Why study the Masters?

As photographers, we are blessed to be living in an era when imaging technology is growing by leaps and bounds.  Ten or twelve years ago, if you had a 6 megapixel camera, you were on the cutting edge.  Now most people have point and shoots that have more megapixels.  The downside is that the crutch of technology can make it tempting to get sloppy with the technique.

Walk into any museum and you will see walls filled with images created hundreds of years ago.  Many are portraits of people we don’t even recognize, but still enjoy observing.   By having a command of the basic concepts of art, these masters created works that have a timeless appeal.  While the whole “snapshot portrait” style is very popular right now, I’m pretty sure people won’t be admiring them 100 years from now.

If you want to grow as an artist, take an afternoon and visit the museum.  Take the time to really study what these artists were doing and figure out how to apply it to your own work.  If you have read The Artist’s Way (in the bookstore HERE) then you are familiar with how this can help expand your creativity.

Notice how they used light and composition to lead you around the image and show you what is important.  The subjects and props are not placed randomly within the frame- everything is added for a specific purpose.   They create a timeless portrait that won’t go out of fashion when tastes change.

I hope you will at art education to your list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2011.  The more we learn to observe the world around us, the better we are able to capture it and interpret it for our viewers.


  1. Joseph

    I needed to thank you for blogging this. In a very short 4 paragraphs you opened my eyes to what should be obvious. Study the masters. I’ve been following and studying photographers for a few years now. This year I will be backing up a few hundred years. Thanks!


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