Photography Painting Lessons

(Scroll down to see the full list of lessons in this section)

Portraits and landscapes are challenging and exciting to paint. Unfortunately, not every artist has the time to paint from life, and this is where photographs come in handy when you are learning how to oil paint on canvas.

Sometimes, painting from a photograph too directly can result in copyright issues. Always be sure that you have a photographer’s permission when copying from their work.

Remember, there’s a difference between derivative use of a photograph, and reference use. The easiest way to avoid issues is to take your own photos.

Learn to take good photographs! It’s never a bad idea to take a few lessons in digital photography. Practice a lot, read books and articles on the subject and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for tips and lessons, if they have expertise that you do not.

Always be sure to use good pictures. You want to focus on good lighting, color schemes and tonal relationships. If you’re taking the photographs yourself, avoid using flash as it tends to flush out tonal contrasts – light your subject well using other means rather than resorting to using a flash.

Take photos of your subject from multiple angles, distances and with different lighting options. This will help you to get a complete image of your subject and is particularly useful for portraits and landscapes.

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Don’t only take photos of your subject. Make as many sketches as possible in the time that you have, as well. Write notes about the colors, values and temperatures, describing as much as you can about the subject. Really try to capture the essence and spirit of your subject.

Before you start sketching or painting onto your canvas, crop your photos. You wouldn’t want to realize half way through that your photo doesn’t fit the shape of your canvas. That isn’t all that cropping is useful for, though. Cropping helps you to decide what you want to focus on in your painting, and where on the canvas you should place the focus.

Don’t let your painting look like a bad collage! If you’re using different elements from different photos and pictures, be careful not to have shadows that don’t make sense. Unify different elements by paying attention to angles, light source/direction and shadows, color temperature, scale (usually, forks aren’t bigger than chairs) and value relationships. Of course, there are tons of oil painting techniques that you can implement to get the desired effect on your painting.

If you want a flat, dead look in your painting then copy photos exactly as you see them. Otherwise, use the photos as an aid for drawing the general shape, and for tone, colors and value relationships and then use your artistic license to fill in the rest of the details.

Remember that colors often don’t come out as brilliantly in photos as you see them in the real world, so it’s important to add colors to your painting that you can’t see in the photos. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what colors are missing, edit your photos in Photoshop, Picassa or GIMP to get some ideas about what to add and what to take away.

Lighten up shadows and darken highlights while painting from photos. Never paint shadows black, even if they look black in the photos: if the lighting source is warm, paint shadows using cool colors such as blue, green or violet. If the lighting source is cold, then use warm colors for shadows. Always make the shadows lighter and more transparent than they look in photos.

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List of Photography Painting Lessons And Tips:

  1. Copyright Issues in Using Reference Photos and Pictures From Books
    Every artist knows what it’s like to try to draw something without any tools for reference. It’s not easy. That’s why when live models and other subjects can’t be found; photographs and other pictures come in handy.
  2. How to Select the Main Elements of a Photograph for Painting
    To start off, study your photograph. If it’s possible, have a large copy of it, so that you can get well acquainted with all of the little details, as well as the general feeling that you get from it.
  3. How to Reinforce the Illusion of Depth is 2D Paintings
    With the availability of resources to explain how to work with perspective, it can still be quite a challenge even for seasoned artists to create a strong illusion of depth in their artworks.
  4. How to Use Photos As Reference for Oil Paintings | Photo Referencing in Paintings
    Painting can often be made easier by the extensive use of reference material. This article will take a look at using photos as reference for oil paintings.
  5. Squaring Up a Photograph for Painting
    When painting from a photograph, in most instances, the photograph is much smaller than the canvas. This can make things tricky when it comes to painting various elements of the painting in proportion.
  6. Where to Find Reference Photographs for Oil Painting
    Many painters nowadays make use of all aids for making paintings in which earlier painters have dreamed of. The convenience of using an immediate image to copy, such as photographs, is very much rewarding.
  7. Learn the Best Times to Use Photographic Reference
    Painting portraits and landscapes can be difficult enough when painting from life. Photographs can make things easier, without using them as a way to “cheat”.

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