Five Things Painters Do That Photographers Should Be Doing Too

The best creatives take inspiration from areas other than the discipline they are working in, and photographers should be no different. Have you ever thought about borrowing from the practices used by painters? There's a lot we could learn from these great masters.

Back once more with another fascinating discussion on the topic of creative crossovers is Vinny Le Pes. In this video, Le Pes explores how the everyday actions of painters can be utilized and replicated to benefit the way photographers work. I have always tried to seek inspiration in as many different walks of life as possible, but my search for influence has always been more of a visual one. Until watching Le Pes' video, I have never really thought about the ways other creatives actually work and how very different their processes and educational backgrounds can be.

The video goes into great detail on the various benefits photographers can get from making studies, the painters approach to additive compositions, and the importance of studying things like anatomy and color. Le Pes also talks about the idea that painters are quite often forced to stop working while they wait for paint to dry and how those breaks can really help to give an artist the breathing space they need to make better art. I think us photographers could really enhance our practice by slowing things down a little when it comes to shooting and editing. It's all too easy in this digital age to race to get things online, and because of that, we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture.

The video is well worth a watch if you feel yourself in a creative rut or are conscious that your photographic workflow isn't the healthiest. Why not consider taking a leaf out of the painter's sketchbook? They've been in this creative game much longer than us.

Do you borrow from any other walks of life to help you to be a better photographer? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Lead image by Bridgesward via Pixabay, used under Creative Commons.

Log in or register to post comments


Vincent Le Pes's picture

I like your point in calling out the differences in process and education. Often when we are immersed in the art we are passionate about, we don’t know the traditions that mold our understanding of the medium. Each media refined in different directions over the years, as reflected in the standard education. The launching off point for this series was the observation that different educational traditions focus on different things but many of them are universal. Looking into other media is an easy and excellent way to gain perspective!

Paul Parker's picture

Amen to that! Didn't realize you were on Fstoppers. I have been a fan of your Youtube channel for a while now.

Look forward to seeing more!

Kim Baxter's picture

Thank you for putting this info. out....your points on the color palette, plus the warm highlights & cool shadows were of particular interest. Sometimes with my concert photos I really struggle with the color in post, which forces me to convert to B&W. Also, been experimenting & learning about light painting and am loving it!

Paul Parker's picture

Concert lighting can look amazing for the audience but be very challenging for the photographer as I'm sure you have found.

This article on color might be worth a read:

Kim Baxter's picture

Yes it does, for & magenta can be the biggest offenders. Thank you so much for this article on culling blues, I never realized how this color seeps into other shots as well, even if properly white balanced. I have some shots in mind I'm going to go back & apply this technique.

Vincent Le Pes's picture

Thanks, Kim! I only just saw this comment but I’m glad you found it helpful. I used to shoot a lot of concerts and it’s a constant game...just when you get the blue dialed in, the song hits a dark chord and the stage floods red, hahaha. I always erred on the side of underexposing and dealing with the noise in post rather than the unrecoverable blown color channels. Stage lighting is tough and one of the times the auto modes regularly fail us. Cheers! 🍻

Justin Sharp's picture

Wonderful video. Over the last couple years, I have developed a close friendship with a painter and sculptor and they have helped my photography far more than any other photographer. Compared to other areas of visual arts, photography is very young. However, the photo community has created certain ideas about photography that ignores much of the history of visual arts. For example, photographers have developed certain ideas about what makes a good composition. Looking through the history of painting, painters have a more broad and complex approach to composition. I sat in many art history lectures that my friend has given and seen countless paintings that, if they were photos, they would be labeled as having weak or bad compositions. My friend once told me, instead of placing objects in the frame, think more about photographing the space. Objects occupy the space and you need to control where they are in the space but never forget about the space. This seems to be a big difference and how a photographer and a painter approaches composition.

Kim Baxter's picture

Excellent points about the painter's point of view regarding are right on about photography & history of visual arts. This is such a wonderful topic to explore....the last point in Mr. Le Pes's video is also one of the most important ~ patience. Today's instant gratification world, especially in photography, just does not allow a place for it in the work flow. I will say, minus some live concert gigs, I do practice the patience almost to a fault..on some of my best work, as soon as I open it, I will approach the RAW file as a "blank canvas" and try to get out of my head and instead, let my intuition guide me through the image. The trick is to keep the flow going & not get so stuck on one or two details that I overwhelm myself and end up spending weeks on the same photo, or give up on it. Anyway, this is a great new perspective & inspiration.....

