Create Impressionist painterly photographs

posted in: Photography | 9

Have you ever tried to make impressionist painterly photographs with your camera? There are many way to create impressionist painterly photographs 'in camera'. This tutorial is about panning. Moreover it's a fun technique for a dull and cloudy day. In addition no photoshop or any other photo editing software is even required!


 Impressionist Painterly Photographs Technique

Creating impressionist painterly photographs in camera
Panning to paint with light

If dull days are rare on your calendar (unlike here in Scotland) then you'll need to find somewhere in the shade. Though you'll have to use an Neutral Density filter or polarizer or else shoot late in the evening or just after sunrise.


I know that some photography impressionists will smear vaseline on their filters to get this same effect...but I'm not recommending that this time. It could get on your precious lens and damage it.


  • Your aperture settings will range from f16- f22.
  • You need a slow shutter speed of around 1/4s or slower.
  • Use as low an ISO as possible.


Decide On Your Subject


Trees and forests are certainly my favourite subject for the portfolio especially when there is backlighting from a sunset or sunrise.


Just about anything can be panned including seascapes, people, animals and flower borders. 

Impressionist painterly photographs - Japanese garden | Paint with light
Impressionist painterly photographs: the look in my Japanese garden ISO 100 f20 on 50 mm f1.4 lens 2.5s


You can use a tripod and loosen it so that you can move the camera up and down but so far I've just been hand holding the camera.

Settings and Focus

I adjust my settings - shutter speed, aperture and white balance. Focus really isn't important because you'll be using such a small aperture. Plus you'll want the detail in the image is to be blurred!


I used a 50mm lens. But a much wider lens would be better if you were working with a large group subject to give that painterly look.

Now You're Ready To Pan!

I just move the camera up and down ever so slightly just as the shutter closes. Starting quite low in the frame and then pivot the camera up so slightly hoping to not get much of the sky in the viewfinder and then back down again. It doesn't even have to be vertical moves and the movement can be side to side or in an arc.

 Impressionist painterly photographs: Phyllostachys aurea
Impressionist painterly photographs: Phyllostachys aurea
Impressionist painterly photographs - Panned vertically to reflect the shape of the bamboo canes
Panned vertically to reflect the shape of the bamboo canes

Practice Makes Perfect


You'll need to practice impressionist photography. Consequently my own recycling bin fills up with quite a few pixels when I'm doing this painterly style.

Adjust your apertures and shutter speeds along with the speed that you move your camera. In fact I'd learn from those photos that head to the recycling bin. Finally you can even add a texture afterwards in photoshop or run an action...or even make some colour palette photographs!

You're literally painting with light!

Just let your imagination flow just never know what's going to appear on that LCD screen. Most of all have some fun!



Follow Rosie Nixon:

Photography Tutor and Gardener

Rosie is a garden photographer, writer and nature lover. She enjoys soaking up nature and is easily distracted from doing the weeding by anything that flutters, flies, buzzes, creeps or crawls! She enjoys sharing the beauty of creation through her photography. Rosie has been featured on TV on BBC2's The Beechgrove Garden and she uses the outdoors as her natural light studio. Her work can be seen at one of Scotland's only photography galleries - Close Gallery, 4b Howe Street, Edinburgh.

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9 Responses

  1. Diana Taylor

    I love this technique – it is so effective. The bamboo looks especially striking, I love the strong vertical lines. Something else to put on my 'to do' list!

  2. Amanda

    Love that technique! I will definatly give that a try! I love the first one the best. 🙂

  3. Floridagirl

    Ooh, that looks like a fun thing to try. I'm a big fan of Impressionism. I sometimes take off my glasses to view my garden through my severely nearsighted eyes. It looks like a Monet masterpiece, lol. But, yeah, I will be experimenting with this one, but definitely, no vaseline will come anywhere near my camera. Just sayin'.

    By the way, that Japanese garden photo is my favorite! : )

  4. Bom

    That looks like something fun to try with my kids. Thanks for sharing your technique. It is wonderfully detailed so I hope what I create won't disappoint.