What are the Differences Between Contemporary Vintage Photography and Vintage Fine Art Photography?

What are the differences between contemporary vintage photography and vintage fine art photography? Which of these art forms offers the highest quality? The answers to these questions, and many more, will be explored in this article comparing contemporary vintage photography and vintage fine art photography.

The Subject

The term vintage here is referring to old or retro photographs. Usually, fine art photography refers to 20th century art photography; however, contemporary vintage photography is an emerging trend. The question of what constitutes fine art photography or vintage fine art photography is still up for debate. Typically, these kinds of images are taken with large-format cameras in black and white or sepia tones on photographic paper that have been developed over long periods of time.

The Process

In both contemporary vintage photography and vintage fine art photography, images are selected, modified (for example, color correction), retouched (using contemporary techniques to add an aged appearance), colorized, or otherwise edited. The finished product is a photo that looks like it’s from a bygone era—even if it wasn’t originally shot with vintage film.


Both vintage fine art photography and contemporary vintage photography involve old-fashioned film processing, but there’s one key difference between these two types of photography: With contemporary vintage photography, analog film is developed in digital-age chemistry. Modern film chemicals replace old-school developer to give a fine art photograph that retro look. This unique hybrid of modern technology with antiquated tools makes photos look both vintage and contemporary at once.

The Look

The defining characteristic of contemporary vintage photography is its use of digital tools to replicate a certain look. As explained by Joe Farace, contemporary vintage photography should be viewed as an umbrella term describing any type of photo that incorporates a visual style popularized in years past—such as black-and-white, soft focus, shallow depth of field, or film grain. Thanks to our advanced digital technology, anyone can mimic these styles on their computer.

If you want to explore contemporary vintage photography or vintage fine art photography, check out Martin Trailer Fine Art Photography.