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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 21 of 21

Painterly Photographs Critique

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

21. Painterly Photographs Critique

Lesson Info

Painterly Photographs Critique

Well I know that we have been patiently awaiting the critiques critiques. Which is what we have time for now to move into so thank you again to everybody at home all around the world who submitted images to be critiqued by the master, Kathleen Clemons. (laughing) No pressure. Okay so, let's... Oh and before we start, can you talk a little bit about the importance of critique and what you tell your students or what is that people should be listening for, looking for as you go through it. Sure. I mean, putting your images out there for someone to critique is hard, you know. I know this. Let me tell you a quick critique story. When I first started off, I took a class with Bryan Peterson called Understanding Exposure and I have a good natural eye for composition. But I didn't understand the technical. So anyway, I took this class with him and I submitted for one of my assignments, a picture of these yellow lobster traps in my front yard and they had dew on them. And so I got in c...

lose and I got this dew drop on this yellow trap and I thought it was really cool and Bryan looked at it and his comment was Oh Kathleen, it looks like phlegm. (audience laughing) and of course my first reaction was wah, no it doesn't look like phlegm and then you know, I really looked at it and my white balance was off and it looked like phlegm. Now I still remember that all these years later because my yellows are always going to have good white balance but my point is I learned more from him being honest with me and telling me what he saw that was an issue than if he patted me on the head and said oh that's just lovely. And so I try and tell my students that. You know, you need to take that as a way to grow and I'm sure my students have those same comments of mine that they have heard before but I think it's really nice to get some feedback and you know getting feedback from your family isn't really going to give you honest feedback. And people who love you. So I think it's nice to get some critique from someone who doesn't know you and doesn't know your history and can just tell you what they see. Then again, it's just what I see and it's just my opinion. You can ask five different people and we're gonna have five different opinions. So... So this is a horizontal swipe and it's quite nice. I think that they chose a really good subject for it and I like the distribution between sky, maybe a third to a quarter and mostly water. I'm guessing that the sky was plain white and that's probably why they decided to do that. I do notice, looking from here that it's kind of washed out right here in plain white. But you could easily with the clone tool, grab some of this at a low opacity and just paint, paint some more brush strokes right over the top. I wouldn't crop it, instead I'd paint more instead of cropping. But it's beautiful. Motion is very fluid and look at the variations in colors as you move up. That's very nice, Laurie. You did a good job. Wow, this is beautiful Naynay. I would say that this was Topaz Impression would be my guess. I don't know. We don't have any information on it, for very painterly look. I love the contrast here. She's in a princess dress but it looks like she's playing in cement dust. You know (laughs) there's quite a contradiction there. So that in itself is fascinating and she has a feather in her hand. It's just beautiful. The softness, the wind blown hair. I think this is stunning and id be quite happy if it was mine, beautiful! Sally, Sally Harmon. Okay, Sally did a beautiful rose. It's very soft. I love the fall off of the focus on the leaves. I don't need to see those leaves in focus. Flower is beautifully painterly. This is one that I might add very subtle texture to, pull the opacity way back just a little or maybe even just a little color. Because you can, instead of adding textures, you can do a veil of color like we talked about before. And you can just erase it off your main subject and then you just have that as your background to change the color of your background. So I think something very very subtle might be very nice. I like the three leaves. She did a great job focusing on the center of the flower too and it's well exposed. Nothing is blown out in the flower. So this is another image by Naynay and it is quite beautiful. I like the expression with just that slight smile and the catch lights in the eyes. And it think the painterly look of the flowers that frame her face are just beautiful. I do like the veil that is surrounding her but it looks like there's a text layer added or texture layer as well as a text layer. And with that I find myself trying to read the text which I think you do when there's text in the photo and I just think that it's one step beyond what was needed. I think just a texture over that gauzy fabric would be fine but I would probably remove or at least reduce the opacity quite a bit of the text. I just don't think that it's needed but it's a very beautiful photo. Okay, Riet. Okay, looks