View Full Version : Landscapes from photos

10-13-1999, 09:55 PM
I took some nice photos of a very beautiful lake here in Virginia, but I doubt about painting from them, though I remember exactly the time of the day these photos were made. I heard it's not recommended to paint from photos photos. I usually painted from nature, butt now I'm sitting with my son, so it would be difficult in oil painting. Is it really O.K. to paint from photos? Should I try?

Thanks for help,

Drew Davis
10-13-1999, 10:21 PM
Go right ahead. Painting directly from life has a lot of advantages. But then, so do photos. The mystique some people drape around it is a bit much, I think.

It helps that you took the picture yourself. One of the disadvantages of photos is that the resultant painting can be kind of sterile. But since you were there, and remember your reaction to the spot, you've still got that emotional response to work with. The photos can help you remember some of the details, and your memories can supply the parts that don't show up on film.
And remember, you're under no obligation to reproduce the scene exactly. (That's what the camera was for.)

10-13-1999, 10:33 PM
the end justifies the means. the art is all that counts. degas looked at scenes , made no sketches, and went back to his studio to paint from memory. the idea being that all the pertinent elements of the scene would be retained and the superficial, left out

01-18-2000, 06:26 PM
Nothing wrong with painting from photos. I oftn take a day off and hit the road with my cameras. I can go out and take hundreds of pictures in a day, that will keep me busy painting for weeks. I often use bits and pieces from several photos to put into one painting. And I have more photos of the sky than I would care to try and count. Sunrises, sunsets, and clouds pass so quickly, and I sometimes paint sooo slowly.
Gisela http://www.artistnation.com/members/paris/gisela/

Phyllis Rennie
02-06-2000, 05:42 PM
Absolutely try it. At least once--you may or may not like it but you'll never know if you don't try it. Sometimes I've found that my paintings from photos are a bit flat--without the depth and dimension that those have that were painted from "life". I've learned to compensate for that by doing a complete value sketch from the photo and then putting the photo away and painting from my value sketch. Might work for you--or not. Phyl

02-07-2000, 07:15 AM
I like painting from slides, and I blow them up really big on the wall. I think the original atmosphere is much more preserved this way than looking at a print (expecially the regular 9x12 size).

Next step for me is probably to hook up a projector to my computer.

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Critiques/User/helipirat.gif Homepage at Artistnation now with earlier work (http://www.artistnation.com/members/paris/henrik)

[This message has been edited by henrik (edited February 07, 2000).]

02-09-2000, 02:20 PM
I've tried to paint from photos, but I can't. Everything is so different,the color is not like in nature and the shadows are not transparent, ofter too dark, even black. I use photos only to add some details, that I may forget. But eventually I come back to the place and compare the painting with real landscape. I think I'll give up the mwhole idea.

02-09-2000, 04:04 PM
Julia, that is exactly why I prefer slides they have a totally different feeling than the printed stuff. Nowdays the printing is all automated and when using the small printing devices they have at local outlets (finished in 1 hour) they can't spnd too much time on each individual job.
The local developer I use is great; if there are pictures that does not come out as expected they are happy to run them again; lighter/darker/color correction etc. Sometimes it is hopeless though...

Drew Davis
02-09-2000, 09:03 PM
One trick with photos is to open up the aperture an extra stop or two and intentionally overexpose the photo a bit to help you see into the shadows better. It works best with slide film (more dynamic range), and you'll need to find a developing outfit that's not to eager to "correct" your "mistake".

John S. Priddy
04-08-2000, 10:59 PM
Art is anything someone enjoys seeing. If you paint from memory, sketches, old calenders, postcards, imagination, OR photos, if someone enjoys it, it is art. Don't let anyone tell you different.

04-10-2000, 03:21 PM
Painting from photos carries its challenges. Sometimes you have no choice, for example if requested to do a portrait of a unique experience such as some of my sporting portraits where someone snapped a pic of another with a trophy fish.

The experienced eye, however, can often tell when a painting has been painted from a photo because the camera is a poor substitute for gathering all the subtle colors and shadow values. The electronic through the lens metering reacts to the light source that is prominent in its field of view. You may by the natural eye notice the wonderful subtleties of cool colors in a shadow, but the camera will read the bright sky light and think it needs to adjust to that light. The result is the shadow appears darker, and more dramatic, but the colors will be lost.

However, by that same principle, the camera can help you understand how to create drama with light. The camera being somewhat similar to Baroque drama lighting, making darks darker and lights lighter.

