than the human body, a street corner, or a banana on a table. There are similarities between shooting different subject matter for the purpose of fine art and usually, in my humble opinion, the common thread tends to be rare light and composition. In fact, sometimes I will shoot a mountain peak with similar techniques I learned to shoot a portrait.
The key to art is in the word "subjective" in the definition at the top of the page. Instead of capturing a scene exactly the way it looked, as would a newspaper reporter, I am taking the liberty of interpreting the scene to convey more than what was there visually. It could be a feeling, a thought, or a concept. These choices are what makes it art.
We all interpret what's in front of us differently, and everyone has a valid viewpoint. If you put a thousand photographers in front of the same scene (search Horsetail Fall Yosemite) you will find that every photo is different.
Quality of Work
Aside from Fine Art Landscape Photography being a genre of photography, there is another quality in the term that suggests that the artist has refined their technique and presentation to a high level, usually to a point that is gallery worthy. In my humble opinion, only the artist can make that distinction for themself. You will, however, find that by visiting high end galleries and museums that the most appreciated artists share distinctive qualities.
In the end, art boils down to interpretation and appreciation. The great thing is that there are no rules. You either love it or you don't. But that's a whole other topic! Hopefully this article gives you some insight you can use the next time you're shopping for that perfect photo to put on your living room wall.