like she was doing selective focus here. But if we look really closely, where is the sharpest area? Thinking, it's that petal area and not really seeing anything in here. But, that's not the area of interest. That's not where my eye goes. You have wrapped the center area and that pulls the attention into the center. So this is the area that needed focus. And this is what I try and tell you that I want you to avoid as far as foreground blur that has shape to it. If I have foreground blur, I really want it to be just a soft veil of color. So the way to get around that, would be to get up a little bit higher so that that area isn't parallel to your camera. Shoot down a little bit more and I think she needed a little bit more depth of field. I mean there's a little bit in focus here and there which means that they focal plane was really slim and anything that happened to make its way into it is coming into focus and when you do selective focus it's better to have one solid area of focus and that keeps the eye there instead of going oh there's a little in focus, there's a little in focus. You know what I mean, so and she could stop down as well and set the focus point here and let those in the back go to blur instead so the blur would be beyond the area in focus instead of in front of it which would be a more pleasing look. I do like the diagonal tilt from the composition that way too. Oh Gregg, this is beautiful. This looks like Lens Baby Velvet to me. Pretty wide open I would say, 1.6 or F2. With a strong emphasis on just the really softness of the subject and softly curved lines. The only change I would make would probably to take and clone this out. It's cutting off the corner and it's the brightest area in the frame. Very simple to do. I'm sure it was just a petal edge. You could also use the vignette technique that I talked about to take that out but that would be really simple to clone out. Just grab a little bit of this colored material and paint over that. That is very beautiful. Lisa Saint. This looks like Iceland and what a beautiful use of texture just on the sky here. Can you see that? Because the land has it's own natural texture and you certainly wouldn't wanna put texture over that fabulous little church. So the texture just adds interest to the sky. And it's one with strong brush strokes which is my very favorite kind of texture. I think this is very very beautiful. I wouldn't change a thing, wow! And this is by Barry Good. And Barry did slow shutter panning. Look at the colors in this. There's a beautiful beautiful variety of colors. And the panning isn't completely straight. Can you see the little curves. The little striations and it looks when I been to museums and Georia O'Keefe's paintings I'm always amazed at the varieties of colors in a color. And in any one of her brush strokes, the variety of the different colors and I can see that here. You know this isn't just yellow, it's yellow and light green and dark and beautiful. And I love the way that it goes from cool at that end to warmer and warmer as we go across. I think that's beautiful. So gorgeous abstract. Well done Barry. Okay Katharina. When we were talking about the Lens Baby Soft Focus Optic and also when we talked about Lens Baby Velvet and how at large apertures and light colored subjects, there's ghosting around the petals and this is what you're seeing, the petal ghosting. And like I said at the time, some people love it. I'm just not a big fan. This actually looks like the Soft Focus Optic because that came with apertures that had little holes in them that you would insert and the little rubber aperture disks and that causes sort of a stippling effect in the background and I can see that here. So I would guess that this was Lens Baby Soft Focus. The way to avoid that, you don't have to use those apertures that have the little holes in them with the Lens Baby Soft Focus. You can use the straight aperture, F4, F5.6. You still get softness but you don't get that dappled effect. And if you use F4, F5.6, you're gonna eliminate that ghosting. I like the lines of my flowers to show and so I'm just, I'm not a fan of the ghosting so I'd stop down a little bit more with this one. Lighting is very nice. Oh Trudy Ray. Trudy Ray, this is gorgeous. She caught this one dancing. (audience laughing) She didn't have to use the Dancing Flower effect. She caught this flower dancing. I think this is just beautiful. I love the softness, the painterly quality. It's very soft, I don't know what she shot this with. I'm guessing the Lens Baby Velvet possibly. Because of the all over soft look. I love the curve of the stem and the tight crop but still the outstretched petals and a very simple background. Great point of view, you know, sometimes flowers are just as pretty or prettier from the back. So good for you Trudy, that is beautiful. Okay this is Mona. The dew drops here are wonderful, wonderful Mona. Compositionally, this line draws my eye into the frame and I spend a little time here. It's not really in focus. But then there's this big gap of nothing kind of in the middle and then we have this one. I think this would have been stronger as a horizontal and just this part, right down here. Got a beautiful, diagonal line and this one