The best thing IMHO is to paint enough works directly from life, out of doors, etc., so that the trained eye can anticipate and see beyond the limitations that film chemistry delivers...and thus you can adjust the work such that it becomes a good painting regardless. In fact, trying to improve upon a photo's limitations is a good exercise.

Unfortunately, many artists get dependent upon photos, and their works come off a bit flat and unconvincing. Life seems always to come back to that thing we call "balance."

You'll find though...that a great deal of prejudice exists AGAINST using photographs. It is inferred that good artists do not need them, and that using them is evidence that you are not as good as the next guy. I've seen alot of that over the years in the very competitive field of wildlife art. I've been at artist's receptions where the artist made it very sure photos were not used, yet I could tell looking at the work that a slide was cast up onto the canvas held along a wall and each part was traced with a pencil, then simply filled in with paint. This is done a lot with water and all the ripples, etc; to pull the wool over the public eyes in such a way is a scam and an insult against fellow peers. Best in such a case not to boast of anything!


"Art attacks can skill!"

04-10-2000, 07:59 PM
Excuse me for pointing out the obvious....

Take several prictures with different exposure settings. Also take close ups.

If you have a camera with spot metering where you can lock the exposure setting; spot measure by aiming your "spot" to an area you want properly exposed; (usually) hold down the trigger halfway to lock exposure - then adjust camera position for composition - shoot. This way you can create a series of picture where "each value" is properly exposed.

04-11-2000, 01:21 PM
I agree with the above, I often use photos to refer to with a painting. To be honest, I prefer the less 'in focus' ones, blurry is good as it allows me to add my own ideas and not stick to the exact picture.

04-23-2000, 03:59 PM
I beleive in using all the tools at my disposal for creating anything I do. Art Woodworking, studying etc. The end result is what counts. If it takes a camera to acheive it.... use it.IMHO If artists or anyone confined themselves to only one method to acheive their goals we would be still living in caves and not reaching for the stars. JD

04-24-2000, 05:46 PM
Since circumstances prevent me from doing my painting on site, I must rely on photos. I don't feel my work ends up looking flat..and attribute that to paying close attention to the contrasts and value changes. No doubt I could come up with "better" works, if done plein aire.......but.. am just happy to be able to do it all !! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Carol

04-24-2000, 06:51 PM
With watercolours I find it difficult to paint outside, drying times are so fast on a sunny day, the bugs land on your paper, seem to get attracted to white paper in sunlight. So I use all devices available, take my digital camera with me always. Have taken over 2 thousand photos with it over the last 4 months, plenty to draw from. with all images on the computer you can change contrast levels , change composition , have several shots displayed together. As you probably guessed I paint next to my computer.
Indoor painting is for me, As far as feeling the scene I drawn from all the memories I have after examining nature closely for years,

Watercolours from New Zealand (http://www.artistnation.com/members/paris/rod/)

04-25-2000, 03:43 PM
You are right about the bugs, rod. They are a nuisance. But as you are an indoor person, I'm an outdoor one, I guess. Nothing is better than to stand before nature and witness its real, "live" beauty. But we all are restricted by certain life schedules, so now I can hardly find time to go out. May be later I will.

04-25-2000, 11:20 PM
Is the Eye not the camera of the soul?
Sorry I couldn't resist.

04-26-2000, 08:21 AM
Way to Go Sandi!!! after my own heart aren't ya ?! Does that make us liberals? Ooops...that was a different forum..sorry... lol http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-26-2000, 11:29 AM
LOL Sandi, i like that a lot! I'm not sure where this subject might fit in here but something Rod said struck a chord w/ me. I love to paint outdoors & do so as often as i can. I do have a problem with little bugs landing on my canvas! Happens everytime. I'd guess they're attracted to the smell. Any ideas as to how to combat this? it's very annoying! Cheryl

04-26-2000, 11:31 AM
BTW Rod, if you think they're attracted to you water colors you oughtta see them flock to oil! & i'm in a tropical climate so that intensifies it! Cheeryl

04-26-2000, 10:58 PM
Would a house of mosquito netting not help keep the bugs away when working outside? Just a suggestion.

04-29-2000, 11:20 AM
When I painted back in Russia, I used a lot of sprays to fight the bugs and there are plenty of them in my country, believe me. However it may not seem a problem, as usually I have not more than a 2 hours session. Another interessting thing is that people tend to like those works, which have been done in the plain air. What do you think?