Vincent Le Pes's picture

Those of us who practice patience have a lot stacked against us these days! Everything leans toward instant gratification and go, go, go. I'd probably do better on YouTube in terms of growth if I spent less time on each video and put out more. Instagram favors those who post regularly and cares little for detail (since the images are so small). Facebook posts are lucky to get a fraction of a second of attention as they scroll by. But if you really want to connect to your work, you can't allow "attention" to be your metric. Take your time and love what you do!

Kim Baxter's picture

Thank You! That is the beauty of freelance & self employment! The projects I am hired for that have tight deadlines of course take precedence, but the other ones I know I can spend a lot of time & creativity on are my favorites and most appreciated by others. I love this site...FS....haven't been on long and have already learned so much & revisited some older shots to experiment on.

Paul Parker's picture

So glad that many people are finding this topic useful to them.

Stepping outside of the photography bubble once in a while can only be a good thing...

Kim Baxter's picture

Absolutely! Especially if a creative slump hits....a new slant can make all the difference.

Vincent Le Pes's picture

"instead of placing objects in the frame, think more about photographing the space" - I love that concept. People seem to think composition means following the rule of thirds, the rule of odds, rules, rules, rules. But those are only guidelines, and very limiting ones at that. They are only a beginning and meant to get you to start seeing in a different way.

What you have in painting and photography is generally a two-dimensional plane, often representing a three-dimensional space. Seeing that space and how it reacts to moving your point of view, coming closer, tilting your start to see the relationships emerge. Thinking about those relationships and how they will effect the viewer in the end medium - the 2D representation - will add much more to our understanding of composition and allow us to use it as a tool for our own artistic goals.

At risk of getting too lofty (composition isn't a simple subject) I will say that composition is essential to expressing your artistic vision. It's a delicate balance between all of the opposing forces in a frame or on a canvas. It's so much more than rules. Even the most abstract work has composition.

And, more often than not, I suspect, people who dismiss composition as a set of pointless rules never got past the basics and practiced learning to see for themselves. You don't need an academic understanding of the relationship between planes and shapes and light to learn composition, but you do need to learn to see in that way to produce work that fulfills the ideas you are trying to convey.

Composition is an essential part of having a "viewpoint" and that means examining the space!

Duffy Doherty's picture

Nice post and very apropos. I am one of those people that began life as a painter, and then got into serious photography later. The photography began as my quest for original reference material, and I fell in love with it....
Your point about warm highlights and cool shadows, needs a little fleshing out. Sunlight is yellow, so when you 're looking at something that is white in bright sunlight, it is actually yellow to your eye's natural white balance. Now when you look at anything there is a retinal effect, an after image, that carries over when your eyes move to something else. Kind of the flashbulb effect. And this effect is always the complementary color from the object you had been looking at. The longer you look at something, the stronger effect. Now so when you look at an object in the yellow sunlight, and shift your gaze into the shadows, the after image is violet, hence the cool colors in the shadows! Painters have to rely upon the actual experience of human sight to get those colors.
One more thing. On an overcast day the highlights are cool and the shadows are warm for the same reason. The highlights are reflecting the cool sky, and the after effect is once again the complementary! This is something to remember this when you are split toning...

Paul Parker's picture

Gret to hear about your creative journey Duffy, and thanks for the technical explanation on the varying color temps in the real world. It's something I haven't really thought about before. Very thought provoking... : )

Vincent Le Pes's picture

You're right that I didn't go nearly as deep as that topic can go, and you make some excellent points about the afterimage and the effect it has on our visual perception. Thanks for bringing that up!

Over the years I've often imagined what it would be like to try to recreate more of those visual effects intentionally...the way that highly contrasting edges start to glow over time if you fix your gaze long enough, or the way light diffracts around your eyelashes--even the incomprehensible clouds of geometric patterns you see when when you close your eyes tightly and their (normally unperceived until you think about it) existence, overlaying your field of view while your eyes are open.

There is a wealth of inspiration in there, thanks for your insights!

Vincent Le Pes's picture

If anyone is interested, I posted part 2!

It's aimed at musicians but covers photography concepts. The series will continue through a few different fields, but the ideas are universal so I hope you will enjoy following along!

Paul Parker's picture

Can't wait to watch it!

Alex Eldorado's picture

hard to take this seriously even though the initial premise is very poignant.

Vincent Le Pes's picture

Sorry you feel that way, I just thought it would be fun to explore some perspectives! :)