~ article by Danie Bester

I’ve come across this beautiful video by world renowned, realist painter and artist, Nelson Shanks. Nelson Shanks created paintings of some of the most important people in the world. I know this is not a painting website, but after all, the definition of photography is “to paint with light”. I often teach that we learn to shoot better portraits by looking at the paintings of old and contemporary masters. Through their paintings, they often teach us how to capture light, emotion, drama, mood and atmosphere. As photographers, we should not shy away from finding inspiration by studying the work of other artists and see how we can mimic it by using our cameras creatively. 


From Nelson Shank’s video, I extracted a few important aspects, which will certainly help you with your portrait photography:

  • Realism
  • Learning to “See”
  • Learn from the old masters and include contemporary ideas
  • Seeing shapes
  • Direction and dynamic lines of objects
  • An eye for details
  • Seeing things in the right sequence, or including still life objects in such a way that you choose how you want the viewer’s eye to travel within the picture (often referred to as “hierarchy”)
  • The use of Shadow and Light
  • Capturing the character of a person


Check out Nelson Shank’s inspirational video below and make sure you visit his website at https://www.nelsonshanks.com/  to view some of his work.




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