Why It Is So Difficult to Judge A Fine Art Photograph

Judging or evaluating a fine art photograph is difficult. It is possible to establish a scale of values or levels to determine a value. But the criteria remain subjective. No photo will ever be unanimous.

Photographie artistique d'un arbre au Kenya.
Fine Art Photograph of a Tree in Kenya.

Two Levels to Judge

To evaluate a fine art photograph, we think there are two possible levels:

  • The message and the content that are a rational and an emotional interpretation.
  • The level of the conception that is based on all photo techniques: framing, composition, balance, colors, contrasts, geometric shapes, etc.

To judge an artistic photograph, an observer does not refer to its aesthetic qualities but to the information it contains and the interest it has in it. It is remarkable that the content of an image remains identifiable despite a bad technique.

The technique itself is only intended to support the process of identification. The techniques of designing a photo are only intended to improve the reading of the message and the content.

The Photographer and The Observer

Knowing the photographic grammar allows to a photographer to judge photos in an enlightened way but also to produce quality photographs. The application of the rules must not become an end.

Even if the photographic grammar must invest the photographer's mind or even his unconscious mind, he must only devote himself to the shooting, to the enhancement of the photographic elements as well as to their content.

For the observer of a photograph, the recognition of the content and the reaction that it provokes are the most important of the experiments.

The quality of the composition favors this process and sometimes makes it very pleasant. Sometimes certain elements of composition are so dominant as to disturb the observer's perception. For example, the point is one of these dominant or disruptive elements. In a composition, the point is a photographic element that is small, tiny. It is distinguished by its light, its contrast in the scene, its color. The point is static. It shows no tendency to move in a photo. A single point occupies a preponderant place in an image: it dominates the composition.

Creativity is Crucial

If a rigorous design quality helps to enhance the message or content of a photo, a good dose of creativity is essential to produce quality content.

The photographer's creativity is expressed in the content, the message and the design.

At the time of the shooting, the photographer must dwell on the content and the message to interest an observer.

It's a bit like a book. When you read a book, you are passionate about the story because of the content and the message delivered by the author. You will focus on the conceptual side, paying attention to spelling, grammar, paragraphs and chapters.

The Construction of a Photograph

To build a fine art photograph, the photographer must use reading reinforcement elements such as the point, visual lines, surfaces, details and structures. It must also consider masses and balances.

He must take care of the original plan. It is a material surface intended to carry the photographic work. It allows tonal and color values to cover part or all a photo. It can be the background or a shape.

The photographer must manage his negative space and his positive space. The positive space consists of the centers of interest of the image. The negative space is what supports the visual impact of the positive space.


Judging a fine art photograph is not an easy exercise. A photographer must practice doing this with a conceptual and message in mind. He must learn the grammar photography. When he becomes a good judge, he will become a good photographer.

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