Ah the perpetual questions of photography’s place in the art world, which started with the birth of photography 150 or so ago. Is photography art? Is all photographer art? What makes some photography art and other photography not art?
Most importantly IS MY PHOTOGRAPHY ART? Or which of my photograph are considered art and others simply snapshots?
For me the argument has been settled long ago when photographer’s began to be shown at art shows in galleries and museums and collectors began collecting photographs as fine art.
Photography is an accepted fine art medium. All major art museums have photography collections. Photographers has been granted major retrospective at MOMA, The Tate Modern and other predominate museums. Photography is taught as a fine art medium in art schools around the world.
But certainly not every photograph is considered art. To me the difference is the intent of the photographer. The artist uses photography to create a specific vision they wish to communicate with the world. This is different than a randomly shot snapshot. The intent is to create a single image or series of images that explore an idea.
This is why the modern art world ignores Peter Lik and no major museum has his work in their collections. He creates beautifully rendered postcard images but there is no meaning or intent behind them other than to create a pretty picture. Today’s museums collect art which explores ideas beyond simple beauty. So photography that explores ideas is considered fine art while a beautifully shot landscape basically falls into the realm of craft.
When is photography art? When it pushes the boundaries, when it shows us a new way of seeing, when it exposes a truth, when it explores an idea, when it pushes us out of our comfort zone, when it shows us how to see anew.
Back in the day I was the Director of Market Research at BYTE magazine. My job was to prove the value of our readership for the ad sales staff. I used to cringe when the young, inexperienced sales people used to come back to the publisher with some truly awful deals that would basically be giving away ad space. Any fool can give things away for less than their value. A seasoned professional or informed amateur recognizes the value of their work and the market needs.
Why do people give away their photographs and art?
The global art market achieved total sales of $63.8 billion in 2015. People want to buy art and photography for their home and office. They need to purchase art and photography for commercial purposes such as advertising, web pages, brochures, magazines, books, etc yet some people continue to give away their artwork and photographs or seriously undervalue their work.
Why is this? I can think of five reasons:
Ignorance – They don’t understand the value of images in today’s marketplace and don’t realize the value of what they have. I recently sold an image for $360 profit a friend gave me. He didn’t understand the value of the image he had and I offered to sell it for him. Images have value in the fine art market and commercial market. It is just a matter of realizing it.
Exposure – Photographers and artists are often under the impression that giving away their images will somehow lead to future sales or recognition. The problem is that millions of images are given away every day on social media and there isn’t enough “exposure” to go around. What’s the value of this exposure? Perhaps 1 cent in today’s market. People value what they pay for – no one brags about art they got for free. And no one who has gotten something for free is going to pay for it the next time. They’ll just look for another free source the next time. And the value of someone looking for freebies as a “collector” is worthless. You want to cultivate a follow of people who value what you are offering, not people looking for freebies.
They are amateurs or hobbyists – The amateur or hobbyist is not looking to make a living on their photography or artwork. They simply enjoy producing images for fun and are happy enough for others to look at their images. They don’t want to the pressure of having to ask for money and would rather just give away their images. They live for likes and shares. The problem with this mindset is that it brings down the over all market and prevents the amateur or hobbyist from ever becoming a professional. After being conditioned with instant success from likes and shares of their freebies, they are unprepared with standing up for the true value of their work and asking for money for their time, skill and effort. The advanced amateur or hobbyist is setting themselves up for being asked to shoot weddings, soccer games, portraits for free.
They want to build up a portfolio – This might be the best reason to actually giving away services for free. If you need to create a portfolio and need access to models or locations or maybe even a good project idea. But there is no reason to give your time and effort for nothing. Barter and exchange services instead. Trade headshots for modeling time. Create a video for a local business in exchange to some free time at the gym or on the massage table. Don’t work for free, instead exchange one valuable service for another.
They don’t know how easy it is to take their goods to market – Some artists and photographers simple don’t know how easy it is to participate in the art and photography markets. In the old days perhaps the only way to sell your art and photography was to take your portfolio around to galleries or sell directly to the public. But with the Internet there are countless markets amateurs and professional photographers and artists can participate . Stock agencies cater to professional image buyers and online galleries and print on demand sites sell directly to the public. I explain how to sell via POD sites in these blog posts:
Eileen Rafferty examines major trends happening in the medium today and discuss the key innovators working with these techniques as well as past photographers and artists who used these techniques in the past.