is more in focus. I think my attention is a little split with this one as is. I'm like here, here. You really want the eye to enter, move through and stay on your main point of focus and I think that a vertical of this would do that. It's a great subject. The softness is really pretty. I love the warmth to it. But I don't think that the composition is really working. You know, you could if your Photoshop skills are great, go in and cut this distance down a little bit and pull these together a little closer but then you wouldn't have that gap. But the dew is wonderful. Okay I don't really see a painterly quality here and this line is really really cutting the frame up. I think that it would be strong if it was simpler. I think I probably would have shot this one as a vertical and I wouldn't have included this because for one it's not in great condition and for two, it's not in focus and it's merging with the subject. It's hitting the hind end of the frog. So I keep clothes pins in my bag for that and I have clothes pins that are doubled where they're glued together so I've got one opening on this side, one opening on that side glued like this. So that you could attach one part to this plant and the other end to a stick or another stem further out of the frame so that you could pull that right out of the frame. Simpler is going to be stronger and I think there's too much going on right next to the area in focus. Okay I love the colors in this one. So many colors in one flower. I do think that it would be stronger if the focus was in the foreground area instead of just behind it. There's that blob blur that I try and avoid so more often than not, I'm placing my selective focus on an area closest to the camera so that the blur is behind my area in focus, not in front of my area in focus. But the colors are gorgeous. I really hope that, Peggy, that you have another version with the focus a little closer to the front or a little bit deeper depth of field. Wow. Ah, Mary Dogherty, Mary. Mary, this is beautiful, just beautiful. It's very very soft. I'm guessing probably Lens Baby because there seems to be some distortion and some stretching in the petals. I love this one little, an errant petal or petal that doesn't follow the rules is always going to be my favorite. And you know, there are some more in the background just adding a little bit more interest without competing because they're so soft. And you can see the stem so it's not a floating head which you see sometimes with flower photos. She did a beautiful job with this, very nice. I wouldn't change a thing Mary. Wow. Isn't that nice. (laughs) This is beautiful. I'm wondering if this is the new Lens Baby Twist 60. Do you see that twisty kind of a blur around the edges and a bit of a vignette. It is stunning, stunning. I love where she chose to focus, makes a very strong focal point. And but this painterly look is just beautiful. I might be tempted to take this highlight out. Just because it's so close to the area in focus and it's lighter, just remove it but, wow! Very very beautiful. Nicely done Linda. And a different subject. So you don't have to do these techniques on just flowers. Wow. That's beautiful. That looks like impression because it looks very very painterly. I love blue and green together. It's one of my favorite color compositions. And don't you love the way the darkness frames the one stem, the back lighting and it's beautiful. I would not change a thing. I love it. You know and it's a centered composition but for me, the subject is strong enough and large enough in visual weight so I don't mind the centering. I don't think that placing it off center, you know, I don't think that that would make it stronger. I like it as it is. You know I told you that shot of mine that makes me turn my head, I look at this I do this. Anybody else? Because generally, that's how you think of plants growing, this way and it very well may have been this way but that doesn't mean that your photo has to keep it that way, obviously from what I showed you with mine. So I would be flipping this one 90 degrees clockwise. And I think the focus is good, it's very soft. The background is beautiful, just very soft and painterly. Watch out for little photo bombers sneaking in to your frame from flowers that are nearby. That's when the clothes pins can come in handy to just pull them out because I think this would be stronger if we saw these bugs that went with this flower and didn't have these blocking it would be simpler to see just this little group of blossoms. That's very pretty and look how soft the light is. The light is perfect for the subject. You can see petal texture. Color is good, lot of different pinks. Very pretty from Cheryl. Debbie Green. Okay. I think Debbie has two main subjects here again. We've coming over there, pretty, this one's a little bit less in focus. It looks like it's a little bit closer so I think she focused here but without this, I think this would be beautiful. The background is really pretty back there. I just don't think you need this. With the magic of Photoshop's content aware, you could go in and you could remove this. The other thing that you could do here is that I like the background so much that you might be able to go in and