A Discussion of Painterly Techniques in Photography and How It Can Improve Your Work

Some photos look like paintings. Not because they have some dreadful filter or effect applied, but because their use of light and composition is ethereal. In this video, Vinny Le Pes breaks down what is happening in these incredible images.

While I think a lot of the theory going in to photography teachings is superfluous and sometimes tenuous, great images with that painterly quality usually share similarities. These similarities are invariably rules of composition and light seen in traditional art predating the camera, and so it's worth learning how you can apply them to your own work.

Vinny Le Pes is a creative with a diverse interest in the arts, however his channel was brought to my attention through YouTube's recommended viewing with the above video. A quick search of Fstoppers shows we've featured him twice before a few years ago, interestingly on the same topic as I am today: painterly photography. In fact, he has a whole playlist dedicated to the discussion and some painterly photographers you should follow.

This is an interesting video as part of a larger discussion on the topic and an area I feel I need to be more knowledgeable in. Vinny Le Pes's YouTube channel is still small — despite its great content — so if like me you enjoyed what you saw, subscribe to him and throw a like on the video.

Which painterly photography techniques do you employ in your work? Are there any painterly photographers you would recommend?

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Eli Dreyfuss's picture

What an incredible and inspiring video. WOw. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, Eli! 🍻

Ryan Davis's picture

I've been following this guy for a while. I wish he would make more videos.

Thanks, Ryan! I’ve been quiet for a while but working on some bigger aspirations to make a documentary exploring our personal connection with photography. I’ll be back to YouTube again for sure and I have a lot more I’ve learned about these topics since making this series to share and discuss as soon as I’m back! 🍻

Tom Nelson's picture

Thanks for a very thought-provoking video. Your mention of shooting through a textured surface brings up the painterly quality of "lost and found edges." The painter intentionally allows some of the subject's edge to blend with the background paint to direct the focus of the painting. Your eye goes to the areas of more contrast. Related to this is the idea that the subject should have the most tonal contrast in the scene. You can also talk about the use of negative space.

These are some great points, Tom, thank you! I admit I wasn’t familiar with the term “lost and found edges”, but it is an intriguing element to consider in photography. It also illustrates well the effect I briefly mentioned of putting more detail and contrast on the subject. (At least I think that point made it in, it’s been a while and I cut a lot of material that was making each video 45 minutes long 😉) This topic is so deep and wide I could probably fill a YouTube channel exploring it, haha. Cheers! 🍻

Daniel Medley's picture


Thank you, Daniel!

Robert, thank you so much for the thoughtful write up and for sharing my work here! I hope people find some useful perspective through this series, I certainly did when I was researching it. If anyone has any questions or wants to share anything with me, I’m an open door 🍻