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Creating Painterly Photographs

Lesson 8 of 21

Shooting Through Natural Materials

Kathleen Clemons

Creating Painterly Photographs

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

8. Shooting Through Natural Materials

Lesson Info

Shooting Through Natural Materials

Gonna talk about shooting through, and I mentioned this briefly when I talked about the 180mm lens, and the shooting through technique is one of my very favorite techniques. I did shooting through here, and what shooting through is is using a long lens, I've have students who do this with a 100mm lens, it's not as affective, you can do it but it's dumb, you really need the compression of the long lens. So what you are doing is taking your camera, and you are putting the front of the lens hood, I always use a lens hood, right up against foreground foliage, and you're finding a space in that foliage for a subject that's further away. So you're looking for an opening. So let's say that I've got all green leaves and I've got a beautiful red rose a couple of feet away. So I'm finding just the right angle to be able to get through those leaves, and put that lens right up close to them. And what that is going to do, and I'm also shooting at large apertures, so f3.5, f4, so what that creates i...

s a veil of blur. There'll be no shape blur, or as I've been calling it lately, blob blur. I don't like foreground blob. If there's a foreground element, I want a soft veil of color. And it's a really beautiful effect, and it can also simplify a subject it can get rid of some of, some messy background, and so you'll have a veil of color hopefully surrounding your subject with your subject in focus on the way through. And I'd be using manual focus for this because you've gotta be sure that you nail that focus. It doesn't have to be leaves. If you're shooting in a large group of flowers, put this right up against some of the flowers, and try and focus on one a little bit further away, so then your veil of color will be the color in the flowers. If you're shooting in all yellow poppies, you'll have a veil of yellow with one poppy in focus. And that's what I did here. Show you some more examples. It's not just for flowers. I shot this at Acadia through ferns. I just put my lens hood right up against foreground ferns and I did not put that leaf there, though I could have. It's okay, it's okay, I did not have to, because the leaf is what caught my eye, and then just angled my camera so that I could get just that leaf in focus. It's really fun for me to just sit on the ground with a lot of tall foliage around and just kind of poke that lens through and see what I can see, because you will be able to see that veil right in your viewfinder, and then finding a subject that's a little bit away that I can get all in focus. It's a really fun technique. And I did this with autumn leaves. I actually had a friend hold up a branch of autumn leaves, and I just put my lens hood right up against it, and was able to simplify this quite a bit, and add a little bit more autumn color that way to this leaf. This technique will also hide a busy background, as it has here, and also a busy foreground. Just purple flowers in front of this amazing Cosmos, and I could simplify them because if all of those flowers were showing in focus, you wouldn't know where I wanted to draw your eye to that main subject. And it's simpler. And my feeling about photography is that simpler photos are stronger. A simpler message, a clearer message, is a stronger photo. I'm not crazy about really busy photos. You can see here that I also was able to lessen the amount of the foreground foliage with this technique. This is Lupine. Grows wild in Maine in June, and now this year is growing in my garden. It's really fussy, so I'm quite happy to have it. But I was able to shoot through some of the other plants, and get just the blossom that I wanted to draw your eye to in focus in both of those. So here's a whole flower patch of lavender, and here's my shot. So you can see that I went from, let's go back, from a very busy scene, if I just shot one of those with that, you'd be like, which one did you shoot? But getting in closer, putting my lens right up against the foreground foliage, created that beautiful veil of blur. So we tried this at Dunn Gardens of course, and I'd like to show you how I do that. Now we're going to be talking about the shooting through technique. You want a long lens for this technique. You can try it with a 100mm lens, but you really need the compression that a long lens will bring to the scene. So I have my lens set on f3.5, I do use f3.5 or f4 generally for this technique, and what you're looking for is a subject a bit away from your camera, and some foreground foliage that you're going to put right up against your lens hood. It can even be touching the lens hood. That's fine. You won't get shape, what you'll get is a veil of color. You never want a foreground blob. You don't want your foreground blurred areas to have shape to them. You just want a veil of color. So if I put this foliage right up against my lens, and aim for this gorgeous, huge poppy that's a couple of feet away, I'll end up with just that poppy in focus, with a veil of foreground color, of green, which is, should be a really beautiful effect, and it simplifies the scene. All of these small leaves would be really busy, but if I get up close to them, shoot wide open, I get a veil of color instead. I'm going to do that now. And what you're looking for is an opening to focus on. And I want manual focus here. (shutter clicks) I'm a little too close, I'm clipping off the edges of the petals, and I try and avoid that. You want a little bit of space. So I'm gonna back out just a little bit. I'll still get the veil of color though. (shutter clicks) It's as simple as that. So long lens, subject that's a good distance away, and some foreground foliage. It could be flowers. It doesn't have to be foliage as well. If I wanted that veil of color to be white, I could've used this poppy. I prefer green, I'm not crazy about white veils, so I chose to shoot through the foliage instead. The technique does take some time. Be patient, shoot wide open, and try it. It'll simplify your pictures, and create a beautiful, painterly, veil of color.

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!