Fine Art Photography can be best distinguished from a mere photograph by the intent of the artist or concept behind the image. A snapshot versus a creative expression.
Out of all of the mediums of art, I believe photography is most accessible with the advent of the point and shoot camera, underwater cameras, disposable cameras and cell phone cameras; in our society everybody is a fine art photographer, or can be one; right? Not exactly, the main questions to distinguish fine art photography and photography to ask are;
Is this just another pretty picture or snapshot?
Does the image evoke something in you when you view it?
Does it answer a question for you?
Does it confront you?
Does it stir you?
Is it relatable?
All of the things fine art expresses can be expressed in a photograph as well. A painter uses a paintbrush, a sculptor uses clay; the medium of choice for a fine art photographer is a camera, a device that most people have. The difference is how does one express themselves with this tool?
That my dear friend is the difference between fine art photography and mere picture.