Thinking beyond your discipline — Or: Making better Photos

A man’s face is his autobiography.
A woman’s face is her work of fiction.
Oscar Wilde

It is astonishing how blind some disciplines can be for the talents of other disciplines. I’ve already written about the benefits (and challenges) of interdisciplinary work in science (and did an update in the 2nd edition of “Organizing Creativity”), here I take the example of photography. Or rather, of photography and other disciplines that are very helpful for photography, yet are often neglected when it comes to teaching/learning photography.

I am sure there are others, but I focus here on

painting and make-up.


Looking through a book on women in European paintings, I was remembered how much knowledge and inspiration is readily available in the centuries-old history of painting: Poses, Lighting, Facial Expression, and the like. Great source of inspiration and often neglected in photography books (it actually goes both ways, some painters, e.g., at times Luis Royo, do work from photographs). And sure, it must fit to the person, his/her style (and nobody looks good impersonating a Picasso — or do they?), but … just look at the images here:

Pretty inspirational. Seriously, have a look at the great painters of the past.


I did a quick search for “make-up” in six photography books I own — I chose the ones that were about learning to photograph, either in general or portraits/erotic photography. Three did mention make-up only once or twice and only as an image information (“make-up by …”) or describing the limits of make-up (“can’t be covered by make-up”). The other three had at least a paragraph or box about the role of make-up, ranging from “something that makes post-processing easier” to “important/crucial for the effect of the photo”. While I agree that a book on photography is not about make-up, I think that most photography books could profit from a bit more information (and likewise also about props and the like). At least with a few recommendations — books, blogs, quality criteria and the like.

After all, it’s more than just something that saves time in post-processing. Just take the before-after photos — it really shows what make-up in the hands of a skillful model or (better) skillful makeup artist is capable of doing. And make-up is brilliant. People who say they don’t like make-up do not like bad make-up, trust me on this. Or don’t. Simply look at before-after make-up photos online, personally, I highly recommend this site. The TED-talk by Cameron Russell is also interesting in this regard — she shows a few of her “normal” and makeup photos.


It’s not only science which profits — a lot — from well-working interdisciplinary cooperation. Almost any art does. Expertise is great, sexy even. 😉 Painters left you their works to get inspired, and make-up artists can add a lot to an image — and they can get a lot from it (e.g., before/after photos ;-)).

So, how can you improve your creative works by working together with experts in other areas?


  1. I think inter-disciplinary cooperation and learning only helps a craft grow! Excellent topic! I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog this morning as I’m researching the role of discipline in creativity. I look forward to exploring more!

    Also, I’m wondering how disabling the website field helps with spam protection. It’s the first time I’ve seen it. Thanks!

  2. Thank you. I hope you find something interesting here. As for the website field, as far as I understand it, spam bots do not really load the site but send the information in another way. So they can actually use the field. And you can tell WordPress to ignore these comments. Did work for a while, unfortunately, now I have spam again (albeit only in the double digits). The ones who send out spam adapt. More in this posting.

Comments are closed.