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Introducing the Painterly Classics

Posted by on Mar 10, 2014 | 1 comment

Introducing the Painterly Classics

By Koren Reyes

What exactly is a Painterly Classic?

A Painterly Classic is a photograph, usually printed on canvas, that has been made to look like a traditional oil painting.

The process starts with a well-planned photo session (see below). Final images that go through the transformation are typically:

  • Large (minimum of 20×30) with the subject’s head approximately 80% the size of real life.
  • Full-body (often seated)
  • Formal in expression and posing (this doesn’t necessarily mean serious)
  • Graceful, relaxed, beautiful and powerful

Why this appeals to me

If I can’t do platinum prints all the time, this sates my appetite for old-world art.

As I get older and deeper into a photography career, my professional work style is going backwards. I am much more interested in the softness of the classics and the Old Masters than contemporary photographers’ trendy HD and high-key work.

My interest in the old-fashioned methods and techniques began with discovering the almost-extinct platinum printing method. Few people have both the means and desire to commission such works of art, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make it available.

Same goes for lesser art forms. The techniques used to create Painterly Classics isn’t as sophisticated as platinum printing, but the price point makes owning a traditional-looking portrait possible for many more people.

The appeal of the Old Masters

I’m inspired by John Singer Sargent, Thomas Gainsborough, Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Jacques-Louis David, just to name a few.

I find elegance, beauty and regal poses in some of their works; in others I see sexy, subtle and flirty.

I see delicate detail, simple backgrounds, great two-dimensional texture and dynamic composition.

The clothes are often voluminous – or sleek like Madame X by John Singer Sargent. The colors are usually subtle. See more of my favorite, Old Masters portraits.

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

Who might invest in the Painterly Classics

People who prefer timeless over ephemeral, and people who appreciate a collaborative experience with artists might put this on a must-have list.

The consultation

It starts with a consultation about what you want. The portrait subject might be a child, or a woman. It could be a family. We’ll determine where the wall portrait will hang. We’ll discuss how the room elements influence the portrait’s staging. We will also pre-determine the size and framing.

You will know exactly how much everything will cost by the end of this consultation.

An Old Masters technique applied to modern photographs

Before and after painterly classics photographs

Painterly Classics Before and After

Before and After Painterly Classics

Before and after painterly classics

Before and after painterly classics


The painterly classic style is a little formal. It doesn’t necessarily mean serious.

What drives this portrait style is clothing and posing. The clothing needs to be appropriate for the genre as well as the age of the subject. It’s likely we’ll end up visiting one of the costume rental houses to choose the perfect outfit and accessories (period shoes, parasols, gloves, hats, fans, etc.)


Most portrait sessions will be done in my studio. We have options for divans, chairs, settees and couches. It’s also an option to schedule a session in your home.

Before and after painterly classic

Before and after painterly classic

Choosing your portraits

We’ll meet in person to review an edited selection of your pictures. We’ll choose the best picture and cover every possible retouching option. You’ll receive a digital, watermarked proof to approve before the image goes to the lab.

Behind the scenes

A considerable amount of time goes into merging the painterly effects possible in Photoshop with a modern, WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) digital capture. You have two options to finish the print if you choose the traditional canvas surface.

Before and after painting technique applied to modern photographs

Old Masters painting technique applied to modern photographs

The basic option

The basic option finishes the canvas with a brushstroke coating. It’s a thick, texturized and protective finish that adds a nice depth to the surface. It looks a lot like an oil painting.

The ultimate option

This is the truly luxurious option. An artist hand-finishes the printed surface of the canvas with traditional oil paint. This removes a lot of the “photographic” qualities of the image to truly transform the piece into a classic piece of art.

Pricing for the painterly classics

You’ll pay a moderate sit fee and agree to a minimum wall portrait commitment. Once you’ve met the minimum commitment, we can explore using the images for gift prints, albums, notecards, folios or anything else you can imagine. Learn more about pricing the painterly classics packages.

One Comment

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  1. Gay Pasley

    Elegant. Stunning. Classic. I love your style.