Art as Inspiration for Photography

Art as inspiration for photography via Click it Up a Notch

Classic art is a constant source of inspiration for me. I spend a bit of time each week exploring a new artist. My time spent observing is never wasted. I find myself being inspired even when I am not a huge fan of the artist. The concepts of light, emotion, connection, and story all are applicable to photography. I believe that classic paintings create a bridge between the world as we know it and the world that we create through out lens. As we study art, our minds shift from three dimensions to two. This study helps us in everything from framing to composition. Color, texture, and light are also inspirations.

Using art as inspiration for photography

It is important to remember that paintings do not have to be recreated. We study art to see deeper than just the surface. For instance, Rembrandt’s subjects were generally clothed in attire of his era. The light, however, is classic. We can place our modern day subjects in the similar light and it creates the same dramatic effect.

Here is a classic Rembrandt portrait:
Using art as inspiration for photography via Click it Up a Notch

You can see that the woman is seated, with her arm forward and she is wrapped in and ivory cloak. The tones are brown and gold and the light is shadowed. Here I have taken these colors and created an image that speaks to me, but embraces some characteristics from the painting:
Using art as inspiration for photography via Click it Up a Notch

Sometimes, I make images that mimic expression and light. Here is a neoclassic painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau:
Art as inspiration for photography via Caroline Jensen

I interpreted it this way:
art as inspiration via Click it Up a Notch

All inspiration doesn’t need to be dark and moody though. I love Monet! His beautiful colors and light are two things I adore. I often use a color palate from classic art to inspire my editing. I used this painting by Monet (The River Epte, 1885) for inspiration:
Art as inspiration for photography via Click it Up a Notch

I came up with this image of my daughter in a field across from my home. The colors were drab and brown, but I pulled all the tones I could out of the sunset-washed prairie and added a bit of photoshop to complete it. I loved how the blues and purples played against the warm and sunny tones of the evening sky. I kept the image soft and flowing instead of sharply toned like the Monet. Remember, it is not necessary to copy. Just find one aspect that draws you and play with that.
Art as inspiration for photography via Click it Up a Notch


Caroline JensenCaroline Jensen – Guest Post
Caroline Jensen is a photographic artist living on the wide, open prairie with her husband and four children. She enjoys a great read aloud book with her kids and a classic movie at home with plenty of kettle corn. You can find her work at and on Facebook.

You can find her mentoring at Clickin Moms and teaching her class called The Art of Observation, that includes the study of classic art.

  • June 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

    This post is fantastic! I never would have thought of using art for inspiration. These images are so lovely. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      I agree! I hadn’t really thought of looking at art that way!

  • Tracy Bradbury
    June 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM

    Fantastic article Caroline, I also love art and am going to try some of your tips out myself now :)
    Your work is beautiful, you are such an inspiration <3

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Can’t wait to see what you create!

  • June 11, 2013 at 6:56 PM

    Caroline I didn’t know those were your inspiration for those photos. They’re stunning. You are so insanely creative. You’re a wonderful teacher too!

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      She is such an amazing artist! I agree!

  • June 11, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Caroline, this is such an inspiring article you wrote! Art is all around us and this is a great reminder to slow down and enjoy it more. There is an art exposition in town this week – I know what I’m doing tomorrow. <3

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:20 PM

      Oh fun! I’m sure you found lots of inspiration!

  • June 11, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    I love how you compared Art to Photography. It’s something I’ve struggled to make the connection between until seeing this article. I really wish more people spoke and wrote about this connection because it is one that I would love to read more about and I wish it had been a part of my self-taught photography journey. Thanks for sharing, I would love to see and read more comparisons on art/photography from you.

    Hannah from The Lemon Hive

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      Hannah, be sure to follow her site! She teaches a workshop at Clickin’ Moms and I’m sure she goes even more in depth!

  • June 12, 2013 at 2:07 AM

    Amazing! I will have to try something out like this. It might be a fun project to take on while I’m in DC. :)

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 17, 2013 at 5:21 PM

      Yes! DC will be a fantastic place to find lots of inspiration!

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