You may have heard the term aesthetic photography thrown around by influencers or other artists. But what exactly does it mean? At the end of the day, we all want to take beautiful photos and influence our viewers somehow.
Most photography is made to evoke emotion. Whether it’s through beauty or thought, photos should make people think and feel even question. This article will cover everything you need to know about aesthetic photos or, in other words, how to create beautiful photos and personal style.
Table of Contents
- What is Aesthetic Photography?
- Why Aesthetics Matter in Photography?
- What’s the Difference between Style and Aesthetic?
- Gestalt Theory
- 13 Tips on How to take Aesthetic Pictures
- Ways to Improve Aesthetics
- Aesthetic Photography Books
What is Aesthetic Photography?
If you look up aesthetic in the dictionary, it is defined as “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.” So to create aesthetic pictures, there are certain elements you can add to your photos to make them more appealing to the human eye.
Aesthetic photography is all about how we create and analyze compositional elements, including tone, color, and contrast, to create an appealing or aesthetically pleasing image. Basically, it is the creation of beauty through photography.
Why Aesthetics Matter in Photography?
Not all photographs are beautiful. No matter what your photographic style or subject matter is, sometimes it just won’t be pretty. And it doesn’t always have to be eye-catching. But aesthetics in photography is all about beauty.
Now beauty can also be controversial, because as the old saying goes, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” So we may disagree on what beauty actually means, but in photography, there are a few key concepts that most photographers agree on when creating an aesthetic look. This is why aesthetic photography is important. It keeps the viewer wanting more, to keep looking, and to keep enjoying the image. It grabs and holds their attention.
For example, a landscape photographer shooting a mountain at sunrise with relaxing hues of pinks and oranges and a slight fog rolling through the hills over lush green mountains will keep the viewer hooked and maybe even earn the landscape photographer a photo sale.
What’s the Difference between Style and Aesthetic?
Aesthetic photography and style are based around the same ideas but with some key differences. Let’s break them down here.
- It relates more to the mechanics of camera settings behind how you shoot.
- The camera lenses your choose and your camera body.
- Where you place your focal point and how much depth of field you use.
- Whether you choose to shoot film or digital.
- Aesthetic pictures are more about what the viewer feels and what the photos look like.
- The personal style of always shooting the same genre or subject.
- Your editing process plays a key role here. Do you use certain effects in all aesthetic photos?
- Creativity and composition, such as purposely placing your subject in a certain position or using chosen horizontal lines, add more beauty to your images.
- The overall composition of your own work creates art forms or beautiful images.
- How you analyze images before and plan aesthetic qualities.
- Focusing on a subject choice to evoke an emotional response.
Gestalt theory talks about how the whole of anything is greater than its parts. This should be emphasized when thinking about aesthetic images. To create aesthetically pleasing images, you need to form your own sense of editing choices and composition to build the parts of certain photos to become beautiful.
13 Tips on How to take Aesthetic Pictures
To have a better understanding of aesthetic pictures, there are key elements you can include in your compositions. Here are a few things you should think about to draw attention to your photography and to keep the viewer’s eye hooked with eye-catching images.
1. Leading Lines
When you think of using leading lines, think of train tracks. When you see a set of train tracks, they lead off into the distance guiding the viewer’s eye into wherever they end. This is the point of leading lines. They are lines that lead your viewer throughout your image. They can be an assortment of things; many photographers use tree lines, a row of buildings, or even sidewalks to act as leading lines.
Check out our detailed article on how to use leading lines in photography composition.
Try to create a unique style for your subject matter. Aesthetics is all about beauty, but also many photographers become famous for their subject matter. Maybe you specialize in landscape photography, but only landscapes with beautiful tropical birds shot at sunset. Choose a subject’s style but take it a step further by choosing something beautiful that you photograph over and over. Viewers should be able to recognize you by your subject.
3. Notice Patterns
Patterns can be found everywhere in nature and manmade subjects. Taking photographs of patterns can add more beauty to different subjects. Great examples of patterns and textures in photography can be found in a local forest in ferns or rows of trees. If you are shooting in a city, look for the aesthetic photos and patterns in architecture or repeating windows in a building shot with the blue tones of the sky reflecting off of them. Try different styles of patterns until you create your own art form.
4. Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is one of the foundations of beautiful photography. The human eye prefers when a subject is a little to the left or the right of your images. Try never to place your subject directly in the center of your image. Always use the rule of thirds whenever possible. However, rules are made to be broken, so learn how to use them properly and then try breaking them to create aesthetic photography.
5. Golden Ratio
The golden ratio is a ratio of 1.618 to 1. For centuries artists such as Beethoven and Henri Cartier-Bresson have used it to create art forms, including music, photos, and paintings. You can find this ratio everywhere on the planet, including inside seashells and our own bodies. If you can find a way to work it into your images, you will have a more aesthetically pleasing image quality.
6. Change your Perspective
Street photographers are famous for changing perspectives in photography. We all see the world from the same angle and heights mostly. But if you can find ways to get higher or lower, you can create a better aesthetic image. Try shooting down from the top of a building. Or even laying down on your stomach and shooting a field of flowers as if you were an animal popping up out of a field. Changing your perspective will keep your viewer interested in your images.
Symmetry can be found anywhere if you keep your eyes open. Look for symmetry in nature, buildings, and even human faces. Photos with symmetry or dynamic symmetry can become a work of art through the simplicity of seeing two things next to one another.
Many photographers choose to keep their images as simple as possible. This may be as extreme as only have one subject on a blank canvas. Shot in black and white. You do not have to be this extreme, but you could look for more simplicity in your own images by adding or removing elements to develop your photography aesthetic.
