Is photography art?
Ever since its invention in 1839, a heated debate about photography wages. Is it a way to create art, or is it a device that lets us document real-time situations?
Although the debate is settled for most people, some critics still question the idea of snapping a photo as being an art genre.
A camera might not be the same as a paintbrush, but it serves as one to the artist who wields the instrument. After taking pictures in their style and view, additional creativity during the editing process can provide a unique glimpse into another person’s perspective.
Some painters, especially in the 19th century, may have felt that taking a picture was like taking a shortcut to create a realistic image. Today, we know that the technical expertise required to wield a camera, even if it is on a smartphone, makes it a unique art form to embrace.
What Is It About Photography That Makes It an Art Form?
With the billions of photos available online and in the world today, each snapshot is a reflection of an individual’s creative view.
So, the question still goes: Is photography art?
Anyone can pick up a paintbrush to put colors on a canvas, but not everyone can be Renoir or Picasso. When you create, you are an artist, but the outcome doesn’t necessarily qualify as “fine art.”
That’s the distinction we must also make for photographers. Anyone can tap the camera app on their smartphone to take shots that get uploaded to Facebook or Instagram.
Not everyone will be Ansel Adams.
Fine art photography goes beyond the idea that a real-time moment must get captured. These images require as much creative energy as a painting, often difficult to create in a single session.
You can tell the difference between fine art and a simple snapshot because of its composition, details, and meaning.
Yes – those details are slightly vague. That’s because nothing in the art world offers a 100% guarantee.
When beauty is in the eye of the beholder, anything holds the potential to be fine art. That also means a piece that someone finds to be thoroughly engaging can be another person’s trash.
Photography Should Make You Feel Something
When you scroll through your Facebook feed, dozens of photographs might pop up for you to see.
If you glance through a friend’s post with pictures from the night before, how does that make you feel?
Depending on what you see, it might inspire a connected feeling to your friend, happiness from the memories of before, or sadness that you’re not together today.
When you see a picture that connects with you, it makes you feel something.
That’s why one of the most popular areas in a home is the photo wall. It’s a Hall of Fame for your family’s best memories! Looking at each picture triggers a memory from that specific day that you treasure.
When we start talking about fine art, you’ll get the same response as a viewer by looking at the photograph taken. No matter how simple or unusual the subject matter is in the image, the work must make you feel something.
It doesn’t need to be so inspirational that you drop everything to pursue a dream or conquer the world. What you might feel when looking at the image is an appreciation of the colors, the subject, or the beauty it contains.
Even when you don’t feel an initial emotional jolt, fine art photography communicates a message from the artist to you. It might be something more nostalgic than happy, but it is still a physical response to a picture from someone who is a stranger to you.
Each person has different experiences that turn them into the person they are. That means each photograph will speak differently to you than it does to someone else.
That’s why photography is art. It offers the power of commentary through shades of beauty.
Can My Photographs Qualify as Being Fine Art?
Don’t believe the lies that some people might try to tell you. Your photographs can become anything you want them to be.
When you have faith in the work you produce, it will continue evolving because your perceptions will keep improving. If you listen to your creative instincts whenever you click the shutter, that’s the first step to take toward having your images qualify as fine art.
Some photographers think that they need to be famous or popular to have their work qualify under this definition. That perspective couldn’t be further from the truth!
Even if no one likes your images, those perceptions aren’t reflections of who you are as an artist. People dislike art for numerous reasons, especially if it makes them uncomfortable or question their long-held beliefs.
If you want more certainty about this classification for your work, it might help ask yourself these questions.
How does my photography work make me feel?
How long did it take me to create the conditions necessary to take my photos?
How is the lighting in the photograph, and does it make the subject matter stand out?
Photographers are unusually hard on themselves about image composition because they take so many of their skills for granted.
After setting the F-stop, changing the focus, altering the lens, adding filters, and everything else that happens, a perfect image might get created.
Instead of seeing every step in that process as a skill, it is part of the usual routine.
Although your answers to the questions in this post won’t provide specific results, they will offer insights into what you think and feel as an artist.
Different Ways to Improve Your Photography Today
If you picture yourself as a photographer, then congratulations are in order. You have taken the next step forward on your journey toward becoming an artist.
That means you’re ready to start improving your artistic skills with the camera. Whether you work with film or prefer digital mediums, these ideas can help you become more familiar with your equipment while increasing the quality of your work.
