Sometimes as a photographer your muse is gone and you need to find something that inspires you again to create an image, someone who generates a feeling that you can transmit to the viewer. For me, taking a walk or read a book with masterpieces paints help me a lot. It doesn’t matter the gender or the artist, the important thing is that you find a picture that you like.
In fact, finding a picture that you like isn’t enough, it has to inspire, feel and mean something to you. When you find it, analyze the composition, where are the objects and subjects, what kind of colors she or he uses, are they’re warm or cold? And something very important, analyze where the light is coming from.
In this article, I will focus only on a couple of great masters that inspire me and I enjoy their technique, painters from the Dutch school of the XVII Century, Rembrandt and Vermeer.
I’m pretty sure as a professional photographer you know the “Rembrandt light technique”. The idea is to create a small inverted triangle of light on the subject’s cheek that is opposite the light source placed approximately 45 degrees offset from the subject and a bit higher than eye level, lighting the side of the face that is farthest from the camera and a reflector approximately 45 degrees to the shadowed side of the face.
This technique is very popular because the equipment you need and the warm final picture you get in the end. But something also interesting about Rembrandt is the more than 300 self-portraits! Maybe actually you have more selfies with your phone than the Dutch master on Instagram.
From Rembrandt, you can analyze how he poses toward the camera or to the viewer, Does he painted a full body portrait or just a headshot, where did the light come from?
From Johannes Vermeer, you must learn his ability to manipulate the light source. Caravaggio, the Italian artist is considered also a master of light, I prefer the Dutch because of his smooth contrast and elements although his paint legacy is much smaller than the others, around 30 masterpieces only.
On Vermeer paintings, you will be able to identify the light source very easy, sometimes only a simple window, but the way that the light illuminates and fades away is wonderful. You will notice all the objects and textures he includes and one important thing, by 1600’s he understood the use of focal depth. Yes, the dutch painted objects at different distances to give depth to his masterpieces.
Johannes didn’t paint still life, or at least nobody has found any yet, but in this picture, I inspired on a window as a light source and I was very happy with the final result.
Finally, I want to encourage you to reproduce those masterpieces in your photos and compare techniques, that will also help you to find your own photo style. Take your camera, set up the lights and composition and don’t forget to share your image with me.