Growing up outside of Washington D.C., I would often spend hours studying the beautiful paintings at the National Gallery of Art. I even purchased dozens of reproduction prints so that I could immerse myself in the art from the comfort of my bedroom.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what I was viewing at the time. But I knew what I liked. It wasn’t until I engrossed myself in photography that it all finally clicked.
As I dove headfirst into compositional technique, I started to draw parallels between what I was learning and what I had absorbed earlier in my life. The more I learned, the more I started to gain an intuitive sense about what worked and what didn’t —and why. It’s one thing to proclaim that you like a particular photograph or painting. But we must constantly challenge ourselves to dig deeper, delving into the reasons that drive both our and our viewer’s appreciation.
So what does it mean to have a painter’s eye? Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean applying a filter to your photographs during post-processing to make them look like a Monet painting. Rather, it’s a consolidated way of looking at all the compositional elements and decisions that we employ when framing up our photographs. It’s a way of taking everything we’ve learned about composition and simplifying it down to one core philosophical idea, which is to: FIND THE PAINTING IN THINGS.
Long Pond near Acadia.
Click for a larger image.
I could literally spend hours discussing all the compositional elements that one might consider. While there will always be intangibles that can’t be quantified, many of the compelling photographs or paintings we admire often come down to having great light, dynamic composition and design – and maybe a moment that evokes an emotional response.
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