Get in touch with your creative side and explore the incredible world of fine art photography! This genre of photography can be challenging and rewarding, allowing you to look at photography from the perspective of an artist and to make creative representations of ideas and subjects you are passionate about. Anyone with an iPhone can be a photographer, but it takes creativity, talent, and a lot of experimentation to call your photos art. If you want to make art with your camera, then fine art photography is a great genre for you.
What is fine art photography?
The truth is that there are a lot of definitions for fine art photography, and not even the experts agree about what it is exactly. Like all art, what defines fine art photography is subjective, but here are a few things that all fine art photos have in common.
- Fine art photographs capture more than just what the camera sees.
- The images express a mood, concept, or idea in a way that is unique to the artist.
- The process of creating the photo is a deliberate manifestation of the artist’s vision.
The difference between a snapshot and fine art photography
Taking a quick snapshot doesn’t require any artistic vision or forethought. You see something you think would make a decent photo, you take out your phone, and you tap the shutter. There are times when a snapshot will pleasantly surprise you, and even times when your snapshots will be print or gift-worthy. But that still doesn’t make them art.
A fine art photo is the result of a creative process, which will often be different for each photographer. This involves coming up with a topic, creating a vision for that topic, and executing it in a way that expresses your vision.
Can you shoot fine art photos with an iPhone?
While you can absolutely shoot fine art photography with an iPhone, you may sometimes find that your iPhone camera isn’t capable of expressing the ideas that you have envisioned. The limitations of your iPhone camera include a small sensor, noisy low-light photos, and a resolution that may not be suitable for large-scale print reproductions. If you are aware of the limitations you’ll face when shooting with an iPhone, you can create and execute your vision with those limitations in mind.
How to come up with fine art photography ideas
To create fine art photos, you first have to look deep within yourself and come up with a topic and vision that you want to share as a creative expression. Here are some steps for finding your unique voice and creating fine art photography.
Your vision and message
The first step is to come up with some ideas that you can run with. Sit down for a brainstorming session and write down ideas based on your passions, any messages that you hope to convey to your viewers, subjects that you enjoy photographing, and techniques that you enjoy. Don’t think too hard — just write down a few ideas in a loose, stream-of-consciousness style. As you work through the process, topics and ideas will start to formulate from within.
Once you have a more defined vision and message, you can think about your subject matter. What you photograph should be directly linked to your topic in a way that expresses your vision and message.
Here’s an example. You’ve decided to create fine art photography based on the topic of ballet dancing, with a message that defines the hard work and dedication that goes into being a dancer. Your subject could be a pair of battered ballet shoes shot in different locations, or it could be portraits of ballet dancers. It all depends on your own vision and what will bring your idea to life.
Once you’ve decided on a subject, it’s time to plan out your photo shoot and decide on your technique. Do you want to create an abstract element within your photos? Shoot in black and white? Maybe you want to shoot with a shallow depth of field to emphasize the main subject while the rest of your photo is out of focus.
When considering your technique, keep in mind the limitations of your iPhone and ask yourself whether your phone can realistically handle the task. Adjust your ideas based on what you know your iPhone camera can handle, or consider using a different camera for your project.
You should also consider your post-processing techniques — ideas you can apply after you’ve taken your photo to ensure your vision becomes a reality.
Fine art portrait photography tips
You’ll find that the planning stages of your fine art photography project are the most labor-intensive. Once you have a basic idea of your vision, message, subject, and techniques, the actual implementation should be easy, or at least easier. Here are some tips for turning your photography vision into a reality.
1. Recruit a friend or assistant
Fine art photography requires that you create a vision and a creative plan, then take steps to make that plan a reality. It can be useful to have a friend on hand to help with your set-up, lighting, or other creative processes. An assistant can also stand in as a model, an advisor, or an extra pair of hands. Another benefit? Shooting fine art photography with a friend is more fun!