Movement is a great way to draw the viewer’s attention in. They will want to follow the movement of your subject, and questions will arise in their head about what caused the movement in the first place. If you are working with a model, try having them move their clothing around. Such as wearing a dress and twirling. Or you could shoot a large piece of fabric floating through the air, the wind beneath it creating lots of movement. Get creative!
Playing with muted tones, bright colors, and contrast in your lighting is great for aesthetics. A photographer who has mastered aesthetic photography knows just how to place their lighting setup or what time of day to shoot natural light to create beautiful images. This will become second nature to you as well the more you shoot.
Use photo editing and the world around you to create beautiful colors in your photographic style. You may be attracted to the color blue, or maybe you enjoy black and white or grey photography. Whatever color you are attracted to, aim to add it to your photography aesthetic.
12. Depth of Field
The depth of field should always be kept in mind for photography aesthetics. Your depth of field is what’s in focus in your images. You may choose to blur everything but the human eye or keep everything in focus. How you choose your focus largely affects the beauty or the appeal of any photo. So think a lot about this before snapping your next work of art.
Try creating a frame within a frame when shooting. You can place your model inside a window frame or a frame of trees. Frames can be found all over nature and inside buildings. Keep your eyes open to find the best framing for your subject to accentuate its beauty.
Ways to Improve Aesthetics
Any photographer always has room to improve. We are all constantly learning and growing in our photography endeavors. Aesthetics in photographs may seem confusing at first, so here are some ways you can find your aesthetic style and better your photography today.
Social Sites for Photographers
Photography social media sites like Instagram, 500px, and Pinterest are full of photographers sharing a certain aesthetic to their work. By scrolling through their feeds, you may find yourself inspired to create your own style. These photographers have worked for years to harness the look of their images. Check out these photographers and study their aesthetics so you can find your own.
Museums are full of aesthetic inspiration. By exploring the art of others, you will be inspired to create your own art. Don’t be afraid to explore museums you may not normally visit, such as modern art museums or portrait galleries. Wander around different museums and take note of the kind of artwork you are attracted to. Bring a notebook and write down the name of the artist and what you like about their work. Then try to find ways to create a similar aesthetic into your photography images.
Join a local club that supports artists. If you live in a big city, this may be an easier find. If you live in a small suburb, create your own group! It is easier than ever to find your tribe by using the internet and connect with local artists. You may even consider creating a Facebook Group and inviting friends or other artists to chat over video if you live too far apart. Search museum websites for online events and meetups as well. The possibilities are endless.
If you want to improve the aesthetics of your photography, you must be open to constructive criticism. Reach out to photographers or artists that you admire and ask them to give you feedback on your own work. By listening to others, you will quickly adapt and grow your own aesthetics to create beautiful photographs.
Enter a Photography Competition
There are many photography contests constantly happening online, at local universities, museums, and photography groups. Many competitions are free to enter or only for a small fee. By submitting your photos to be judged, you will compare your work to others and find inspiration through the other contestants. It will also help you to grow confidence as a photographer who is still finding their own style.
Unique Editing Style
One of the top ways to develop your own aesthetic is through a unique editing style. Maybe you always up the highlights in your photographs, or maybe you prefer to darken the shadows. Maybe you always add a yellow hue to your images. There are a million different ways to make your post-processing unique. By adding a certain look to your photos, you will develop your own aesthetic.
Aesthetic Photography Books
If you are more of a visual learner, consider this list of books that will teach you everything you need to know about aesthetic photography. Every book was created by a different artist or photographer and will definitely help to inspire your next image.
This book delivers a fascinating history of how photography as an art was created. It also explores how artistic photography has continued to mature and transform the world around us. You will learn about significant works, social outcomes, and the practice of aesthetic photography throughout history. Robert Hirsch keeps readers glued to the pages of this book through his concise and exciting writing. Learn about journalism and the role of social media in aesthetic photography today.
This short and engaging book is designed for beginners and advanced photographer students. You will explore how to give and receive constructive criticism. It is clear and offers excellent vocabulary to use when exploring photography and learning how to provide feedback without hurting feelings. Constructive criticism is all about learning and growing, and this book will help you do just that.
This is an essential guide for aesthetic photography. This hardback book by Charlotte Cotton brings together an extensive work of contemporary art photography. Explore creations by many different artists with many different backgrounds, including the works of Isa Genzken, Sherrie Levine, Florian Maier-Aichen, and Walead Beshty. Every image is different and thought-provoking. Discover your own aesthetics through every photo.
This book was originally published in 1973 and contains a beautiful collection of photographs with text explaining why they matter. Essentially it is a picture book that creates a visual medium to help you understand aesthetics in photography. Every image is an excellent example of beauty and the historical development of photography. Enjoy works by Cameron, O’Sullivan, Atget, Stieglitz, Steichen, and Cartier-Bresson. Some of the photographs are well-known classics, while others may be new to you but well worth looking at to gain a solid understanding of how to find the art in photography.
This book was written by John Szarkowski and is an introduction to the visual language of images. The writing and images skillfully explain the history of modern art photography. The book also explores why we think about photography the way we do in today’s society.
We hope you enjoyed this article about aesthetic photography! As you read above, there are many ways to add beauty to your work as a photographer. All photographs have a story to tell, so why not tell that story in a beautiful way? By adding aesthetics to your images, you are not only improving them, but you are also finding ways to challenge yourself as an artist and a photographer. The more you work on adding aesthetics to every image, the more confident you will become.
If you are still looking for other ways to improve and challenge yourself, check out our online courses by our expert staff. The 365 Course will challenge you daily in bite-sized lessons by Kevin. While Taya will teach you how to take your very own artistic self-portraits. Whether you want to learn the technical aspects of photography or how to take better photos of yourself and those around you, there is something for everyone!