Many will say photography as an art, still others will argue it’s a skill trade and not art — personally, professional photography is a genre in the art forms and if anyone disagrees, then I’ll ask one simple question, “Can you create a masterpiece with a pipe wrench?”

Photography as Art

Photography is a form of art that is separated in genres by it’s art form.

Wikipedia states “the word ‘photography’ was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), ‘light’ and γραφή (graphé) ‘representation by means of lines’ or ‘drawing,’ together meaning ‘drawing with light.”

I remember when I worked on my Bachelors’ Degree in Communication, I had to take an Art 101 college course at the University of Texas, San Antonio, as part of the core courses to meet minimum graduation requirements. In that art class we were taught the basics of drawing and briefly studied photography. Photography was an entire chapter in our textbook — so if university textbooks recognize photography worthy of inclusion when it comes to art, I’d argue photography is an art form.

Pictures vs. Photographs

While photography is at its all-time high when it comes to popularity thanks to technology, social media and smartphones, the ability to take a photograph isn’t something everyone can do, though anyone can take pictures. The ability to capture a photograph requires comprehension, communication and creativity.

It’s not uncommon for me at a lecture, since my lectures are normally for adults, to distinguish the difference in pictures vs. photographs with the analogy of sex vs. making love. I’ll usually ask the audience, “Is there anyone here who doesn’t like sex?”

I can’t recall ever seeing a hand go up, then I follow with, “We all like sex, even married couples like sex, nothing wrong with that, but how often do you make love?” Making love is like a photograph, it comes with passion and often spontaneity, sex only requires participation and is often planned, like a selfiepicture. Anyone can take pictures even with a disposable camera, but not many people can create photographs.

Capturing the Beauty of Life

Photography is the art of being able to capture the inner- and outer-beauty of life at a specific moment in time. When it comes to photographing people, it’s a marriage of the minds between the photographer and the subject that often leads to the perfect smile, the corners of the lips in harmony with the corners of the eyes.

Objective and Subjective

There are many genres in the field of photography, from fine art to photojournalism, on down to commercial, portraiture, wedding, fashion, etc., and all the genres of photography require two tools to begin the process to create a photograph, a capture and an optical device. What separates the genres of photography is whether the intended result is objective or subjective, though it’s not uncommon to find overlaps between the genres, such as fine art fashion photography.

Objective photography is based on capturing reality at the exact moment a photographer sees it, like on spot news in photojournalism, whereas subjective photography is normally based on a concept or artist’s vision where reality is altered or reconstructed to the artist’s photographic style, like an environmental portrait or even a glamour photograph.

Photography as Art

This photo is an objective concept interpreted with subjective thoughts.

It’s Not About the Gear

While there are specific types of photographic gear certain photographers need, for example in forensic or underwater photography, photography in general is not about the gear, it’s about the photographer’s ability to see the light, imagine the result, and execute the capture to confirm it.

In Conclusion

A photographer must see light, and great photographers can actually feel the qualities of light, plus photography is about the powers of observation to know what to see, how to see it, and how to capture it with precision at a given moment. Photography as an art is about creating photographs, not taking just taking pictures, anyone can do and selfies are the popular proof of pictures today.


Rolando Gomez is a professional photographer and author of five photography books that has traveled to 45 countries for assignments. The former soldier and U.S. Army combat photographer has taught hundreds of photography workshops for almost two decades. A 2016, 2017 and 2018 Top Writer for Quora, his partial credits include Newsweek, Parade, Playboy, Rangefinder, Maxim, Rangefinder, New York Times, Stars & Stripes, and various other publications.
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