2. Learn composition rules, but don’t be afraid to break them
There are dozens of composition rules that are incredibly useful for photographers. These rules were created to help artists position objects in a way that keeps the viewer interested. Composition rules include utilizing the rule of thirds, using leading lines, filling the frame, and using the golden ratio. Once you know the rules and understand why they are important, you shouldn’t be afraid to break them.
3. Use a tripod and a remote shutter
When working with fine art photography, there are a few good reasons to always use a tripod and a remote shutter. The first is that using a tripod will ensure that your photos are sharp and in focus. Using a tripod will also lock in your composition while freeing up your hands for making adjustments where needed. Tripods are also fabulous for creating self-portraits, low-light photos, and action shots. A tripod is definitely one of the most useful tools in a photographer’s kit and is well worth the investment.
4. Shoot in RAW for greater control
Starting with the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max, you will have the capability to shoot photos in RAW format for greater control during the editing process. A RAW file is uncompressed, providing more image data than a standard JPEG. RAW photos have more detail and a better dynamic range, and they give you more flexibility and creative control when editing. If your iPhone camera doesn’t include RAW capabilities, fear not. Simply choose a quality third-party camera app like ProCam, which you can purchase from the App Store for $7.99.
5. Experiment with filters and creative editing during post-processing
You should be thinking about your editing techniques when you first begin planning your shot. Consider the look you’re going for and possible edits that you can use to make your vision a reality. Are you going for a dark and moody look, surreal fantasy, or bright and airy? Are there filters you can use to enhance your photo and bring your vision to life? An idea of how you want your photo to look will help you set up your composition, and editing will simply fine-tune the look of your piece. And, yes, you can absolutely experiment with editing techniques and filters after your photoshoot — it just helps to have an idea of the edited look you’re going for early on in the process.
Shooting black-and-white fine art photography
Black-and-white photography is often an outstanding choice for making your vision a reality. That’s because the element of color is so prominent in photography that it can sometimes distract the viewer from what the artist is trying to convey. If color is not the primary focus of your image, consider using black and white to bring your vision from concept to reality.
1. Shoot in color and convert later
Many photographers use a black and white filter from the very beginning so they have an idea of how the shot will look right from the start. It’s fine if you want to shoot this way, but capturing a color image will give you more flexibility when editing later on. When you take a black-and-white photo with a camera app, you won’t be able to switch to color if you are unhappy with the results. But shoot in color, and you will be able to choose your favorite edit during post-processing, whether that means converting to black and white or to something else entirely.
2. Try to see your image in black and white
“Seeing” in black and white simply means looking at a scene and observing the tonal contrast so that you can realistically predict how a black and white filter will affect your final photo. Look for dramatic lighting conditions, including harsh side light, fog, and soft lighting under clouded skies or deep shade. In the beginning, you may find it difficult to ignore color within a scene, so it may be useful to use the Mono filter on your iPhone Camera app.
3. Look for patterns, texture, and contrast within your scene
When deciding on a composition for your black-and-white fine art photography, look for strong graphical elements like textures, lines, and patterns. These elements tend to stand out when the distraction of color is taken away. Again, using the Mono filter on your iPhone camera will make these elements easier to see when you are composing your shots.
4. Use filters and editing techniques to enhance the overall mood
Black-and-white photography tends to enhance whatever mood you’ve chosen, so whatever filter or editing technique you use will put emphasis on that mood. Editing for bright white highlights and black shadows will enhance a piece with a minimalistic feel and lots of negative space. Creating soft contrast with lots of different gray tones and fewer whites and blacks will give your photo a more dreamy feel. Play around with the exposure, shadow, and highlight sliders to achieve the look you want, and don’t forget to experiment with filters, which allow you to make changes with a single tap.
Fine art photography forces you to think about all the elements used to create a work of art — the vision, the message, the creative process, and the technical aspects of an image. So even if fine art isn’t your area of expertise, experimenting with fine art photography will make you a better photographer.