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The Secret of the Painterly Edit

One of the questions I hear most often in the photography groups I’m apart of is “how can I achieve the painterly look?”. Some tend to think there is a magical software or a one-click Photoshop action that will turn their photograph from a mediocre one to an absolutely fabulous piece of art that will make people say oooh and aaah. I understand where they are coming from because just a few short years ago, I was one of those people.

But the truth is, there is no magic button to painterly editing! It’s just another style of editing that photographers learn by making a ton of mistakes and putting in countless hours of hard work. In my opinion, this is the most time consuming and one of the most beautiful types of editing styles but it’s so worth the work put in.

But hey, It’s not all bad news! There is hope. There are helpful tools that if you learn how to use correctly can definitely shorten your editing time. And of course, help you achieve that breathtaking painterly edit. But always remember that there is no magical formula because each photograph is so different it’s impossible to edit them all in the same way.


Painterly Heirloom – fine art painterly editing workshop taught by Summerana Instructor Shannon Squires Photography


Ok, so now that you know the truth, here are the first steps you can take to learn painterly editing:


  1. Get Photoshop software. If you don’t know how to use it, it’s a good idea to learn the basics.
  2. Make sure your photo looks good even before you start editing. If you study some painterly works of art, you will notice that the models are styled, the light is perfect in the image and the background is really creamy.
  3. Now that you made sure your photo is perfect for a painterly edit and you are Photoshop ready (knowing the basics) it’s time to watch a tutorial. Summerana offers a Painterly Heirloom – Fine Art Painterly Editing Workshop in the membership so if you are a member make sure to check it out.
  4. After following the tutorial and having a better understanding of the techniques used to create a painterly edit, it’s time to practice.
  5. Photoshop actions, textures, hand painted old masters digital backgrounds, overlays…etc. can really help speed up your workflow. That is if you know which ones work best for your photo. So at this stage, you should spend some time playing around.
  6. Don’t be afraid to go overboard. Everyone does in the beginning and making mistakes is the only way to learn.
  7. Post your image in a photography group and ask for gentle CC. Constructive criticism is the best way to learn. Sometimes others can point things to you that you might have missed.
  8. Give yourself time to grow! Nobody became amazing overnight.
  9. Compare your work only with your work. Does that make sense? Give yourself 1 year and then compare 2 pictures you edited; one you just finished working on and one from a year ago. This is the only way to see if you are growing.
  10. Artists that create and sell painterly art charge a lot of money because they spend a lot of time on each image. Never sell yourself short!


Rembrandt – Old Masters Studio Digital Background Collection – Image is by Peanut and Pip Photography


I hope that you have a better understanding now and you are ready to give up on the idea that there is a secret to achieving the painterly edit in one click. There isn’t! Don’t waste your time. Get to work! And if you want some real help, sign up for Summerana’s Membership and take advantage of all the painterly editing workshops and helpful Photoshop tools. Also if you really want to do this as a career, consider signing up for an in-person workshop with an artist whose work you truly admire. Good Luck!


Vintage Belle – painterly editing workshop taught by Summerana Instructor Shannon Squires Photography


3 thoughts on “The Secret of the Painterly Edit”

  1. I like this style of photography, but after much time, investment, and effort, have not sold a single session.
    It seems like there is not much interest or demand for this style of photography. Actually there is some interest until I mention the price. Just don’t know how to reach the right market. I feel there are people out there who will pay a premium for fine art photography if I can somehow hob bob in the upper echelons of society, of which I am not a part:-)

    1. I’m sorry to hear that! It can take a while to find your target market. Have you considered doing in person sales? In my experience, this seems to be the go-to strategy for this type of photography. Of course, made a lot more complicated in a pandemic. Good luck to you! I hope you find your perfect photography niche! πŸ™‚

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