The optical properties of Stanley's paintings are unusual, and compel the question whether they were instinctive or acquired.

Stanley presumably attended a course on optics at the Slade, but if so, he gave little acknowledgment to the spatial or atmospheric subtleties of optical-vision-in-art which so preoccupy traditional painters. As has already been indicated in this website, the acuity of his imagery, from close foreground to distant background, is not only stark, but frequently unsettling to the eye,
a feature for which he was frequently condemned by academic critics. Its origin lay in that devotion to precision so characteristics of his personality. Without precision, including that of imagery, there could be no clarity of comprehension for him. Here he is looking back at his 'Bed pic' (The Centurion's Servant, 1914) :

My bed picture is an example of how a picture ought to be painted. Everything in that picture, colour particularly, was perfectly clear, and the way to get the colour decided in my mind before I put brush to canvas. The result was that it was done in no time, it was done like clockwork....What pleases me is that I have learned the reason why the picture should be done so as to let me see the idea without having to plough through incompetent detail that has no fundamental bearing on the idea.  [author's italics]

His concern, it will be noted, is not with the detail or substance of the picture, but with the idea it is intended to convey - in this case, an invocation for the arrival of some form of mental deliverance to ease the distress he will face during the impending sacrifice of his art to the behemoth of military service.

It is not possible to reproduce Stanley's style in a normal visual medium, such as a photograph, except by a laborious procedure of focusing the camera lens almost to infinity, stopping down the aperture as far as feasible, and then tilting the film plane slightly from its normal parallelism with the lens plane. This demands
a camera with movements incorporated and a high quality lens. One effect is a slight elongation or curvature in the proportions of the image, and this can occasionally be detected in Stanley's paintings (e.g. The Helter-Skelter, Hampstead Heath) To achieve the sharpness of detail Stanley preferred in his paintings, a slow-speed fine grain film or plate needs to be used, so that, with the lens stopped down, a time exposure is usually required. The camera must therefore be mounted on a tripod, and there can be no movement of detail in the scene to cause blurring.

Among Stanley's effects after his death was found  a high-quality quarter-plate camera of 1910 vintage using glass plates, together with a tripod. It is tempting to presume that they were his, but in fact there is no evidence that he ever took photos with them. The likelihood is that they came into his possession when his brother Sydney was killed in 1918. Older by three years, Sydney was an enthusiastic photographer and, like Stanley, deeply interested in the cultural. He was studying Divinity at Oxford to enter the Church when he volunteered for the infantry in 1914.

During pre-war vacationsSydney was the brother with whom Stanley best enjoyed long discussions on art and religion. It may not be coincidental that Stanley painted his first major landscape, Cookham 1914, a view over the Thames from Winter Hill, two years after he left the Slade, and it would be fascinating to know if Sydney's vacational photography round Cookham at the time had influence.

Certainly Stanley's compositional use of flat-field deep-focus imagery, sometimes multi-perspectived,  rendered with pin-point clarity and with little or no regard to the accepted visual attributes of painting, became a lifelong 'trademark' characteristic, used alike for landscapes, still-lifes, portraits and figure work.