Lindsay Adler – Learn+ Episode 7: Painterly Portraits – November 2021

Drawing inspiration from a painting for your photographs can help imbue your work with a more timeless feel. There are many elements that we associate with a ‘painterly’ approach. You can be inspired by painterly lighting, wardrobe, posing, set design, or color palette. You can borrow a single feature to give a slightly more painterly feel to your work or directly pay homage to a single painter’s style.

There is no right or wrong way to draw inspiration from a painting, and know that you can be more painterly regardless of your photographic style or subject matter! A maternity shoot can have painterly posing and set design. A senior portrait can have painterly color palette and props. A fashion editorial can have painterly set design and wardrobe inspired by historic pieces. In fact, I feel that many (if not most) of the images that win photographic competitions at WPPI or PPA are typically painterly in feel. Furthermore, if you look at Vogue and Vanity Fair (or other mainstream respected fashion magazines) you will often see direct references to famous paintings.

There are several incredible contemporary photographers with work heavily influenced by different eras of paintings. You can find links to some of my favorites in the resources section of this episode, and I promise you’ll be overwhelmed by just how beautiful the imagery is. When I was in college I was obsessed with the work of Erwin Olaf (inspired by the Dutch Golden Age) and more recently have been captivated by the extraordinarily painterly work of The TogFather who makes every single image look like a modern interpretation of a timeless painting.

I only started to add painterly elements to my work the last 5 or so years, and you can see it in periodic shoots based upon my background choices or the way I choose to light certain subject matter. In the past that think I felt that maybe my style didn’t fit ‘old paintings’ until I started going to museums with a photographer (Chris Knight) who was passionate about art history. He introduced me to the ways I could save a pose for inspiration, or draw from color inspiration, or later on use a painting as a basis for set design. Now this is a regular practice I use in my work.

This episode is just dripping in beautiful painterly inspiration. The models I have chosen, the way I place their hands, the backgrounds/sets I design and much more are all inspired by paintings and I think the results are truly timeless, eye-catching, and beautiful! I can’t wait to share this process with you! I am thrilled with the images created this month and I already know this will be a topic I’m going to revisit in the future!