Why and How Mastering the Steps of Creating an Art Photograph

Creating an art photograph is not merely about shooting in the field. This creative process requires five distinct steps that any author photographer must master in order to produce quality works.

Photograph in black and white of the Grand Canyon from Arizona State in USA.
Photograph in black and white of the Grand Canyon from Arizona State in USA.

The First Step in the Creation of an Art photograph: The Shooting

In nature photography, the principles of shooting are identifiable and universal. The first recommendation I always make during my photography classes is to create a methodology, which I have described in this article.

The application of a rigorous method allows the photographer to develop his creativity by avoiding wasted time. He can focus entirely on his photographs.

Then comes the time of recognition on the field, the weather conditions, and the knowledge of animal habits if it is a wildlife session. In the case of underwater photography, it is even more complicated because the time is limited, and the currents can be strong and interfere with the creation.

Then comes the choice of the point of view for the scene. The photographer must also take care of the framing and the composition of the photograph.

When creating an artistic photograph, one must never forget that one try to establish an emotional relationship with the scenes.

The photographer must become involved in the photograph and must show that he is present behind the viewfinder of the camera. Every photographic element must be planned out. Each element must give meaning to the image so that the photographer can transmit a message.

When shooting a nature photo, the photographer must be in harmony with the world around him. He must feel the power of the natural elements. He must be at peace with everything he sees. An artistic photographer is not present on the stage just to document events, but to express himself and show his vision of the world.

During my photo workshops, I always make all the arrangements for my participants so that they might forget their everyday life and its hassles. I immerse them in photographic activity. I apply this method to myself when I create photos for a collection.

This step of shooting requires a great concentration to disregard everyday life. Only the scene in the viewfinder must be important.

For us, during the shooting step in a landscape session, the tripod is an essential accessory. Indeed, it allows to modify the points of view, the framing and the compositions in precise and subtle ways.

The tripod also allows adjustment of the exposure parameters, without having to change the positioning of the case, when a scene is poorly exposed.

When shooting, the photographer uses accessories such as a tripod, remote shutter, filters, camera, and lenses. All this material must be mastered and perfectly understood by its user.

Once on the field, it is too late to try and learn how to utilize the equipment. Natural conditions change quickly, and time is wasted when it is spent on equipment and not on capturing a certain moment on the field. Thus, learning how to use equipment must be done before the session.

Shooting is the first step in creating a fine art photo. It is the basis of the creative process. To not master it is a mistake. I must never forget that a missed photo will be missed even with the development.

The Second Step in the Creation of an Art Photograph: the Development

The shooting of an artistic photo makes it possible to freeze a scene of a landscape, an animal or underwater event. This scene will serve as support for the transmission of a message, an emotion, or the feelings of the photographer.

The author of the photo will use the framing and composition to achieve the desired composition. Development will serve two purposes:

  • Tackle technical limitations of cameras such as noise reduction or sharpening.
  • Reinforce the artistic vision of the photographer with the adjustment of the tones, the colors, the management of the light, and the removal of potentially disturbing elements.

Post processing is essential to creating a beautiful photograph. A photographer must master all the techniques accordingly.

I am seeing more and more photographers calling on professional developers and designers to process their photos. It has become commonplace. They do so either because they are not literate in the computer programs or because of a lack of time to perform these time-consuming tasks.

I can understand the motives for their choice, but I do not share their beliefs. I develop my own pictures fully knowing that the results would be even more perfect if I hired an expert.

However, I must not forget that artists like Michelangelo, Raphael or da Vinci had at their service students who painted for them. These artists placed the final touches, for example, the hands on the figures in the paintings.

I believe that in artistic photography, even if the photographer gives precise directions, the result will not be in keeping with his artistic approach. Another being can never fully capture what the artist himself would have completed.

I often think of Ansel Adams, the American photographer made famous by his photographs of landscapes, who spends very long periods of time developing his own shots in his dark room. For him, it was a personal and essential step to his creativity.

A photographer must learn how to use the tools at his disposal to showcase his artistic approach. It's not easy, and I must always question myself in order to learn new ways. Nothing is ever won. The creation of high-quality photographs is a real challenge.

The Third Step in the Creation of an Art Photograph: The Printing

Once a photograph is made in the field, and developed with a computer, the photographer places all his creativity in its realization. He has in his possession, a photograph that corresponds to his artistic approach.

But it's not an artistic work yet. To become one, the picture must now to be printed. It is a delicate work because the paper must be chosen with discernment. The texture must match the rendering of the photo.

Printing is a very difficult job that requires many skills and knowledge. As far as I am concerned, I always work in collaboration with professional printers working in specialized laboratories.

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Many tests are necessary because the results significantly vary from one paper to another or even from one ink to another.

When I print photos, I always keep PSD files containing all the settings of the development. Usually, I come back to the main file to change some of them, especially light and contrast. Depending on the type of printer and the type of paper, the adjustments vary. That's why I have digital files based on the printers and labs I work with.

For us, a photograph only exists from the moment it is printed. This is the purpose of my artistic work. Digital media are only for communication or marketing purposes.

The Fourth Step in the Creation of an Art Photograph: The Framing

Once a photo has been printed, it can be framed. This is an option that should be considered with interest because it highlights the piece of art, which I think is necessary.

I work with experts in this field. Precise rules exist according to the colors and the tones. Similarly, the thickness of the frame must be chosen wisely. Nothing is improvised. It is essential for a photographer to develop skills in this area.


Creating an art photograph of nature is not just about shooting. The photographer must complete these four steps. He must develop skills to affirm and reinforce his artistic approach. This is why it takes time, work, energy, and many failures before mastering this extraordinary artistic field.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.


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