The web, thanks to the advance of technology, is slowly evolving from a textual to a visual media. This has opened new markets for image professionals, and, unlike graphics work, photography is in more demand because it requires actual skill. If you’re interested in being a fine art photographer, there is no better time to launch your career than now.
Masters of fine art photography make bank. Their work gets splashed across the trendiest magazines. Their galleries get linked from Boing Boing and Laughing Squid. Their work gets exhibited in museums and galleries and other places affiliated with fine art photography associations. A professional fine art photographer can expect to make six figures within the first three to five years. But as a fringe benefit, fine art photographers get to go everywhere.
Here’s some excellent advice on fine art photography on YouTube:
All you have to do to excuse your presence in the most off-limits areas is to have a camera with you and a business card to hand out, and you can be right in the middle of anything.
The specialized areas within the field present some intriguing options:
* Fine art figure photography – You shoot models all day. People are of course the most interesting subject, and you get to work in the controlled environment of your studio instead of standing out on some rock trying to catch the clouds at the right moment without getting slimed by a seagull.
* French fine art photography – Actually the whole European style is encapsulated in this, but the rest of the world likes to credit the French with it, because, hey, they get the credit for all the art, right? The thing that distinguishes it from other styles is a scholarly interest in the composition, where every snap becomes an art-school lesson.
* Digital fine art photographer – Of course, now that cell phones come with a built-in camera standard, every slob with a phone thinks that they’re an image auteur just like every zitty kid with a pirated copy of Photoshop thinks that they’re a professional graphics artist. Competition is fierce here – wade into it if you like to scrap it out with the crowd, and if you, yourself, are handy with a computerized image editor.
* Black and white fine art photography – Do not underestimate this field. It takes roughly three times the effort for an image to turn out good in black and white than it does in color. Contemporary fine art photographers save this category for last, after they’ve already mastered the other kinds of fine art photography.
The Learning Path
If you’re just starting out, try these challenges to put the finishing touch on those fine art photography lessons you paid so dearly for:
* Catch a wave – Go to a beach that’s popular with surfers and try to get the largest, clearest photo of a wave coming into shore that you can. This will exercise your timing and your patience. You didn’t think you’d be able to just snap this in five minutes, did you? You could stand there all day and come away with one good shot, if you’re lucky.
* Defy gravity – Catch a subject in mid-air or a “floating” kind of pose. You can try a model twirling about in a diaphanous gown with a wind machine keeping it all aloft, or simply catch a baseball in mid-pitch or a puppy leaping over an obstacle. This will exercise your composition skills, because you have to make the motion obvious without a speck of blurring.
* Dark shot – Shoot at night or interior, with a dim light source coming from a single direction. Have a moody subject posed next to a window by moonlight or a shiny object such as a glazed vase or a piece of jewelry lit with a low spot. Great for practicing your shutter management skills!
* Sunset portrait – Your challenge here is to get a model posed outdoors with the sunset sky making natural gradients down to the horizon, and have the subject and background come out clear and composed. This will exercise your color management. What would you pick for the model to wear in this scenario?
* Still life – Compose a scene from ordinary household objects and try to make them fascinating. Experiment with closeups, colored lighting, low angles, juxtaposition of objects, or muted shadows. This will build your scene creation skills.
Learn From the Masters
There’s a wealth of examples of fine art photography on the web. Cruise Flickr, Deviant Art, and Gawker to find some stunning compositions. Another good source is old magazines – such as the “Year in Photos” editions of Life magazine. Rolling Stone is another good rag to study for model subject photography, as their photographers have always striven to capture their famous subjects in the most candid and original ways.
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