1. Change your lighting.
Although the subject matter in your photograph should inspire an emotional response, your lighting increases or decreases the reaction you’ll get. Your lighting doesn’t need to come from professional sources to be effective.
You can use natural or artificial lighting to present the correct mood for your image. It can be direct or subtle, spotlighted or cast in a box, and in whatever color you prefer.
When you start experimenting with the different lighting options available to your camera, you’ll find the details of each snapshot can come out with spectacular textures and tones.
2. Play with the colors.
You don’t need to use realistic colors to create a fantastic photograph. If you enjoy editing your images before releasing them to others, consider experimenting with unnatural hues to see if the changes speak to you.
Your goal as a photographer should be to continue growing. Far too often, people get locked into a sub-genre where they think that they can only take landscape or portrait shots. If you step outside of your comfort zone, it’ll be easier to embrace new ideas when they come.
At that point, it’s only a matter of time until you snap the shot that defines who you are and hope to be as a photographer.
3. Keep your image backgrounds simple.
If you want your subject material to stand out in a photograph, there must not be any distractions in the background. Anything that takes the attention away from what you hope to capture contributes to the result being considered a lesser artwork form.
How can you reduce the distractions in a distracting background? You might head outside on a cloudy day to start taking some shots. If you have a white room, almost anything will stand out in front of it.
The goal is to reduce clutter as much as possible. If you can achieve that goal, you’ll communicate the message you want to convey to the viewer with more clarity.
4. Take advantage of nature’s patterns.
The human eye naturally gravitates toward patterns and symmetry. That’s why the average person finds people attractive when they have more balance to their facial features!
When you take pictures using this technique, perfect symmetry shouldn’t be the goal. Humans also avoid things that seem too perfect because the image won’t feel real.
It helps to look for places where crookedness, curves, and unusual circumstances create a unique balance for a picture. When you can find those elements, your artwork will shine through in the photograph.
5. Work your camera from different angles.
Try taking photographs from different angles. Instead of positioning your camera on a tripod, try holding it close to the subject you want to capture.
You can also try taking images from different rotations. Instead of keeping your camera in the traditional or vertical orientation, move it to a diagonal point to see what happens.
Even upside down is an option when you start experimenting with the technical aspects of taking photographs.
You can include these elements with your editing work if you prefer to make your changes there instead.
6. Use different lenses to capture images.
Some cameras don’t come with detachable lenses, which means this option is unavailable if your equipment has this structure.
When you can switch lenses, you’ll find several different styles and zoom options available to try.
Each product has specific pros and cons for you to consider when taking photographs. You can use them to create blurring, add crispness, or alter the perception found in the image itself.
If you want to experiment with motion within your photograph, consider equipping a telephoto lens to your camera. Spin the equipment while taking the picture. If your speed settings are correct, you’ll see flowing lines develop within the composition to create an unnatural, but fully composed photo.
You can take short- or long-distance photos with time-intense or slow shutter speeds for additional changes. When images have a more prolonged exposure, more light comes into the equation. That’s why night photography on traditional equipment requires a stable platform.
Any wiggle from taking the picture translates to unwanted motion within the image.
7. Use camera or lens filters to your advantage.
You’re likely familiar with the filters found in your smartphone’s camera app. What you may not realize is that you can attach them to a camera at the lens to alter how an image’s composition develops.
One of the best tools you have in your camera bag is a sun filtering lens. When sunshine overwhelms the contrast in your photograph, it can cause your subject matter to fade. Adding a filter that stops this saturation when you click the shot can save you a lot of editing time later.
Filters can change the color and tone of your image to create specific results. If you were to take a desert photograph with an orange or bronze filter, the picture would appear to be more sepia-like in its composition.
Adding blue filters can make a clear sky pop, while green filters make natural landscapes seem surreal.
That’s why photography is an art. You’re in control of what someone sees after your influences get put on the piece.
A Final Thought About Photography as an Art
You don’t need to have a gallery showing to prove that your photography deserves classification as artwork. It is how you think and feel that matters.
It is always nice to receive validation from others about your work. It is also essential to remember that you don’t need to define yourself as an artist based on the support or criticism you receive as feedback.
When you pursue photography because it is something you love, everything else becomes background noise instead of distracting feedback.
The next time you head outside with your camera, please consider these tips. You’ll see a noticeable improvement in your composition work, which can translate into more attention for your photographs.