take out the flowers and just clone some or use content aware or clone where they were and use this as a background with more shots which I have also done. If I have a very simple shot. The daisy that I showed you, in the yellow background, I plan on taking that daisy out and using the background on another photo. It's very simple to do. And then here too, you've got a photo bomber leaf sneaking into the bottom. Try and do what I call border patrol and that's looking around all the edges of the frame for anything that's sneaking in or isn't adding because if it doesn't add, it needs to go very simply. And we have a multiple exposure. That's fun. I love this look over here. That is just beautiful. It looks like an impressionistic painting. I do wish there were more flowers around the center and around this flower. So maybe I would've done my multiple exposure more in that section of the garden so that I get a swirl of colors. But the technique looks great. It really does have a beautiful painterly look. And we have an Iris. It's an interesting contrast because you have this fresh, happy flower and then you sort of had this foreboding, moody background. I think it's a very interesting combination. Watch for merges. You could take the clone tool and shorten this up so that it wasn't hitting the edge. And there's another little, a little photo bomber there. But that the background is really different. I would darken this area a little bit because it is catching my eye. Sort of make it about this tone, I think would be fine. It's just a little bit too bright. You know like when we talked about contrast, your eye is always gonna be drawn to a very bright area and a dark background or a very light area and a dark background or a dark area and a light background. Oh the simplicity of this one is very pretty. This is Katy Walters. Very nice Katy. I can still see the stem. So it's not floating and I like the use of negative space here and you can just really see the bokeh, see some highlights in the back so this area isn't just empty. And my eye can follow that in right to the subject. Very very pretty. Elizabeth Lovelace. I love ferns and so they are definitely one of my very favorite subjects and this is very nice selective focus. I'm wondering if it's Lens Baby. Not really seeing a whole lot of directional blur but the areas closest to the camera are coming into focus. You're getting those curves which you had to have. And then look how it just fades off to more and more blur and just blends right into the background. I think that's lovely. Ha, something different. This looks like Impression Software. I can see the brushstrokes. Oh it's very cool and this is one where I would pull the effect back on the main subject so that it didn't, you know, as is with that having the same brushstrokes that the background does, it sort of flattens it into the background a little bit where if you reduce that opacity, you don't have to take it off at 100% but mask that off at 30% or 50%. Because this had its own natural texture which I think would be beautiful if you kept the natural texture or at least some of it in the leaf. But it is beautiful, I love the contrast between the warm leaf and the blue tones in the background very much. It's different. And Stacie, we have a little dragonfly. I think it's smiling at us. It's really cute. It's hard to keep my eye here on the dragonfly with this large, large area of white though. This would be great for the Vignette Technique. You could go in and just with a brush, just sample the color from say here and then go in with the brush and brush it on or if you only have Photoshop 2015 .5, then you can't use the brush but put it on the whole image and then go back in and mask it off of this section. It would just keep the attention here much better. Oh that's very pretty too. It's a very natural look. Soft and painterly and there's my blue and green together again. There's a catch light in the eye on the bird which is a good thing too. Stacie May. This one is a little dark in the, the leaves are blue. The pond leaves, which makes me think that there's a little color cast issue here too. I don't think that the flower is strong enough to be centered with everything else that's going on and I think there's a little bit too much background, I'd wanna see less background, more flower because the flower is the star of the image and I'd move it off center. And like I said, I'm not a cropper but to show you what I would be doing would be something like, you know, here and here and put that in probably the lower right third. I just, I don't think all of this needs to be included. It's not in focus. It's not adding and like I said, if it doesn't add, it needs to go. Everything in your composition should be there because you wanted it there. Because you thought it had value and you needed it. Oh is that beautiful. Beautiful. Very nice use of selective focus, shallow depth of field in the foreground. I mean, you know you're at the beach. You don't have to see that shack in focus. Or the fence or anything. I think that's really pretty. Little soft shadows in the front. Beautiful. And a reflection shot. Good for you Betty. Very very pretty. I love the ripples and the trees are nice as a focal