When your personal time to paint is limited you can’t waste your first half hour rummaging through photos. The loss of momentum means you may not even get around to painting that day. You can use photos in different forms; either hard or soft copies. The hardcopy system I choose to use takes time to set up but, provides me with a range resource images at my fingertips. From my digital photo bank I selected my best photos. I then arranged these images into folders on my computer according to subject matter. Next I made cheap 10c print outs at my local ‘Officeworks’ store of these files. Now I have a file of easily accessible reference photos on each of the themes I like to paint; landscapes, cityscapes, mountains, seascapes, dancers and skies.
Sometimes I use soft copies of photos on my tablet for a reference image. The positive of this is I do not need to go to the trouble of printing the image. The negatives are; sometimes it takes a while to find the photo and I need to monitor the how much battery is left in my tablet. The tablet off screen saver mode in settings so it the image doesn’t disappear while I’m painting it. Personally, it feels more natural to me to paint from a piece of paper than a backlit screen. This aside, when I have a fresh photo or idea, the tablet is easier to access. You can also easily switch your image to black and white or intensify the colours of your image with a photo editing application on a tablet.
It is generally preferable to use your own photo to avoid copyright issues. However, this does not mean you can’t reference elements of another’s image. So long as the picture is changed, and not easily recognisable from the original image, it should not be breaking copyright. If you paint a picture that closely resembles photographer’s work, which you do not have permission to use, you may want to consider keeping it to exercises and not exhibiting it as your own original design. Ways around the copyright conundrum include purchasing rights to use an image from a stock photo site or using a free image bank. I strongly recommend ‘Paint my Photo’ where the photographer freely uploads their image with the intention of providing artists with resource imagery.