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What is fine art photography and who does it best?

what is fine art photography
(Image credit: Bamby Diagne on Unsplash)

If you’re a portrait or wildlife photographer, the things you take photos of are dictated by the genre. While the job of documentary photographers and photojournalists is to capture real-life events, exactly as they happen, fine art photographers aim to capture a photo as they see it in their imagination – not necessarily as it appears. 

Unlike many genres within photography, fine art photography is very broad and can include anything from landscape shots to creative portraits, to completely abstract images. Rather than using a camera as a tool to document a moment, it's used as a tool to create a final piece that expresses the artist's vision. 

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Fine art photos are created purely for their aesthetic quality rather than to portray a moment or event accurately. They are defined by the intention of the photographer, and the thoughts and feelings they hope to elicit from the viewer, and are open to subjectivity. There are different forms of fine art photography that can include portraiture, landscapes, still life, architecture or abstract images. 

You might look at some images and not be able to tell the difference between a landscape image and a fine art landscape. There is a bit of a grey area between the different genres, but it all comes down to what was important in the image to the photographer and what they were trying to achieve from the shot. 

Conceptual fine art photography explores abstract ideas using imagery that is often not of this world. Dreamlike worlds are presented as reality, and beauty can be found in both the ordinary and extraordinary – all dependent on how the photographer sees the final piece. 

You don't have to be an experienced photographer to start exploring fine art photography; all you need is a camera, a vision and some of the best photo editing software (opens in new tab) so you can start to create your image. Whether you shoot with one of the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) or an entry level point and shoot (opens in new tab), the camera is just a vessel that will help convert your vision. 

To help inspire you and better understand what fine art photography is, we've put together some of our favorite photographers. Some of them are very well known who are thought of as pioneers, while others are more contemporary photographers, but all their work should help expand your horizons…

Nariman

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Bogdan Sorg

Raphaël Neal

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Oleg Oprisco

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Rob Woodcox

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Adey

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Natalie Christensen

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Jenna Westra

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Aline Smithson

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Justin Dingwall

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Katy Smith

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.