What is Impressionistic Photography?

March 19, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


Chances are, you have heard of Impressionistic Art. You may have thought that it only applies to painting. You may think of Monet, Degas or Cezanne. The idea behind works of impressionism is to depict light in its many forms, not to accurately depict a scene, but to give the viewer the ‘impression’ of the artists concept of the scene according to the ethereal fleeting moment of the experience of light.

So, how does this apply to photography? Photography gives us the ability to freeze a moment; to document reality in a still frame. But if you think about it, photography is not capturing the subject, but the light reflecting off of the subject. Impressionistic photography is the creative use of technical aspects of photography to paint on the sensor and express a color, an emotion, an experience!


There are many different ways to accomplish this. I will discuss a few here, but the possibilities are endless! As one learns the technical aspects of exposure and camera functions, the combinations of your skills and your imagination are boundless.In the photo in the Gallery above, Kaleidaflower I have combined 9 images into one frame. This can be done in-camera or in a post processing program like photoshop. With the camera on a tripod, I took an image and then rotated the camera  a bit and took another, ten times. The resulting image is a virtual tulip kaleidoscope!

Multiple exposures using textures, washes and complimenting or juxtaposing images can create painterly effects, light and color effects and an overall expression of the experience

In “Autumn Texture”, I combined 3 images; one of the subject fall trees, one of the same tees out of focus and at a low aperture and one close up of the bark of one of the trees.  This created a textural element to the image. I like to use textures nearby or related to the subject. In “Youth”, I took 9 images in-camera of a young tree on a still morning. Using a very wide aperture (low f-stop number) I took the first picture with the nearest blade of grass in focus, then focused on a further blade, and throughout the scene until the ninth images was the background of the forest. I took two images of the young tree in order to assure that it would remain the focal point.

Camera or subject movement can also create beautiful impressionistic images. For the image “Iowa at 65 MPH”, our car was moving 65 MPH (obviously) while the subject was staying still. With a long exposure, the grass melds into a sea of gold and green and the barn itself attains a painterly affect.The clouds, having been in the far background remain in focus. The photo “Snow in the Woods was created by my own movement while standing in the woods during a snowstorm, using a long exposure and an up and down movement.

Conversely, a still camera with a dynamic subject can create interesting impressionistic images. Take a look at “A Windy Afternoon” This was a particularly “Windy Afternoon”, so I grabbed my tripod and camera and ran to a wooded place that I knew had lots of wavy grass. Holding my tripod steady and with a long exposure, I captured the movement of the leaves, and the waving of the grass.

So take your camera out and have fun! Don’t be afraid to get creative and try something new!

Leslie Glasgow


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