Back to top

Painting from Photos

How to make better artwork by using multiple photos

You can’t beat drawing and painting from real life, and I encourage everyone to do this as much as possible.  There is such a lot more information when you are working in front of a subject.  In a landscape there may be movement of trees and changes in lighting as clouds drift by. You can move a bit yourself and get a better idea of what’s close and what’s further away.

By comparison working from a photo makes it more difficult to get a feeling of 3D reality.  Photos are flat and sometimes it is difficult to understand all the details. I sometimes use old photos for historical illustrations on my maps and there’s no way round that. But if I’m using my own photos to draw from later… and here’s the trick!..  I take several photos from slightly different viewpoints. Try it and you will find out what a big difference that makes.

EXAMPLE: HOLIDAY SNAPS     When you are somewhere different, such as when you are on holiday, and would like to paint a scene from a photo when you get back home, take several photos from slightly different viewpoints; move around a bit between shots. At home have all the photos available on your tablet, phone or computer, or even print out a couple of the best ones to refer to.  You will be able to interpret your photos much better than if you had just one.

Painting a landscape
You can't always work in front of your subject. That's when photos can be very useful.