How the Challenges of Impressionist Photography Can Make You a Better Photographer

When I first started photography, capturing the realism of the subject was the most important consideration in my work. However, as time went on, I become less infatuated with the sharpness of my photographs, and found myself wanting to create images that were more expressive than descriptive, painterly and evocative. My photographic journey led me to discover impressionist photography. I was able to try many different techniques and I feel my work developed over the years through experimentation and exploration. Seeking out new subjects, developing projects and experiencing the vastly different qualities of light, has always played an important part in my creative development and ultimately making me a better photographer.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

New Things – New Ideas
It’s always a good thing to try something new because it helps you to develop a greater set of skills and experiences and increased confidence with a wide range of subjects and lighting. You’ll also learn new techniques.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

New Techniques – New Ways of Expressing Yourself
In any artistic discipline it is essential to learn the basic techniques in order to have a firm foundation from which your creativity can grow. The more you practise, the more familiar you will become with techniques and other aspects of impressionist photography. Eventually, these basic skills will become second nature. Then there is more time to think about the qualities that will make your images personal and individual.

Push yourself beyond the straightforward image and find out if there are other techniques that resonate with you sufficiently to include them in your creative toolkit.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

Light – A Magical Tool
Light is magical, as it can transform an ordinary image into something extraordinary. Learning to see and use light well will help you to make better images. Make a point of training yourself to see, by asking these questions about light at any given moment, and you will begin to notice things you may never have noticed before. How does it reflect things? How much contrast is there? What colour is the light? You will begin to see the angle of the light and how it affects surfaces around you, and how the light may lead your eye towards a certain area or object.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

Learning to See
You need to have the necessary technical knowledge in order to create the kind of effect you have in mind, but all the techniques in the world will not create beautiful photographs unless you also have the ability to see. It is important to learn how to look at the subjects and notice the way in which they are formed from a particular arrangement of shapes. At first, the tendency is to see objects rather than shapes, so you have to learn a different way of looking and understanding. This way you are less likely to make assumptions based on what you know about an object, and can concentrate on what you can actually see.

Developing the ability to select from all the elements in front of you, and create a pleasing composition out of them, is just as crucial as understanding the different photographic techniques.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

Experiments – A Sense of Freedom
Impressionist photography gives you time to experiment and express yourself. When you experiment you keep your mind open to new ideas, new problems and challenges, and how to go about solving them. When experimenting, ask yourself a lot of questions. Do I want to develop this further? What happens if I do it this way? What could I try next? Be willing to improve and experiment without having a goal in mind, except the drive to see what happens.

© Eva Polak

© Eva Polak

Photography Projects – an Insightful View of the Subject
Going to the same places, shooting and exploring the same subjects, is one of the best ways to improve your photographic skills.

If you have a project, you’re creating a story by looking for parts of the whole, and you’re going to see things you normally miss or find only by accident. Creating a set of images forces you to tell the story. Ultimately, that forces you to move forward, to get deeper into the subject, and not shoot the same image again and again. The more personal you make that image, the stronger it becomes

To find those pictures takes time and a lot of work. Don’t just go out, find a subject to photograph, and move on. Look for visual potential. Be patient. The longer you stay in a place, the stronger the work gets. Why? Because the longer you spend on a particular subject or theme, the more you will see, and the more you will become comfortable and confident with the subject.

It doesn’t really matter which route you take with your creative journey, as your choice will reflect ultimately what appeals to you. But I do hope that you will give impressionist photography the chance to make you a better photographer.


Eva Polak is a photographer, artist, author and teacher, and is well known for her enthusiasm and passion for impressionist photography. She is an author of three books which outline ways to use your camera for painterly effect. Eva has had three solo exhibitions and has participated in a variety of group exhibitions. Her photographs are in private collections in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. As an educator, Eva has passed on her knowledge and experience to keen photographers through a variety of workshops.


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