Fine Art Wedding Photography – is it your style? Fine art wedding photography is damn difficult to get your head around. It’s hard to figure out how to define it. The thing is; when you see it – you will know you’ve found it.
Traditionally Fine Art would a piece of artwork that has some serious thought gone into it. The lighting, the composition, the structure, the colour balance, the texture, the brush strokes (or pen/pastel strokes). Photography came along and changed a lot of that; especially with the introduction of social media and photoshop!
So – Fine Art Wedding Photography. Most of the time this is just a marketing phrase that photographers will use to put themselves into a ‘box’ of some sorts and to try and give you an idea of what they actually do. It’s used to differentiate themselves from the myriad of other wedding photography styles out there. Styles like “Shabby Chic” (never figured that one out), Photojournalist, Candid, Natural, Traditional, the much overused Vintage (one ever photographed one true vintage wedding), Documentary, Contemporary, Epic (lots of drama in this style) and a few others out there.
For me, the best signifier of a “Fine Art Wedding Photographer” is this:
“Would you buy an expensive print, frame it and put it on your wall if it wasn’t from a wedding you attended?”
i.e. the image is strong enough to be a piece of artwork in itself.
Fine Art Wedding Photography – Is it consistent?
The reason I say this is that there are not many wedding photographers around the world who are pure consistent fine art wedding photographers. i.e everything they produce is a work of art strong enough to be on anybody’s wall as in the example above. (in fact, I’m sort of coming to the belief that these labels wedding photographers apply to themselves are just a bunch of marketing BS in the main.)
The chances are the wedding photographer you like will produce some fine art wedding photographs. They will also in all likelihood produce some great documentary, photojournalistic, candid, natural, traditional, natural, contemporary, shabby chic (at the right wedding) and vintage (again at the right wedding!) and occasionally epic wedding photography.
It’s not about the Post Processing (or Photoshop)
Again – this is one of those things that many wedding photographers get caught up in. They take a great image (of whatever style), do some post processing / Adobe Photoshop work and call it “fine art”. The Photoshop work is probably to add a filter that washes out the colours a little bit. It’s a simple thing to do – it’s called a curves layer.
Adding this curves layer DOES NOT TURN A PHOTOGRAPH INTO FINE ART. (capitals are intentional). It just washes the colours (or in this case the blacks & white) out.
Matt curves layer added in photoshop
Original image converted to Black & White
Why the washed out matt effect?
This comes from attempting to emulate the printing of fine art photography. When you pay for a real fine art image it’s printed onto fine art paper. Fine art paper isn’t coated with anything – so the ink soaks in to give a washed out effect. Fine art paper is expensive – it’s expensive to make.
A very few fine art papers allow the use of photo black ink. There are some exceptions to this rule though.
“Fine art papers do not need to be 100% cotton based. They can be 100% alpha-cellulose (wood pulp); Hahnemühle German Etching 310 is an example of an alpha-cellulose based fine art paper. There are Japanese papers which are made of Kenaf fibre. There are Japanese papers which contain Mulberry fibres. Hahnemühle has papers with Bamboo and Sugar Cane content.”
Which is great if you print onto fine art paper. However, 90% of wedding photographers will add a curves layer to give a washed out effect and then print onto glossy paper (if they print at all). I can probably say that 99% of clients would print on either matte of glossy paper as they wouldn’t realise the difference.