5 Ways Modern Photographers Can Find Inspiration in Classic Art

Excerpt from creativelive.com/blog

Photography’s 200 year history is brief compared to the vast and varied past of other mediums such as painting and sculpture. Yet many of the techniques photographers use now came from before the first camera was invented, from Rembrandt lighting to compositional “rules.” The ties to the past are only increasing — Adobe Stock lists History and Memory among the 2018 photography trends as an increasing number of photographers pay tribute to classic work even while using modern cameras. The trend joins others like Creative Reality and Multilocalism.

So what does this trend look like, and how can photographers find inspiration in it while also making it their own? Here are five ways photographers can find inspiration in classic art.


Painters understood light long before photographers were able to capture it with a camera. Rembrandt lighting, for example, is a commonly used photography lighting pattern named after the 17th century painter that often created the light pattern with a paintbrush.

While painters understood light before photography was even a word, the light in classic art isn’t as broad as the number of different lighting patterns used today. The light in classic art can easily become inspiration for modern photography. Look at your favorite classic art pieces and identify the shadows and highlights. Can you determine where the light is coming from? How is the subject, whether that’s a person or a still life fruit basket, placed within that light?

After re-creating the lighting pattern in the shot, fine-tune in post, lightening or darkening shadows and highlights to finish that classical inspiration. Using a classic lighting pattern is an excellent way to use historic inspiration for a modern subject.


Sure, choosing a color palette for a photograph isn’t quite as easy as opening a specific shade of paint — but that doesn’t mean photographers can’t find inspiration in the colors of classic artwork. Maybe it’s the range of blues in Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or the contrasting orange-blue on Edvard Munch’s The Scream, or the warm earth…(for more on this article click here)

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