Shooting your own photo references for your artwork can be very effective for getting the visuals you need! This video explains what is necessary for a photo reference to be effective, what visual elements to look for and emphasize, how to make choices on setting up a model, lighting, props, and more. Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu and Teaching Artists Lauryn Welch and Cat Huang.
Prof Lieu’s Tips
I don’t think it’s bad to work from photos at all! I use photos all the time. There’s a big difference between using a photo as raw material that you then manipulate and transform, vs. copying a photo verbatim.
I think the most effective use of a reference photo is when you look at the artwork, you don’t think to yourself “that’s from a photo.” It’s a tough skill and takes many years of experience to do it well.
- Google Images is convenient, but it’s very limited.
- Many images you find online are low resolution and poor quality.
- Finding a good reference photo is surprisingly difficult & time consuming.
- Photos of people online are often Photoshopped and too “perfect.” Shooting your own reference photos seems like extra work, but the results are really worth your time.
- Shoot TONS of reference photos when you do.
- It’s always okay to have too many reference photos.
- Not having enough reference photos is a hassle.
- Shoot various points of view: from above, from below, from the side.
- Avoid copying the reference photo’s composition verbatim.
- Think about your reference photo as a raw material you will manipulate and transform dramatically.
- It’s not a good sign if your reference photo looks better than your artwork.
- You can set up a specific lighting situation when you shoot your own photos.
- You don’t always have to plan the exact reference photo you want.
- Try shooting some spontaneous reference photos to get new ideas.
- Blend together multiple photo references to create your artwork.
- Sometimes you can shoot a reference photo of yourself.
- Other times you will need someone to model for you for the photo.
- Use pieces of a reference photo; perhaps you want to use a similar color scheme and put it in a new context in your artwork.
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