While I didn’t go to any photography classes or school, I did attend film school and studied primarily cinematography (though, I got an A-), and documentary filmmaking.
My many cinematography professors pushed watching films with the sound off to pay particular attention to composition and lighting, but stressed the watching of light in art more than anything. What better way to study how light can be depicted than in a painting? My profs always brought up Caravaggio, as they mostly worked in drama and were always working on the play between light and shadow. However, now that I’m mostly working in portraits and fights, I have really come to love the Dutch masters, and in particular Vermeer. I love how some works have hard sunlight streaming in through windows while others have subjects in shadow, their faces lit by remains of light reflecting off the walls.
Ah, Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance.
This one I actually saw in person at the National Gallery in DC on our recent trip there for the last UFC Live on Versus. I soak up any chance to see these paintings in person not just for the detail not afforded in photos, but there is a feeling, smell, everything — you just don’t get that out of a glossy art book. But this is a decent size file and well captured so you can see the detail in the folds of navy fabric on the left.
The Geographer uses the page underneath the subject’s face as a light source, bouncing sun coming in from the window.
And A Lady Standing at a Virginal — this is what I love the most about Vermeer. Daring to leave his subject out of the key light.
Before I started in this picture world, I wanted to be a painter. I never studied it past the age of eighteen but it was what I grew up with as my father practiced and studied fine art under Sam Francis.
While I am not fancifully skilled with the brush, I love to look at these paintings for lighting reference. I’ll post a few more artists over the next few weeks but for now, I suggest heading over to Wikipaintings and perusing their selection of Vermeer’s works.
Who are your favorite painters for light reference?