Defining Fine Art Photography

A little over four years ago, I told my dad I wanted to explore the idea of getting into photography. He handed me his old Nikon D200, a manual lens and a few accessories, and I never looked back. 

When you're a brand new photographer you are taking photos of anything and everything. From mid-October through the end of the 2012, I took just shy of 3,000 images; comprised of everything from the landscapes I love to shoot, to my lens cap. The problem with this is you find yourself with thousands of images with no real direction. A few months ago I decided I needed to truly define myself as a photographer and curate my work to fit that definition. 

My initial reaction was to call myself a landscape photographer, but my work goes beyond the landscape. Not only that, but what does it even mean to be a landscape photographer? A photographer that shoots landscapes? That's too vague. Instead, I went with "fine art photographer". So what does it really mean to be a "fine art photographer"? What makes it stand apart from simply being a "landscape photographer"? Here's how Wikipedia defines it:

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer.

I've looked at my fair share of landscapes online as well as watched many other photographers on YouTube, and what I have determined to really be the difference is a matter of being true to the scene versus being true to your vision. I'll give you a couple examples.

True to the scene

True to my vision

True to the scene

True to my vision

The sunset which was true to the scene isn't bad, but it doesn't fully convey the feeling I had when capturing it. The trees which are true to the scene, well, this happens when shooting in somewhat heavy snowfall. I knew what I wanted to achieve though, and with a little post processing magic, the image on the right matched my vision.

This I feel is the key to fine art photography: you must have a vision. Admittedly the vision you start off with may change, sometimes even by accident, but a vision needs to be there from the start. A common mistake most new photographers make, and even some who have been shooting for years, is not shooting with purpose. What do I mean? Let's revisit that sunset again.

This image was taken at Four Mile Creek in Youngstown, NY. It is guaranteed if there are clear skies, at least 20 people will be in this area to watch the sunset and of course take a snapshot with their camera and/or phone. The majority of these are taken without real purpose, but again, what does this really mean? I plan on digging deeper in this subject in another post, but to put it briefly, it's a matter of exploring the angles, finding the best composition, inspecting your corners (an often neglected part of an image), and timing the shutter just right; but before all of that, you need to simply be able to answer, "why are you taking this image?"

This is what Chris Snyder Photography is about; not simply sharing what I saw, but what I felt in the moment. We live in a time where almost everyone has a camera on them at any given time, and this in combination with the countless photographers in the world - everything has been photographed. Even though you will never find something that hasn't been photographed already, it's imperative to understand no matter what you find, that image has never been taken with your vision, with your emotion, with your purpose. This, is fine art photography.