Simple Lessons Photographers Can Learn from Leonardo da Vinci

To proudly announce our new HAPTICPRESS launch of VITRUVIAN CAMERA ARTWEAR, here are some lessons you can learn from Leonardo da Vinci on photography:

1. Simplify

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo said it the best, and the words are echoed by Steve Jobs in one of Apple’s marketing brochures: simplicity is elegant. Simplicity is beautiful.

In photography I seek “optimal simplicity.” Instead of adding to the frame, I’m like a sculptor and chip away from the frame. I subtract the superfluous.

Do the same in your photography. Don’t seem complicated photos, seek simple photos.

But making a simple photo is harder than making a complicated photo.

How do you make a simple photo? Some ideas:

‘A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.’ – Leonardo da Vinci

  1. Start with a black canvas or background. Leonardo da Vinci said the best canvas to start with was a black one. Why? All things are black without the presence of light. So start with a simple black background, and shoot portraits of your subject against it. Or just use a simple black table, to do product photos. For inspiration, look at the elegant iPhone and MacBook pro advertising. Or study the minimalist work of Richard Avedon.
  2. Subtract distractions from the edge of your frame: My teacher Constantine Manos taught me that us photographers get tunnel vision, meaning, only focusing on the inner 25% of the frame. He encouraged me instead to look at the edges and the bask background of the frame. To subtract distractions from the edges and the background, and not worry as much about the center.
  3. Get closer: when you get closer to your subjects, you fill the frame with them. Get closer to your subjects while also looking at the edges. The ultimate double-edged combination.

2. Feel what you photograph

NYC, 2016

‘Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.’ – Leonardo da Vinci

Do you feel what you photograph? A photo without your emotion and soul is dead.

Shoot with your personality, and your personal world view. Be opinionated in your photos, not just a detached “objective” observer.

Interact and talk with your subjects. Make artistic photos of your children, partner, parents, and friends. Make artful photos of yourself (honor thy selfie).

As the photographer Anders Petersen says:

Shoot from the gut, select your best photos with your brain.

3. Never stop learning

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

As long as you are a photographer, never stop learning. Learning and being foolish, like Steve Jobs loved saying from the World Earth Catalogue:

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Keep experimenting and innovating in your photography. Never stop learning new digital techniques and technologies. Learn from the past by buying FILM NOTES and experimenting with 35mm and medium format film.

As long as you treat yourself like a curious camera with a child, you’ll never die.


For more lessons, read the full version: “30 Lessons Leonardo da Vinci Has Taught Me” to inspire you.

Also, if you want to feel empowered in your photography, and encouragement to shoot, pick up a VITRUVIAN CAMERA ARTWEAR by HAPTIC PRESS.



VITRUVIAN CAMERA is an homage to Leonardo da Vinci, and his passion of combining technology and art. By wearing VITRUVIAN CAMERA proudly on your chest, it will reveal your passion for photography — ‘painting with light.’

VITRUVIAN CAMERA is ARTWEAR — to inspire yourself everyday, to pay homage to the artistic masters of the past, and to also pave your own path in photography.

Have fun :)