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Fine Art Photography

This is a definition of Fine Art Photography and looks at how to determine when a photograph becomes more than just a photograph and therefore gets added value.

A difficult one, splitting the term into separate entities a photograph is an image that has been taken with a camera and Fine Art is something that has been produced for its visual beauty rather than its purpose or use. So linking these two definitions together you get the creation of a photograph that gives someone visual enjoyment, and from looking at it derives an emotion within them.

Whether one photograph over another is Fine Art is down to the person interpreting what is being shown, as the saying goes ‘beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’ and whether that be the photographer who took the image or the art buyer/collector who wanted it enough buy it and treasure it for some time to come. A photographer doing Fine Art photography is creating the final image for the photograph itself and not for some other purpose.

The dictionary definition of Fine Art is, Art produced or intended chiefly for its visual beauty rather than utility. It includes photography, painting, sculpture, and music. Something requiring highly developed techniques and skills.

In fact the use of ‘Fine Art’ as a term is generally used to determine a piece of work that has been reproduced whether it is as a limited or open edition, from the original. In fact in the 19th and 20th centuries prints were usually done in limited editions to inflate their value to dealers and collectors. The vast majority of fine art prints were made using a printing process called offset lithography (lithos) and produced in small runs, due to the cost of production, but this meant there were limited copies about and therefore collectors were more interested in these works. Today with new technologies in printing and digital photography it is possible to produce Fine Art Photography prints with the latest inkjet printers, and these can be run off as and when required, so no stock holding, however to get the highest market value still having an ultimate limited print run will add value.  According to one brief I have read recently limited edition books of finely printed photography art prints are becoming of more interest to collectors, because they have high production values, a short print run and therefore their limited market means they are unlikely to be reprinted.

A search around galleries, the internet and some books that have been produced will show a wide gamut of definitions of Fine Art and not all of the definitions can be relied upon. For example people will say that a Fine Art photograph is only when it is a limited edition, or is produced of archival quality, but there is nothing to suggest that because it hasn’t been produced to this quality that it is less likely to be Fine Art. In fact ‘Creating Beautiful Images for Sale or Display’ is probably the shortest and most concise definition I have come across.

Although many fine art photographs are produced and sold by publishers who specialise in this area, with the better quality inkjet printers now available at reasonable prices for the individual photographer it is now possible to publish their own editions, and many who do this do so on a 'print on demand' basis meaning that they do not need to hold vast numbers of stock. If you are considering buying a Fine Art photograph then remember to check it's archival qualities and to what quality standards it has been produced to, as there are some selling fine art on the market today which in fact have been produced on colour photocopies, and these will not have the lasting qualities to make it a piece of artwork to treasure for ever.


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