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Fine Art (Photography)

To most, fine art photography is the artsy-fartsy realm of picture taking. Fine art includes anything from portraits to landscapes to still life and even candid shots. Most fine art photographers earn a living by selling their work at art shows to interested buyers.

As pretentious as this all sounds, fine art is much more difficult than you think. Aside from taking photos, people of fine art must work diligently on establishing contacts and building a reputation among peers, colleagues and the competition. This can take years for many, and for a lucky few, it can take one art show. Most importantly, your success as a fine artist depends on your work and how you show it – think of an art show as a portfolio for the masses.

One of the most important things to master for photographers of fine art is light. You can take have the most brilliant scene, but if the lighting is off, the image you want to convey will be off as well. You almost never see fine art photos taken using a built-in flash, unless it used very carefully. Built-in flash units are a no-no for any kind of portraiture. Most photographers tend toward natural lighting and sometimes studio lighting (although, studio lights are more commonly used among commercial and fashion photographers). In fine art-photography, mood is more important than anything. Go to an art show and count the number of photos where silhouette and other natural lighting tricks are used. You will find that almost all use natural light in an interesting and effective manner.

Aside from lighting and mood, fine art photographers generally use film to reduce grain or pixelation or anything else that would take away from the quality of the image. In fact, the quality of the image is just as important to the image as the image itself. This is because the work is being sold (often for a lot of money) and the images are often larger than 8x10 inches and need to be crisp even when blown up that big – even the best digital camera will lose resolution at such a large size.

In composing your photographs for fine art, there are a number of ways to shoot your subject, and really, no rule cannot be broken - it is, after all, art. Some photographers shoot close up on stationary objects, focusing more on a design or pattern on say, a part of a bicycle, for instance. Others use a short angle lenses and take wide, vast landscape silhouette shots. Others, as in portraiture, don’t take a simple headshot, but rather work on the surroundings (ie, the chair, or living room, or window) and, in turn, attempt to photograph the subject in a natural, pseudo-candid way.

Whatever you might choose to do, the emphasis seems to be on the natural – a romantic frame of thought in more mainstream fine art. This rule does not apply throughout, however, and there are many post-modern photographers (arguably the most famous being Andy Warhol) who use unconventional styles to twist and turn the idea of mood.

Fine art is the most creative of disciplines, but it is also the most difficult to be successful in. Your technical skills have to be good, but not great – your work will have more to do with how you work the crowd than how you work your camera. Nonetheless, fine art photography is a great way to experience the world.