Friday, July 04, 2014

Tips on Using Photos for your Paintings

Most of us probably create paintings from photographs since taking photos is the easiest way to get references of a subject we wish to paint. Photos also help us capture landscapes, flowers, birds, etc, we may not see again or want to paint from the comfort of our studio.
When using a photo to produce a painting, we must be wary and attentive to what we are seeing—and not seeing—in a photo. To do this, we must first understand the limitations of photos such as color accuracy, depth of field, and the warms and cools of highlights and shadows. There’s some distortions that come with photos.
If you're finding that your painting from photos are ending up stiff, or just not working right, it may be because you're not taking enough photographs. When taking photos, don't expect to take one perfect shot. Take at least half-a-dozen photos and use them to reconstruct the scene you want to paint. If you use a few photos  to generate ideas and composition, you'll get a more natural looking painting than if you try to recreate the scene from one photo.
It's also important to realize that the brain doesn't question photos. However, it will question elements of a painting, even if it is an exact replication of a photo. It's important to carefully compose our paintings with aid of photos and not copy them.
I have lots of photos I store in various folders on my computer. Most of these photos would not make great paintings, however elements of them combined with other ideas could some day be used for paintings. When I’m ready to start a painting, I’ll search through numerous photos for inspiration and print a few. Then I'll do small sketches to familiarize myself with the subject and try different compositions.
If you want to create your own inventory of photos, here are few tips
  • Don't rush to take a photo. Walk around the subject before taking photos and consider the various angles and best views. When I first took photography courses, we were required to take 24 photos of each subject. This is a good exercise to force you to look at your subject differently.
  • Take wide angle shots to capture essence, mood, light. These assist as visual reminders of the context.
  • Experiment with taking photos a different levels. There are interesting views that are not at eye level. For example, you can take a photo from under the flower or use a ladder for a garden.
  • For photos of buildings, it's best to take a photo of each section square one. Taking a number of photos from the same spot will distort the building proportions.
For those of you who paint portraits, here are some tips for you.

If you're looking for a source of photos without copyright issues, try "Paint my Photo (PMP)" which is a free website where you can find thousands of photos. You can join at

Today's inspiring photo is from Herman Pekel:

Herman Pekel watecolour

Last weekend, Jen (aka Jaka) submitted an article. You are all more then welcome to contribute to this site either an article or an idea or two for me to research.

Have a good week

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