Is Photography Art? The Visual Fine Art Explained

Is Photography Art? The Visual Fine Art Explained

So you read the title, and I know what you're thinking. As a photographer you might shout: "Of course photography is art!"

But, as surprising as it might sound, there's a bit of a debate on this front. After all, photography has only been around for a few hundred years, as opposed to other arts. 

With that in mind, this article will address the question of “is photography art?”, as well as provide some insight into both sides of the aisle.

Is Photography Art?

  1. What is art?
  2. Is Photography Considered Art?
  3. Considering Technical Skill
  4. Is Photography a Fine Art?
  5. Other Ways to Define Photography

What is art?

It's important to understand the nature of art before we dive into the question: is photography art? 

Which, while that seems like a simple task, the subjectivity of art can make defining it surprisingly difficult. Art means many different things to many different people.

Fortunately, for the sake of simplicity, we'll be using a few dictionary definitions. 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”

Or, we can refer to the Merriam Webster definition, which states that art is the "conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects."

Is Photography Art - What is Fine Art Photography - Landscape

With these definitions in mind, art is essentially a human activity used to express anything from technical proficiency, beauty, emotional power, or conceptual ideas.

Again, it’s important to note the limitations of these definitions, as art is incredibly subjective. However, it’s a good way to dive into what makes photography an art.

Is photography considered art?

Now that we’ve defined art, the question remains: Is photography art? Well, according to the definitions, yes. There’s tons of artistic value in photography, from expressions of skill to boundless imagination. In this way, it’s hard no to answer yes to the question of “is photography art"

Is Photography a Fine Art - Visual Art - Sunset

A skilled photographer can also evoke profound emotion in their photos. Take the example above. Even though this scene might appear to be a simple image of a man sitting on a bench, a skilled photographer can turn it into something more. You can feel the contemplation, and even loneliness in that image.

Plus, while the nature of aesthetics is a bit more complicated, plenty of people use photography to decorate their homes, or the walls of museums. In that way, photography serves the purpose of being an aesthetic object that can be consumed and interpreted by the viewer. 

Considering Technical Skill

Is Photography Art - What is Photography - Visual Art Form

Someone's willingness to define photography as art can also depend on the technical skill involved. While anyone can snap pictures and call themselves a photographer, does that make them one? What about someone who takes a picture of a painting?

In reality, subjectively artistic photography requires technique. There are so many things that go into a photographer's work. Photographers have to consider the photography composition rules of their subject, aperture, shutter speed, etc. All of these factors can have a profound effect on the image. 

On top of that, there are hundreds of techniques to learn and master. Just as a painter knows to work from the background to the foreground, a photographer understands the importance of the rule of thirds

In this way, the question of "is photography art?" can partially be answered by the presence of technical skill.

Is Photography a Fine Art?

Is Photography Art - What is Fine Art Photography

You might be wondering, is photography a fine art? And, if the answer is yes, what is fine art photography?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, fine art is “visual art whose products are to be appreciated primarily or solely for their imaginative, aesthetic, or intellectual content.”

Well, the image above says it all. It was taken during the Korean War, and exemplifies the idea of photography as fine art. You can feel the emotion on the soldier's face, as well as the profoundness of the situation. 

Photography - Art or Craft?

So it’s pretty clear, right? Photography is an art. However, that doesn’t mean photography can’t fit into other categories as well. Many people have asked, “Is photography an art or craft?”

To which our answer would be, why can’t it be both? 

A craft is a skill that involves making things by hand, which can also be applied to photography. 

Additionally, in many ways photography can also be defined as a science. Just think about it, the process of processing light into an image is incredibly scientific!

Up Next: Best Photography Techniques 

Now that you have an answer to the question: is photography art?, you’ll be excited to know that there’s so much more you can learn. 

From the best camera bags to ambient lighting techniques, we’ve got you covered.

So what are you waiting for? Check out our article on the best photography techniques, or if you’re looking for a great camera bag, we have that too. The Voyager is lightweight, spacious, and even water-resistant. It even has an anti-theft clamshell opening back to make packing easy and to keep your gear safe!

Up Next: Best Photography Techniques →

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