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June 5, 2024

Dutch Masters style photography

May was such a busy month for me with some inspiring workshops and collaborations. It’s a wonderful time in the garden too as the seasons crossover. Tulips, the divas of Spring move over for the ranunculus, lilac and early peonies. Suddenly the choice in flowers is almost overwhelming and I haven’t even got started on the hedgerows. With all the floral exuberance, it’s the perfect month to create your very own masterpiece inspired by the Dutch masters.

Dutch Masters style flower design

Flowers love the dark

Yes, they really do look amazing against a dark backdrop! I love an airy window shot, but there is nothing like a darker, moody set up to bring an image alive. This is where you can explore the story telling in your photography through light and shadow. The painterly quality of the side light is reminiscent of the Dutch Golden Age which evokes an emotion that can’t be replicated with bright light.

Dutch Masters style flowers photography

I wrote a blog in 2018 about how I take this kind of image which you can read here. It’s my most popular blog ever, but my imagery has moved on quite a bit since then. One thing remains the same though. Finding the ‘right’ light is everything. I don’t mean bright sunlight, but natural, gentle side light from a window or door. Vermeer’s ‘The Milk Maid’ is one of my favourite paintings. The beautiful window light that washes down over her and on to the table casts an ethereal glow.

To demonstrate the use of Vermeer's light on The Milk Maid
The Milk Maid by Johannes Vermeer 1657 Captured on my Iphone at The Riijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The painting is full of light and shadow, yet the details are never diminished. The more you look, the more you see. This level of detail is what I love to capture in my own imagery. You can see in the middle image below that I have a very similar style window.

In the style of Jan Van Huysum

Leigh Chappell and I collaborated on a Dutch Masters style floral photography workshop at Strawberry Hill House alongside the exhibition of two Jan Van Huysum floral paintings. Leigh guided everyone through creating their very own masterpiece before we moved to the Great Parlour for a photography session.

 Dutch Masters style bowl of flowers
This stunning design was created by Fi Passey at CorkyandPrince

The light is certainly challenging at Strawberry Hill, but the shadowy rooms are perfect for creating the mood. I set up a table as close to the window as possible for the all important side light. Fruit and vegetables, a nest and quails eggs helped set the scene. The nest alludes to rebirth and renewal whilst the fruit and flowers symbolised the transience of life. Only the very wealthy could afford to grow such flowers and fruit and the abundance in the Van Huysum paintings reflect the affluence right back at the viewer.

Floral friends from across the globe

When Lisel Vanhoff from Queensland contacted me to say she was visiting the UK and wanted to do a workshop with me I was very excited. We have followed each other on Instagram since 2016 and catching up in real life with online friends is so rewarding. Lisel is a grower and florist with a gorgeous, colourful and abundant style.

Dutch Masters style flowers and photography
A sumptuous use of colour created by Lisel @bellebouquets

After a wander around the garden gathering flowers she decided she wanted to create a bowl in a Dutch Masters style. Wiith the focus on composition and styling we tried out different backdrops and props to achieve the abundant Dutch Masters look. Do get in touch if you’d like to do a class or 1:1 to try out this style.

Wishing you a wonderful month ahead and here’s hoping we see a bit more of the sunshine!


Floral Styling and photography

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