Impressionism Techniques in Photography

//Impressionism Techniques in Photography

It’s surprising what we can do with a camera once we quit coloring between the lines and start thinking outside the box.  

Whispers are caught as we let time gather on the sensor.  In the case above a full second passed while the camera dipped and weaved a bit gathering its data.  It takes practice – lots of it.  But in time we can sense what we capture, even without our eye to the viewfinder.  

The longer exposures allow minuscule amounts of time to stagger a bit – a little more spent here rather than there – as our second collects.  It gives more emphasis to some elements and lets other elements leave the barest hint that they were there.

You might think that isn’t possible within a tiny second but if you stop and think about how little motion it takes in intended sharp photography to inadvertently blur a photograph, you soon realize that a full second of time offers a lot of opportunities. 2.5 seconds, even more.

I use ND filers – usually a six-stop unless it is very bright.  Then I will pull out the 10.  It allows me to play in .5 – 2.5 second time ranges as I shoot.



We aren’t limited to landscape photography when we play with this technique.  It’s all about shape and color and tone.  Any subject that catches your eye will do.

The table umbrella, collapsed and solitary, is a case in point.  This is another 1-second exposure.  Instead of sweeping the camera in arc type movements, I quickly ‘placed’ the camera three times.  A quick movement, stop, move, stop, move – time up!

It gives the appearance of a multiple exposure shot in a very abstract form.

The camera movement we choose has no rule.  Nothing is right or wrong in your choice.  It comes down to experimentation and preferences in outcomes.  And don’t forget all that practice you have to do to learn what works and what doesn’t.  All that practice also teaches what’s possible.

The above shot was taken over 1.6 seconds with a lot of stuttering around.  I underexposed to put emphasis on the brilliantly lit sails that multiplied with each slight jerk of the camera.

Another motion technique I use is very slight in and out, or up and down – very quickly.  Almost like polishing the pixels in my mind.  It blurs things slightly and gives some detailed edges in a smudgy kind of way. 


The genre of photography doesn’t matter.  Think about the great impressionists – they painted everything from landscape to portrait to architecture to battles to seascapes.  Anything that caught their fancy was tried.  We all have that same latitude.  Every shot is an adventure waiting to be interpreted.

If this type of photography intrigues you, put yourself in a dreamy state.  And when you spot something that catches your eye – step outside the box.  The camera is waiting for you to ask it to dance. The photograph above used that polishing technique – constant motion but not very much.

Each of us will find our own moves that are unique to us.  No two of us will interpret the same way.  We’ll choose our shutter speeds and play a bit.  I usually try several shots – each unique in my approach.  I change shutter speeds and moves and often get inspired by snippets of what I see.  My goals are known to change depending on where the results of previous shots lead me. It’s truly an adventure.


In this shot, I spent time in one area and then less time in the next and the next.  It gave me imprints of shape and tone and color slightly out of register.  There is no mistaking the subject.  The lack of clarity – the impression – gives each viewer the freedom to tell their own story – to fill their own imaginations.

In this day of Instagram, iconic shots are everywhere.  People go out and take the same photographs, following the same rules and come back with very similar shots.  The photographs that catch our eye are the ones that see things a bit differently.  

There is no right or wrong way to interpret what you see.  You are shooting the story.  It becomes you, your camera, and your imagination.  Mix that with practice and skills and you can truly make original photography that is unique to you.

Sweep the camera in a bit of a dance – gather the light and celebrate the creation of an original!

Before I close, there is an important caveat to keep in mind.  We are blurring things but we cannot forego good shooting principles. We must pay attention to good composition, lighting, and extra attention to lines and shapes.  If we throw good photography out the window, we will spend our time shooting bad photography.  My own opinion is that impressionistic work, any type of ICM (intentional camera movement) must be pristine in its approach.  If it isn’t, we will end up with a blurry mess.


The above was shot over 1.3 seconds and the moves were definitely rocking ‘n roll!  Now it’s your turn to ask for a dance!

Please visit — where you will find more photography and information on my instructional and travel series photography books.

Instagram: @roxanne_overton_photography



By |2021-05-06T09:06:48-08:00December 18th, 2020|Categories: Art of Photography|0 Comments

About the Author:

Photographer – Author - Speaker Roxanne is a lifelong artist across many mediums including textiles, paints, stained glass, and pottery. About 10 years ago she decided to embrace photography on a more exclusive basis – taking time to explore all of the potential her imagination could conjure. – where you will find more photography and information on my instructional and travel series photography books.