Understanding Fine Art and Stock Photography

Stock photography and fine art photography are two different topics. The former is defined as the supply of photographs that have been licensed for defined uses. These are a cheaper and more convenient alternative to hiring a photographer and organizing a shoot. There is an agreement between the owner of the photograph and the buyer on how the image can be used. This is different from fine art photography. Photographs of this type are more comparable to paintings where each image or photograph is a work of art. As works of art, they are produced in limited quantities, more expensive and should not be altered even when purchased.  

Stock Photography

Stock photographs often depict a general topic. More general shots of landscapes, portraits, people, animals and so on are uploaded onto online directories where consumers can select and pay only for what they need. Much like a regular photo shoot, multiple shots of the same subject are taken. Being non-specific gives the consumer leeway in altering the images for their purpose.

Essentially, stock photographs are produced to be reproduced. Consumers pay for the licenses to use the images. Licenses such as royalty free (RF) and rights managed (RM) indicate the conditions for using the photographs. In a few cases, photographers give away their photographs for free in exchange for credit or recognition of their work

Factors that may affect the license type and pricing include the size or screen resolution, the industry where the image will be used, the number of times that the image can be reproduced, the area or territory and the duration of the use. With RM images the consumer may purchase for an exclusive or non-exclusive license while RF images are non-exclusive. Being non-exclusive gives the photographer the right to sell the same images to as many different consumers as he or she wants to.

Fine Art Photography

Fine art photography refers to a specific branch of photography where images are produced for more aesthetic purposes. Classifying a photograph as fine art is difficult as there is no standard factor, subjective similar to other forms of art. It is different from commercial photography as the latter is more concerned about promoting a product or service. Fine art photography is also different from documentary photographs as the latter are used to support a story or news.

Photographs of this type convey a higher level of intensity or emotion, presenting subjects in a different light. The elements are seen and appreciated for their form without promoting a specific brand or product. As such, art photographs can take a greater amount of time, money and effort to produce and get right. They can be found displayed in museums, art galleries and private collections.

In the case of stock photographs, the consumer pays for the rights to alter or reproduce the images bought from the photographers. With fine art photographs, consumers pay for the exact image. Much like an artwork, the value is retained or increases over time as long as the quality of the original is retained. With the limited quantity of fine art photographs produced, each image is more valuable and expensive as compared to stock photographs.