Not long ago, my husband and I attended a food and wine pairing event. Across the table from us sat a gallery owner I’d never met. Since I am always interested in networking, I asked if she carried photography. She said that she sometimes did, but sales were very poor. Potential buyers felt that they could take the photos themselves.
The next time I was in the neighborhood of the gallery, I stopped in to see the photos on display. The buyers were right! The photos on display looked like snapshots “straight out of the camera.”
So, what is the difference between a snapshot and a fine art photo? Several years ago, I took an image of a tool shed at the farm my family has owned for over 100 years. I was excited to present such an interesting subject in a gallery competition. It didn’t get a prize, but I did get some very valuable feedback on how to improve the image.
Next time we were at the farm, I spent a couple of hours photographing the same building. This time I used a tripod and moved a few items for a better composition. When I showed the new photo to a couple of professional photographers, they told me that the subject matter was interesting, but the photo had some issues.
Finally, I planned a trip just to re-photograph the tool shed. I brought flood lights on tripods so I would not need the light from the bright doorway on the left. I moved some items and got rid of the distracting bright green objects. Then I took many shots at different exposures. When I got home, I worked for hours blending the exposures for the final image. This one finally got the recognition it deserved. The full size image is here.
So why do photos in a fine art gallery command high prices? If they are good photos, the photographer has spent years developing the craft and has a great understanding of the subject, light and composition. The photographer then skillfully worked on the photo later in post processing to make it stand out from a “straight out of the camera” snapshot.