What is Fine Art Photography?

Mike Wardynski
6 min readAug 8, 2021


We encounter thousands of images every single day, so choosing the right one to hang on your wall is a very important decision. It’s a choice that you will live with for a very long time. So what is fine art photography? Fine art photography is more than just an image. It is the culmination of a vision, precise processing, quality materials and craftsmanship. The end result is a museum quality piece of art that will last a lifetime. In short, photography becomes fine art when a creative vision is carried out from start to finish.

Traditional photography that you see in news paper articles and magazines is about documenting what the camera sees and attempts to be as true to reality as possible. Fine Art Photography is about documenting what the artist sees and is open to interpretation. Ansel Adams said “ Art implies control of reality, for reality itself possesses no sense of the aesthetic. Photography becomes art when certain controls are applied.

History of Fine Art Photography

Photography was not always seen as art. At the turn of the 19th century photography was accepted as a minor art but was not regarded in the same fashion as paintings and drawings by museums. Alfred Steglitz and Edward Steichen were highly instrumental in advancing photography into the mainstream art world.

Positioning himself at the top of early photographic publications, Steglitz was given a voice to advocate for fine art photography. The lines between photography and other arts began to merge when modern photographers began to alter their photographs during the capture and printing process to create a piece of art that was not simply derived from a negative. This form of photographic manipulation became known as pictorialism. Steglitz further advanced fine art photography when helped launch the Camera Notes magazine in 1897. Camera Notes published articles on art and esthetics that were featured next to works created by the leading photographers of that time.

Modern Fine Art Photography

In the early 1930’s Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams continued to help shape modern fine art photography when they created the f/64 club. The club consisted of seven photographers who sought to bring straight photography into the mainstream art scene. Straight photography did not rely on soft focus lenses or image distorting techniques. The the f/64 club, the artist’s vision is what makes photography art, not the technique or process. While the f/64 club disbanded in 1935 due to the economic woes of the great depression, many of its members continued the club’s mission and became some of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Today Fine art photography is a widely accepted art form across the globe. This article will help inform art buyers of the many nuances that go into creating high quality prints. I’ll discuss substrates, limited editions and where to buy your prints.

Fine art papers and Substrates

A substrate is any material that can be printed on. Common substrates include paper, metal, canvas, acrylic and more. Not all substrates are created equally though. This is especially true when it comes to paper prints. There are many budget printers who offer incredibly cheap prices but they also use incredibly cheap substrates that will fade much quicker and not last nearly as long as a fine art print.

Beware of any photographer who is selling their work for a price that seems too good to be true. These photographers use the cheapest materials available which is cheating the art buyer out of a quality product. Unfortunately, some of these photographers call their work fine art even though they are using subpar materials. The biggest indicator of a cheap print material is a cheap asking price. High quality substrates are very expensive which is why fine art prints come with a much higher price tag.

Limited edition prints add value to your purchase.

Limited edition prints ensure that the value of your purchase will not only live on but appreciate with age. How would you feel if you paid top dollar for a quality piece of original artwork only to find out that the artists was offering the same print on poster paper for a fraction of the price? I highly encourage purchasing limited edition prints over non edition prints. You might spend a little more during on your purchase but you will have a piece of art that is truly unique. All of the prints on WardynskiPhoto.com are for sale in strict limited editions of 100 or less.

The difference between Instagram and fine art prints.

There are a lot of “pretty pictures” online but many of them have been created using presets and automatic filters which can degrade the integrity of the original photos. Sure, these photos often look great on the screen of an iPhone but what about when they are blown up to a 60" print? Halos, artifacts, and chromatic aberrations are all signs that a photo was not processed correctly. Fine art photographers take the time to manually process their images, often times spending many hours fine tuning an image so that it is absolutely perfect. A thorough inspection of every detail is performed before the final piece of wall art is created. Buying a print from a photographer’s online gallery or in person will almost always result in higher quality art

What are the best fine art prints available?

There are many great substrates available today but Lumachrome Tru-Life acrylic prints offer a viewing experience that is superior to any other. When lit properly, Lumachrome prints almost look backlit or 3D. These prints are custom hand crafted works of art. The image is first printed on RC Paper before it is mounted to high quality and UV resistant acrylic glass resulting in the highest quality print available.

How much should fine art photography cost?

Most people who purchase fine art photography are looking for a showpiece in their home. Showpieces are usually 48" or larger in order to fill a significant amount of wall space and to grab the attention of anyone who enters the room. A professionally framed 48" print can ranger from $2,800 on the low end to well over $6,000 on the high end. Since I do not have to pay a premium for a brick and mortar gallery space and I oversee the print and framing process I am able to offer my client high end works of art for a fair price.

Where to purchase quality wall art?

Art galleries are an obvious choice for those who are looking to define a room with a show piece. While galleries allow buyers to see works of art in person, they often have large operating costs which means that art buyers are charged a premium when they make a purchase. Purchasing from an online gallery will save you money since the lack of overhead costs can be passed down directly to the buyer.

Art fairs are another great option for art buyers. Art fairs are held all over the country and world. Some are geared towards crafts while other are designed for high end artist who make a living creating and selling their work. If you’re planning on traveling to an art fair, I suggest doing your research and look for a high end art fair.

See my Fine Art Collection in Santa Fe New Mexico

If you are visiting Santa Fe or happen to live in the area, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for a private showing of my current home collection. I have a rotating assortment of prints in my home that I invite collectors to come and browse so they can experience my artwork in person. While I do not have a brick and mortar gallery, my home functions as one. Contact me if you’d like to make an appoint to come see my work in person. I love chatting with potential collectors and would love to have you over for a showing. The tea is on me! Click here to view my gallery online.

Originally published at https://www.wardynskiphoto.com.



Mike Wardynski

Professional landscape photographer and instructor with a passion for preserving mother earth.