Skip to main content

photo & video

Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 14 of 21

More Painterly Look Options

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

14. More Painterly Look Options

Lesson Info

More Painterly Look Options

There are some subjects that don't need a special lens, a special technique, a tool, anything. They are just painterly looking. And I just want you to be aware of them and to seek those out and to pay attention. This is, I was around Santa Fe on Canyon Road and I saw this, and this is right out of my camera. That's also with the Lensbaby Velvet I believe. But it just has a painterly feel to it, and I could see that and really wanted to capture it. I didn't have to do anything special to it. These are two tiny little leaves that I saw floating in St Stephen's Green in Dublin and you know there were all these geese and all this activity going on and then there was these two beautiful little leaves just floating by and that just looked like a painting to me and the water was soft and sort of the same thing here. This is an azalea that we found floating by in Charleston. I was teaching a workshop and we were shooting the azaleas in the azalea bushes. And then I saw this and I went (gasp) l...

ook! And all my students ran over and we shot it, but the reflections are very painterly, and that's right out of the camera. I didn't have to do anything fancy, but it's a matter of seeing. This is my son Matthew's dory, with just the right light on it. Sometimes light can create a painterly feeling. It really added brush strokes. The ripples and reflections added brush strokes to the dory and I felt like widened camera that it was painterly and those are my oldest son's buoys in the background. So I've got two boys in one in this one. I shot this in downtown Portland when I was also supposed to be shooting buildings, (laughs) with my friends. And it was the light that attracted me. It's very simple and very painterly only because the leaf was backlight and it's a single leaf. This is my son Shaun coming home at the end of a day. All three of my sons are lobstermen, and I was down on the pier shooting and the effect of the warm sunlight and the water vapor created a really painterly look, and I was just thrilled to see him coming home and I shot him all the way as got closer and closer and then you know as he got close to home, the effect was gone. There's no painterly look. The vapor is gone, the light is gone. So if you see it, shoot it at the time. This is Cadillac Mountain at Acadia. A sunset on a really foggy, really windy day with warm light and fog. But it's the fog, it's the weather that creates that painterly look. This is the view from my house, the bridge that I was telling you about that's across the bay. This was a really foggy day and looked out and that's just what I saw. There's a tall ship that was more there and the fog was so thick that it looked like, and that one little red building, it just looked like a painting. One of the other weather effects that we get in Maine is sea smoke. It's when the arctic air is so much colder than the water below it, we get water vapor and it only happens when it's really, really cold. So an ethereal, beautiful, painterly effect, and I try to shoot it whenever we have it. Here's another one. This is from Valentine's Day of this year, we had it late. It's generally not that late in the year. It's more in January. But, a painterly look right in camera. It's from that same day. Just the water vapor is just beautiful. I tried to find a focal point in the middle of it, and it's moving all the time. So it's getting thicker and thinner in front of something that you might want to use as a focal point. Then this is right from my house again. When you add sunrise to that beautiful ethereal effect it warms it up and really makes it strong and a painterly look. So, there are painterly looks out there that you don't have to create. You can also get an in camera painterly look with reflections for a wonderful distortion and blur. This is a reflecting pool at Chanticleer Gardens in Pennsylvania. And I flipped it upside down so that it's not as obvious a reflection. And I am not above wiggling the water a little bit to, or tossing a pebble in to make some ripples when I'm shooting water reflections. But I thought it had a beautiful painterly look and and you don't have to actually capture what's creating the reflection. This is just the reflection. It's all I included in the frame. So the subject on the left, sorry, the image on the left is my subject and that's the tree that was creating the reflection, and the image on the right is where I shot just the reflection and I flipped it upside down. So if you leave it up side, the way you shot it, it's an obvious reflection, but if you flip it so that it's upright, it's not as easily recognized as a reflection and I think a stronger painterly look doing it that way. And here's just a reflection and it looks like dappled paint strokes to me, and I didn't have to ripple that. That's a river. Same thing here. Can get a painterly look, or you could throw a rock in the water to add ripples. This is a couple of leaves floating down and the autumn trees and foliage were reflecting in the water and created a beautiful, soft painterly look. And the last one I wanted to show you is reflections are not just for water. This is a window in Winslow Homer's studio in Maine. And the glass is really, really old and it distorts beautifully. The hardest thing I had to do was keep myself out of it, trying to shoot the reflection and not be in the reflection. But I managed to do it, so think about that with old glass as well and you know, finding an old piece of glass would be great for the technique that we talked about shooting through as well. Because you would get some wonderful distortions.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

Make yourself stand out among nature photographers by adding a new dimension to your images. Painterly techniques draw attention to the delicate patterns, lines, textures, and designs that we often overlook in the natural world.

Kathleen Clemons is an experienced nature photographer, known for her creative techniques and her unique, stunning compositions. 

Join Kathleen for this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to achieve the painterly look in-camera with slow shutter, selective focus, Lensbaby, and multiple exposures.
  • How to evoke the painterly look in Photoshop with panning.
  • How to use Topaz Impression and NIK software to make painterly photos.
In this class, you’ll learn how to create painterly images by using a wide variety of techniques. Kathleen will show you how to apply effects using in-camera settings, different lenses, Adobe Photoshop®, and low-tech tricks like applying vaseline to filters. Capture the magic of nature and turn your photography into remarkable impressionistic art. 

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



Wow. I really loved this class. I took her other class, "The Art of Flower Photography" as well. She is very thorough, explains concepts clearly and is professional, yet kind. I have been doing photography for decades, but flower photography is a little bit of a different animal. I have found it to be extraordinarily challenging - which is also invigorating! At the same time, using Kathleen's principles, I feel like I now have basic rules and tools under my belt which I did not have before. This is a little humbling as I have been doing photography for so long and was surprised there were a few basic concepts I didn't "get the memo" on. haha. This class will save me heaps of trial and error time. I will be much better able to zero in on what I really need to work on. I actually recommend taking both her Creative Live courses. Yes, there is a bit of overlap - but that little bit of repetition is actually helpful. They are not the same class. Oh, and one more "perk" get to view some of the most stunning flower photography ever created. Masterful. Thank you, Kathleen.

Donna Macri Stevens

As I've been watching this class, I have literally been sitting at my computer and saying aloud, "Wow....WOW!" This is an absolutely amazing class!!! I began watching it while it streamed, but had to buy it. Kathleen is an amazing instructor, and she is SO generous with her tips and techniques. I love that she supplemented her instruction with on-site videos, in class photo manipulation and so much more. If you love flower photography or want amazing tips on how to make your photos more painterly, CLICK BUY NOW! I'm just blown away! This is a GREAT, GREAT class!


Kathleen's images have a very artistic and painterly character, so she is a great presenter for this subject. In this class she openly shares many of her methods of shooting to create in-camera artistic images (even with your phone) as well as post-processing techniques. She presents this material with her open, calm, strong and passionate manner that gives you an "artistic license" to experiment and discover "What happens if?" I have admired her work for a long time and am so excited that she shares the secrets of creating her enchanting images here. If you are interested in capturing images that go beyond what you see to incorporate how you feel about a subject, you will love this class!