The origins of the pictorial photography genre lie back in the early 20th century when photographers tried to incorporate the effects achieved by painters into their images. All sorts of techniques were tried to simulate the work of skilled artists. Among these were smearing camera lenses with vaseline to achieve a soft-focus effect, the use of filters of various types, and countless darkroom procedures and tricks.
The advent of digital photography, and the arrival of image-manipulation software such as Photoshop, has vastly expanded the possibilities and and techniques available. A click of a mouse button can now produce "watercolour" effects, posterization etc etc.
The principal objective of a pictorial photographer is to create an aesthetically pleasing, eye catching image. The image does not have to represent the reality of the world, neither must it be divorced from it. It just has to have wide appeal as a consequence of pleasing the eye of the viewer.
A wide-open definition such as this is hardly a definition at all. Indeed, pictorial images can be found in every genre of photography. A pictorial photographer is skilled at finding ways to portray subjects in the most interesting and pleasing manner, but the subjects may be human, landscapes, wildlife or almost anything else. Nevertheless, a good pictorial image is difficult to achieve. It is the result of hard work, skill ans long experience. Excellent images are not created accidentally. Lighting, exposure, angle of view, composition, depth of field and choice of subject all play a vital part..
The pictorial genre is not easy to define or handle because it inevitably overlaps almost all other genres. A pictorial image may also be categorized as a landscape, a sports image or a portrait. All good glamour images might reasonably be described as pictorial although several other categorizations might also be valid.