Winter is a great time to get out and explore the beautiful landscape especially if you are lucky enough to live in an area that gets great snow falls. Of course it all depend on if you can actually get out of the house and if the wife takes the four wheel drive car.
Fortunately I live within walking distance to two great old red New England barns as well as the picturesque Hanover Center with its majestic white classic New England church.
When we can get out and play in the snow we like to head to a beautiful forest property where the owners grow trees, cut firewood and maintain a incredible cross country ski trails on the site of an old girl scout camp.
Or if we have more time we like to head up to Stowe, Vermont and ski on the Trapp Family (yes the same Von Trapp’s from “The Sound of Music”) ski trails. They have a great network of trails and a cool old log cabin on the way up the mountain that serves soups and sandwiches.
Another neat building on the property is this old stone chapel in the woods. The story goes that Verner Von Trapp built the “Chapel in the Woods” on a hillside behind the family home, in thanksgiving for his safe return from wartime service.
We also live near Dartmouth College which presents good opportunities for photographs.
But as far as getting winter shots in the middle of a snow storm with the roads full of snow and the wind whipping around, its best to set out on foot which is why my neighbor’s barn is such a good subject.
I avoid being on the roads when its snowing if I can but this shot was taken on Christmas Eve when we were heading back home from Stowe, Vermont. I just had to find a spot to pull over and take a picture of this scene with horses, a small red barn and of course a snow flurry.
How to Succeed in Fine Art Photography with Brooke Shaden plus further reading.
“Anyone can become a fine art photographer, but not everyone can become a gallery-represented artist.”
Talent alone will not bring you recognition as a fine art photographer. For that, you need exposure to collectors and museums. Galleries can give you that exposure, but first you need an effective marketing plan to reach the galleries. You will find that plan in From Photographer to Gallery Artist.
Author Kara Lane conducted hundreds of hours of research, and contacted over sixty galleries, to find the best strategies for getting your fine art photography into galleries. Now she is sharing the secrets she discovered with you.
In this complete guide to finding gallery representation, you will learn:
The criteria galleries use to evaluate fine art photography
Three primary resources for identifying the best galleries for you
The tools you need to showcase your images and experience
Six major marketing strategies for attracting gallery representation
Key issues to discuss with galleries before agreeing to representation
How eight famous fine art photographers achieved their success
Self-assessment questions to help clarify what you want from your life and art
Lists of recommended portfolio review events, art fairs, juried shows and competitions, art magazines and blogs, artist websites, and other resources to help you become a gallery-represented fine art photographer
With your talent, effort, and persistence…and the research and marketing strategies in From Photographer to Gallery Artist…you can achieve gallery representation!
Did you know? Fine Art Photography – Known also as “photographic art“, “artistic photography” and so on, the term “fine art photography” has no universally agreed meaning or definition: rather, it refers to an imprecise category of photographs, created in accordance with the creative vision of the cameraman.
“Fine art is about an idea, a message, or an emotion. The artist has something that they want to have conveyed in their work.
That idea or message may be something small, a single word such as abandon, or it may be a whole statement, like exploring the way the moon affects the tides. It is a start. It is like a hypothesis.”
In recent years as the field of photography has exploded, many photographers consider selling their work to make a profit and to help defray the high costs of equipment. But, many photographers don’t have the business and marketing knowledge required to successfully sell fine art photographs; and many of those who have tried have been met with disappointment. Until now, little information of value has been available.
In Marketing Fine Art Photography, Alain Briot offers practical, up-to-date and field-tested marketing techniques from the viewpoint of a fine art landscape photographer who earns a living from the sale of his fine art prints.
Briot teaches that by taking control of the selling process, you can increase your profits and, ultimately, direct your own destiny. Briot’s approach is based on offering quality not quantity; and offering something unique, rather than something that is mass-produced. Though directed toward selling fine art, this method can be applied to other products.
After a series of trials and errors, Briot devised a marketing system that allowed him to get out of debt, pay for a state-of-the-art studio, and purchase his first home, all from the sale of his photography. Briot has taught fine art photography marketing to numerous students in seminars, through one-on-one consulting, and through his Marketing Mastery tutorial DVD.
Defining fine art photography
Wholesale, retail, and consignment
Knowing your customer
Where to sell and how to price fine art
Fundamentals of marketing and salesmanship
Profitability and honesty in business
Packing and shipping fine art
Common marketing mistakes
The unique selling proposition (USP)
The market for photography is $10 billion dollars in the United States and is expect to grow at a rate of 1.8 percent annually.
