Painting from Photographs: Advantages and Disadvantages

South Texas Watercolor Artist

Many of us paint from photos in our studio. This can and should be supplemented with sketches and tonal studies. There are advantages and disadvantages to using photos.

One of the biggest disadvantages is that the lens of a camera distorts much of what we see and also lacks color definition. This is especially true when looking at shadows and subtle tonal changes. What we see with our eyes, such as the subtle color changes in shadow, is often not captured with a camera. Too often, the darks are too dark and the lights too light.

There are many photo manipulation programs such as lightroom and Quickshot (Apple App) that can help.

However, with this said, I often will distort what I see in a photo and ‘enlarge’ focal points. If you carefully study photos while plein air painting, you know exactly what I mean. Much of what you see…

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