point, otherwise it would just be more of all about a design. But then you add a strong focal point. Very pretty. I might punch the colors up a little bit on this one. Hmm, this is nice too. Looks like a texture was added to the background. It's filled it in really well. Added some interest. There are no strong lines or anything in the texture so that adds and watch your edges. See I mean, I'm picky but gotta watch for photo bombers sneaking in around the edge. And I like this composition too. And the way that this main curvy stem stands out. Very pretty. I like the low point of view. Okay. This one Stacie has a little too much going on and this needs to go. That's exactly where my eye goes so you definitely gotta take that out. And there's just a lot. There's a lot of extra shapes, you know. We've got a bud hair hitting the edge of the frame and a couple of small sticks and... I mean this does have potential. You would just have to do quite a bit of work to clean it up. You could put a texture on it but a texture is not going to cover the extremes and contrast here between the dark and the really light so a vignette would. If you added a vignette sort of in a soft yellow. You would still have the shapes but you would tone them down so that they would look more like bokeh instead of strong shapes. So there is some potential here but you need to take this one a little bit further and this is the first thing that needs to go. It's a cute little lady bug but for me, there's too much foreground blur that has shape to it. And the way to get around that would have been to get up a little bit higher instead of shooting from such a low angle. Your focus on the little guys is perfect. It's really nice and sharp and I like where it's placed in the composition but, there's just too many out of focused shapes for me in this one. That's it. Okay, questions about any of the images or... So, so Kathleen, thank you. I find the critique to be so valuable. And thanks again to everybody who submitted your images. There were some of the folks who were watching who said thank you and that they really appreciated those direct critiques. This has been an incredible class and truly thank you. So much covered. I would just love to hear your final thoughts for us. Earlier in the day, you actually got came to tears looking at one of your photos. And that was a really powerful moment for me because we all have the ability to tap into that emotion with our work. But we don't all know how. And you have taught us that. What are your sort of final words for people to go out with what they've learned today. I want you to go out and experiment and to follow your heart and to shoot for yourself and to slow down and to really look. That's the first step to just slow down, put your camera down and just really look. And I've thrown a lot of techniques at you today. But I want you to really be thinking about is what is your vision for the subject. I'll sit down with students sometimes when they're having a block or you know, don't know where to take something and I'll say, what do you see? And that's what I want you to ask yourself. What do you I see? And then figure out how you can best highlight that, how you can make that the focus of your image. How you can and if you love a painterly style, how can I add a painterly style to this? Am I gonna shoot it at a shallow depth of field? Do I need to substitute a background, you know. Are there elements here that I need to change? But what I want you to come away with with that photo is what you saw and what you felt. And that's what I try and do with my work. Everything that you see, is what I saw and what I felt. And it might not be what you see, you might feel something different about it. That's what makes art so fascinating. But really the first step to that is to slow down and then to really look. I have a bracelet from with a quote from Georgia O'Keefe that says take time to look. And that's what I want you to do. You wanna be capturing the essence of your subject or what you see as the essence. Or what is your essence of it. So, that's what I would advice. Thank you so so much Kathleen. Where can people, just lovely, so lovely. Thank you. Those were final words. Where can people follow you online. Wanna make sure that everybody stays in touch with you. Good (laughs) What's the best place for people to contact you and stay in touch? On Facebook I have a Kathleen Clemons Photography page and I'm on Instagram as Kathleen Clemons, I'm on Twitter as Kathleen Clemons. I have a blog that I don't use as much as I should. I have a list of blog topics (laughing) But finding the time to write it up. Maybe I'll write one about this experience but yeah, I have a blog as well. And basically I'm everywhere. (laughs) And Instagram and definitely follow me on Instagram and don't feel pressure to post everyday just because I do, but when you do post, tag, follow me and tag your photos, 365kc, lower case and then at the end of the day when I'm going in to see what my friends and students are shooting, I'll see your photos and I'd really like to see what you're shooting so definitely Instagram.

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. 



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!