Still images and video are needed more than ever in the digital age in portraits, business promotion, product photography, food photography, event photography and editorial photography to illustrate articles, news sources and websites. While the costs of photographer and the fees paid to photographers have decreased due to easier to use and process digital photography the need for images is always increasing.
The Photography industry has experienced several changes as digital cameras and post-production technologies have increasingly affected operators. While photographers are benefiting from the changes by increasing their efficiency and availability, consumers are now able to take professional-quality images without the need of a specialist.
Revenue is expected to improve slightly in the next five years as photographer focus on niche markets, such as events, sports and church directory photography.
Common industry services include school and family portraits, special events photography and sports’ photography. As consumers make up the largest buyers of these services, photography studios tend to be concentrated in densely populated areas.
Cities, in addition to being densely populated, have the largest amount of business activity. This leads industry establishments that focus on commercial and industrial photography to also concentrate in densely populated areas although the web allows photographers to find International and Domestic markets.
Fine art photographs are not always suitable for stock images and conversely not all stock images make great fine art photographs.
Stock photographs need to be useful for the business buyers/designers. They need copyspace, they need images that will illustrate the products and services they are selling or support the editorial in a magazine or on a blog.
A stock portfolio needs to be diverse, constantly updated and have a very large number of unique images to get noticed. If you think you’ll upload 40 images and then kick back and watch the money flow in, you will be disappointed.
3 – Event Photography – Capturing images for an event such as a wedding, party, club, or special occasion is a great way to make money with your camera. Even though everyone has a camera these days on their smart phone, smart people and people with money to spend on the good things in life know that it better to leave important things like capturing the event in pictures to the pros with the good equipment. The pro might be the only one not drunk and certainly the only one in the room fully concentrated on getting the job done.
4. Portraits – From Headshots to Mugshots – the ability to photograph people well is the ticket to success. Landscapes are for the hobbyists and amateurs. Professionally produced portaits are money in the bank for the professional photographer. Learn how to make people look good and you will have a successful photography business.
I license some of my images as royalty free via Shutterstock. A few stand out performers are listed below. The common theme seems to be food and eating, although some of the more popular image include dogs and landscapes.
This top down or flat lay image an overflowing bowl of yellow, orange and white Halloween candy corn over a wooden background with copy space has been downloaded over 350 times!
This photograph of a delicious breakfast sandwich of bagel, bacon, egg and cheese on a white plate is so tempting that its been licensed for use over 348 times making it my second best performing image in my Shutterstock portfolio.
This shot of a cute little dog wearing a Halloween mask in the middle of a Halloween party came about from a buyer’s request for a shot of a Halloween party. I actually made this scene up on my deck as the lighting outside was a perfect diffused lighting – cloudy days can’t be beat for creating a giant softbox!
A hiker looking down on Yellowstone National Park’s Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. This landscape photograph has been licensed 184+ times.
And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker”
— so God made a Farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board”
— so God made a Farmer.
“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild; somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies, then tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it”
— so God made a Farmer.
God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt, and watch it die, then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps; who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then pain’n from tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours”
— so God made a Farmer.
God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds, and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place
— so God made a Farmer.
God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark.”
It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners; somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church; somebody who would bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh, and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says that he wants to spend his life “doing what dad does”
— so God made a Farmer.
Paul Harvey, ‘So God Made a Farmer Speech’ to the FFA delivered November 1978, Kansas City, MO.
Food styling is the art of arranging food so that it looks tasty and fresh. This is important in a number of situations, particularly when the food is being photographed. For instance, the pictures of food that you see in cook books, magazines, advertisements, and menus have been styled.
Recommended book:Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera
Behind every mouth-watering image of food is a dedicated food stylist whose job it is to consider, plan, and perfect every detail from the curve of an apple stem to the fan of a shrimp tail. In Food Styling, master stylist Delores Custer presents the definitive reference in the field—complete with detailed information on essential tools and useful equipment, step-by-step guidance on achieving the perfect shot, and a wealth of tried-and-true techniques for everything from voluminous frosting to mile-high sandwiches. Based on her thirty years of experience styling for advertising, magazines, books, television, and film, Custer shares her expert guidance on how to achieve stunning visual perfection for all media.
What is a food stylist? – A food stylist is a culinary professional whose job is to prepare food for photography, video or film. Making food photogenic is no easy task, and the best food stylists come to the job armed with an array of techniques to make meals look their best – even if it means replacing pancake syrup with 30-weight motor oil.