Creating something new is the most important factor in creating art. However, you cannot create a new one just by capturing a real scene. The secret is to bring an artistic concept to your photography.
My grandfather was a painter in his hometown of Austria and a professor of art, so he studied a lot of painting since he was a child. My latest video gives an overview of how I see fine art photography. It’s you because it not only reveals the various basic concepts, but also how I determine them and how much editing is possible without over-editing each photo concept. Gives you a good starting point to get started with fine art photography.
Realistic photography concept
We live in the real world. So whenever you capture a scene, you really just capture reality. This fact makes it very difficult to create art, and even in painting it is easier to create art in a realistic style. Artists always create new things on the canvas, but capturing reality with camera gear doesn’t create new things, so in most cases it doesn’t lead to art. For example, realistic photography is often used for reportage photography. And the goal here is to show reality in the best possible way with photos, and don’t allow too much editing. Reportage photographers can even lose their jobs when editing images like fine art photography. Therefore, reportage photographers need to stick to reality, while art photographers need to consider concepts that are a bit off reality.
Expressionist photography concept
Take the first small step towards fine art photography away from reality. The photo above the Bridge of Sighs in Venice is not the best photo I have ever taken. But this is a very powerful example here. Because it is already an art because of its composition and the story it tells. Let’s see why this is the case.
Travelers visiting Venice know that there is a prison right next to the bridge. There, the worst criminals we have trapped will last a lifetime. When they were imprisoned, they had to cross the Bridge of Sighs, which became the last place to see sunlight in their lives. This image shows a more or less the same view of how prisoners hundreds of years ago perceived the last sunlight of their lives. That’s why I decided to take this shot at sunset when the last sunshine hits a distant house. And that’s why I finally decided on the title “Last Sunlight.”
Expressionist photographs allow you to edit in a way that is unrealistic, but in this case you didn’t need to edit much. The art is already created by the relationships between the elements of my composition, such as the prison, the Bridge of Sighs, the last sunlight in the distance, and the facts of history. It’s a story that puts all of this together. A simple representation of the internal value of the element. This is all about expressionist fine art photography. It’s about expressing the inner value of the story. I just expressed what is already there. So the next time you shoot, think about whether the elements of the scene have an internal value to express. These can be different, but in some cases it is a single spot of light and a fact from history.
Impressive photo concept
I am a photographer, a nature lover, and a landscape lover. This is often quite different from reality. This is just the behavior of those in love. They are looking at the world through rosy glasses. So if we want to take a bigger step out of reality, if we don’t care about reality anymore, the striking concept is our friend.
Expressionism is all about the inner values of the scene, while Impressionism is all about the artist’s subjective perception. In the image above you can see this lovely chapel with this tree. Trees are a symbol of life, and in a broad sense, chapels and churches can be associated with the dead, so I wanted to tell this story between life and death, good and evil. Since the weather is constantly changing between sunlight and rain on the day, we decided to enhance the contrast of this weather by boosting the dark sky on the right and the sunlight that hits the grass. The bright road to the chapel shows something like “staying on the right road and being illuminated”, so it is added to the whole story.
There are almost no restrictions on editing impressive photos. This isn’t the main goal, but it doesn’t matter if an impressive fine art photo looks like a painting. I’ve done a lot of editing on this image, but it’s not over-edited because it shows the subjective perception of the artist (in this case I). And this makes the image an impressive fine art photo. So, when you’re overwhelmed by emotions the next time you take a picture, think about how you can bring these emotions. Perhaps the image conveys a special mood and a mood that matches the story the image tells.
Surreal photography concept
Are you ready to take a step further from reality? Are you ready for the clear opposite of reality? Surrealist photography belongs to the artistic concept of my favorite photography. It usually leads to the strongest image for me, but to be honest, it’s also the most difficult concept of all of them. The problem is obvious. We live in the real world. So how can you shoot a surreal scene in the real world? This is simply not possible.
The secret is to look for a surreal story instead. When I look into the sky, I can’t see the clouds, and it looks different. When I took the picture above, I saw a mountain rising and breaking through the clouds. Therefore, the title of the image is “Birth of a mountain”. The mountain didn’t go up. We are living in reality. It was just a cloud that began to settle. But in my eyes, the mountain seemed to rise. And this was an illusion I wanted to bring into my image.
For surrealistic photos, there are no restrictions on editing. Surreal fine art photography is telling a surreal story in the real world. It does not add elements that were not there. This may be great art, but for me, this is where the photo ends and the composition begins. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with compositing, it’s the border I drew myself. So the next time you take a picture, the next time you see a surreal story like a person in the clouds, how do you tell this story by arranging it in a way that supports all the elements of the composition? Think about what you can do. You can be a very good storyteller in your mood.
Not just editing
Mood is important in fine art photography because it helps to support the story and evoke emotions. What’s interesting is that I’m often asked which filters I need to create fine art photos and add mood to my photos. But it’s not just editing, I’m not using art filters. As you can see in the image above, in some cases the right light is everything. The version on the left is a test shot with a flat light a few hours ago, the version on the right is the last exposure with the light on the right, and supports the story of “And There Was Light,” which is also the title of this image. Finally, it is a story that imagines art.
More details, examples, and tips on how to get started with fine art photography are revealed in the video above.