How to get started with fine art photography

Creating something new is the most important component of making art. But we can’t create something new when we’re actually capturing a scene. The trick is to bring artistic concept to your photos.

Since my grandfather was a national painter in Austria and a professor of art, there were a lot of paintings that I studied since my childhood. My latest video gives you an overview of how I see fine art photography through my eyes. It gives you a good starting point for getting into fine art photography, as it reveals the different basic concepts, but also how I choose between them and how much editing is possible without overdoing each concept of photography.

realistic photography concept

We live in the real world. So, when we capture a scene, in fact, we only get a snapshot of reality. This fact makes it very difficult to create art, and even in painting, it is easier to create art in a realistic style. The artist always creates something new on his canvas, while capturing reality with camera equipment creates nothing new, which in most cases does not lead to art. Realistic photography is well used for reportage photography, for example. The goal here is simply to refer to reality in the best possible way in the images, which doesn’t allow for much editing. Reportage photographers may lose their jobs if they edit their photos as we do in fine art photography. Therefore, while reportage photographers must stick to reality, fine art photographers must look at concepts that depart a bit from reality.

expressive photography concept

Let’s take our first small step away from reality into fine art photography. The photo above, of Venice’s Sighing Bridge, isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken. But that makes it a very powerful example here, because it’s really art only because of its composition and the story it tells. Let’s look at why this happens:

Travelers who visit Venice know that there is a prison right next to the bridge, where the worst criminals are imprisoned – for life. When they were imprisoned, they had to walk over the Bridge of Sigh, making it the last place they would see sunlight in their lives. This photo shows somewhat the same view of how prisoners, hundreds of years ago, might have viewed the last sunlight of their lives. That’s why I decided to take this shot at sunset, when we see the last sunlight on the houses from afar. This is also the reason why I decided on the title “Last Sunlight”.

Expressive photography would allow me to edit in a way that would be out of touch with reality, although I didn’t have to edit much in this case. Art is actually created by the relationship between the elements in my composition: the prison, the bridge of a sigh, the last sunlight in the distance, the facts of history – the story that holds them all together. I simply expressed the internal values ​​of the elements. This is what fine art photography is all about: expressing the inner values ​​of a story. I just expressed what was already there. So, next time you shoot: think about whether there are internal values ​​in your scene elements that need to be expressed. These may be different, but sometimes, they are just one spot of light and a fact of history.

Impressionist photography concept

I am a photographer, nature lover and landscape lover. This often makes me see things very differently from reality. This is simply the behavior of people in love: they see the world through rose-tinted glasses. So, if we even want to take a big step away from reality, if we no longer care about reality, then the impressionistic concept is our friend.

Whereas Expressionism is about the internal values ​​of the scene, Impressionism is about the artist’s self-perception. In the photo above, you see this beautiful church with this tree. Since the tree is a symbol of life and in a broader sense, a chapel or church can be associated with deceased people, I wanted to tell this story between life and death, good and evil. The weather always changed between sunlight and rain that day, so I decided to emphasize this weather contrast by enhancing the dark sky on the right side, as well as the sunlight hitting the grass. Even the bright corridor leading to the church adds to this whole story, showing something like: “Keep on the right path and light.”

There are almost no limits in editing to impressionistic photography. Although this shouldn’t be the primary goal, it’s also not a problem if your impressionist art portrait looks like a painting. I’ve done a lot of editing in this photo, but it’s not exaggerated, because it shows the artist’s self-perception – me, in this case. This makes the picture an impressionist portrait of fine art. So, the next time you shoot and you’re overwhelmed with emotions: think about how you can bring those feelings, perhaps convey a special mood with your photo, a mood that fits the story your photo tells.

Surreal photography concept

Are you ready to go one step further from reality? Are you ready to reverse the obvious? Surrealist photography belongs to my favorite art concepts in photography. This usually results in the most powerful images for me, but honestly, it’s also the toughest concept out of them all. The problem is obvious: we live in the real world. So, how do we depict a surreal scene in our real world? This is simply not possible.

The trick is to look for surreal stories instead. It’s something like if you were to look at the sky and not see clouds, but different shapes. As I was taking the photo above, I saw a mountain rising and cutting through the clouds. That is why the title of the picture is “Birth of a Mountain”. The mountain did not rise. We actually live. It was only the clouds that started to fade. But from my point of view, it looked like the mountain would go up. And this was the illusion I wanted to put into my picture.

In surreal photography, we don’t have any restrictions on editing anymore. Surrealist fine art photography is about telling a surreal story in our real world. I will not add items that do not exist. This could also be great art, but for me, this is where photography ends and composition begins. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing bad about makeup, it’s just the boundaries I’ve drawn for myself. So, next time you shoot and you see any surreal story, like shapes in clouds: think about how you can tell that story by arranging all the elements in your composition in a supportive way. Mood can also be a very good narrator.

It’s not just about editing

Mood is an important factor in fine art photography, as it helps support the story and evoke emotions. The interesting thing is that I am often asked what filters you need, to create good artistic portraits, and to set the mood for photos. But it’s not about editing, and I don’t use artistic filters. Sometimes it’s all about the right light, as you can see in the photo above. The left version was just a test shot a few hours ago in flat lighting, while the right version was the correct final exposure, supporting my story “And There Was Light”, which is also the title of this photo. Finally, it is the story that makes the picture of art.

More details, examples, and tips on how to get started with fine art photography are revealed in the video above.

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