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What Is an Art Photograph?

You may be wondering what an art photograph truly is.

You certainly take beautiful pictures with your camera or your smart phone.

I am sure the quality of your photographs is excellent. When you print them, you may tell yourself that your photographs will not be envied when compared to photographs that are sold for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

You are right. The quality of your photographic prints is certainly excellent.

However, an art photograph is not just a photograph. It is much more than that.

This is what I am going to explain to you. You will understand why an art photograph can be expensive to buy.

A fine art photo framed from the collection 'Forgotten Paradises'. Amar Guillen, artist photographer
A fine art photo framed from the collection "Forgotten Paradises".

A Fine Art Photo Reflects the Vision of An Artist

Taking a photo may have become a natural gesture for you. Your camera or smart phone set to automatic mode is capable of technical abilities greater than anyone could have imagined at the beginning of the 2000s, with the dawn of the digital age.

For many people, photography has become a purely functional gesture. It has lost its aesthetic value.

An artist photographer creates artistic photographs. Personally, as a nature photographer artist, I use photography as a means of expression. Artistic photography is a means of writing, telling a story or speaking.

For me, photography is a way to express my emotions, to translate my feelings or to convey messages.

Creating a fine art photo enables a person to forget the descriptive or figurative aspect of a scene.

To create an artistic photo is to abandon oneself to abstraction. This is what I achieve with my conceptual photographs.

For example, creating an art photo is to use a landscape or an animal to translate an emotion or a feeling. The scene is perfectly identifiable, but the title or the caption is explicit enough to explain the artistry of the author.

An art photograph is the representation of a magnified reality: the reality of the photographer artist.

He or she has a personality that is unique. He or she has a past full of unique experiences. It is a life that belongs to no one else.

It is this personality that is shown in the photographic artworks.

A Fine Art Photo Shows a Personal Universe

When you take a snapshot with your smart phone, you freeze a moment. It is a fleeting scene you will want to remember forever. You may also want to share it with your loved ones or on social networks.

You must behave as a photographic journalist who uses a photograph to support a story or a written article. You take a descriptive photo, which is what I call illustrative photography. It is one area of photography that is the opposite of artistic photography.

As an artistic photographer, when I create a photographic artwork or a collection of fine art photographs, I am not interested in the scenes themselves. I do not want to testify. Depicting reality does not interest me.

This reality will simply serve as a support to reveal my personal universe. For example, when I photograph a waterfall, I do not see a river flowing, but I see time passing. When I photograph a majestic and imposing tree, I see a witness of time passing. I can multiply the examples ad infinitum. I advise you to go and discover my "Around the Mind" collections.

An art photograph is above all a transcription in the form of an image of a personal universe: the universe of the photographer artist.

A Fine Art Photo Is the Result of a Photographic and Artistic Process

When you buy a fine art photograph, you acquire a photographic work that is an interpretation of reality by the photographic artist. This interpretation is the result of an extremely lengthy personal and introspective work known as the search for the photographic and artistic approach.

It can be broken down into two very distinct stages:

  • The photographic vision. It reflects the way the artist sees reality, for example, the use of tight shots or wide shots, or the use of scenes with multiplanes or scenes with a very present background.
  • The photographic signature. It is the way to show the vision, for example, the use of black and white or color. It is the use of panoramic or square format.

The definition of a photographic and artistic approach requires years of work. It is the result of intense reflection. The photographer artist must be sincere and passionate, giving everything

I often say that a printed art photo reveals the soul of a photographer artist. If you can read between the lines and decipher the coded messages, you will be able to lay it bare and understand it.

Creating a Fine Art Photo is About Making Choices

I am a freedom buff. All my life, I have refused to be shackled. I have always followed unforeseen paths. I have often followed my instincts. My choices have always been guided by the desire to be independent and not be bound by an individual or a system.

Artistic photography has been a real eye-opener for me. The camera is only an accessory in my hands. However, the settings and the technical possibilities are nearly infinite. Fixed lenses or zooms allow you to capture a scene in countless ways.

I often try to go against the grain of other photographers’ work. Whether I make conscious or unconscious choices, the ones I make are unique.

I believe that a photographic artist is not always aware of what he or she is really doing. Choices are often subjective. The photographic elements that I choose to build my scenes sometimes obey rules that are difficult to understand.

However, this mystery is one of the strengths of art photography. It allows people to express themselves freely without having to respect rules dictated by certain people. First and foremost, I am an artist. I say what I want to say. Some of my photographic creations may not please some people, but they will please others.

It is for them that I continue my artwork. I create to please them.

Fine art photography is centered on the principle making time in creating works for those who share similar values and ethics, ultimately to bring pleasure to the eye of the beholder.

When you are interested in certain art photographs or certain artists, it is because their photographic approach resonates with your unconscious. This is the strength of art photography.

The Tools to Create a Fine Art Photo

As a nature photographer artist, I need a multitude of tools to create.

  • The first tool I use is light. It is the light that will highlight the forms, lines, and masses of my photographs.
  • The second tool I use is composition. For me, to compose an art photograph well is to choose to harmoniously place the photographic elements in certain positions within in a scene.
  • The third tool at my disposal is framing. It is certainly the most difficult one to master. It is during this stage that I choose the photographic elements that will allow me to express myself.
  • The fourth tool is the point of view I choose for my scene. Sometimes, moving just 1 meter (1 yard) apart will totally change the nature of my message. The vanishing lines and the perspectives will be entirely different.
  • The fifth tool I use is the computer. It is the one that allows me to develop an art photo and print it. It is an essential tool because the software I am going to use allows me to strengthen my photographic approach.

As you can see, creating an art photo is a process that takes time, patience, and a great amount of self-sacrifice. Often, the result does not live up to my expectations and hopes. If I am not satisfied with the photo when it is printed, I must return to the field and begin shooting again.

A Fine Art Photo is Also a Legal Definition

You have understood that an art photo is the translation of an artistic and photographic approach to show a personal and unique universe.

Legally, an art photograph must:

  • Be taken by the artist.
  • Printed by him or his control.
  • Signed.
  • Numbered as a complete and combined list of limited copies, formats, and media.

This legal framework makes it possible to set guidelines and rules that guarantee that the acquisition of a photographic work is an investment. With time, it will increase in value.

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Personally, I am much more demanding. I have adopted the rule that all my limted editions of fine art prints are limited to 3 copies each.

Lovers of Art Photography

During all these years, I have learned that an art photography lover never looks for the technical truth. He is always interested in the result and in the meaning of the print he has before his eyes.

I often compare an art lover to a person who loves music. She likes to listen to certain melodies and yet she cannot read a scale with musical notes that are aligned.

Lovers of art photography are interested in revealing the creative act of the photographer artist.


I hope that this article has given you a good understanding of the nature and essence of an art photo.

It is not just a print or a poster you buy in a store on a major boulevard.

An art photo is a universe. It is the photographic translation of an artistic vision.

It is also part of a legal framework that increases in value as time passes.

An art photograph is much more than a testimony or an illustration. It is a split second that invites you to reflect on what you are doing with your life.