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Painting from landscape photos

I am sure this topic is covered somewhere but I haven't found it.
It is one thing to paint realism from a still life or even while doing plein aire. Obviously, this is why those are the preferred methods. But what about the long winter (spring, are we skipping spring this year?) when photos are all you have and all you want to do is paint landscapes? Honestly, I don't have ANY photography that I would want to copy exactly. Its really a challenge and what sets apart the good from the great artists, I believe. Making a photographic reference that is subpar come alive in a painting is really the true challenge for me right now.

Does anyone have further thoughts, suggestions or experience on this subject?


  • Hi Jennie, why don't u take winter landscape pictures from the place where u live? If there aren't places u like...did u ever consider painting a scene from where u live? I am saying this because I believe painting landscape from photos taken by others is not the best, but only in my opinion (if it's not your case there are websites with copyright free photos). Second, it's crazy but painting changes the force of any even if u take an apparently normal photo of your nearby and u paint it it will be amazing if well painted. Also if u need advise on how to take good picture for painting I can help!
  • You are getting into my area of thought. I like to paint from photos but combined with my own  imagination Sometimes referred to as "Artistic License" I often ponder my own neighborhood and the wild areas nearby. We have tall pines and other trees that have been there for decades before the encroachment of cookie-cutter houses, car car-clogged streets and telephone poles but I want to paint it like it was before, just wildland landscape. I also see photos of landscapes and want to paint them but add features from my imagination or combine features from two or more photos for one painting. Once you figure out values and light vs shadow an artist should be able to do this.
  • edited April 2018
    @jennie_art, you can do a lot with even  very ordinary photos with image editing software. What I've found is that one of the most important things is how you crop a photo - a good crop can make an ordinary photo into a good one. You can also do a lot with colour and value - you can fix under/over exposed areas for example and subtly change the colours. You can also add or remove clouds, get rid of powerlines and heaps more. Also, you don't need to buy expensive software like Photoshop. You can download things like GIMP which are free and can do just about anything you would want. :)
  • @jennie_art, why don’t you join a royalty free photo sharing site like “photos for Artists.   If you are using an iPhone or android device, this website is best accessed using a browser.if you use a laptop or desktop, click on the banner for rules and to access the indexed Albums.  There are videos to help with this. 
  • I am in agreement that painting from own reference photos is the rule best followed although I have certainly practiced a bit from professional photography I have found online. The problem is that my amateur photography is not great and my point is that since the Carder method says to color check with exactness and paint exactly what you see, this does not lead to an excellent painting. Do you get what I am saying there? 

  • Yes, agreed @BOB73 ! I am getting there with the artistic lisence and using parts multiple reference photos. 
    @marieb Unfortunately, this would make it impossible to ever submit the painting to any contest or ever sell the piece :(  I have definitely done that for practice though!
    @tassieguy Thank you for that idea!
  • @jennie_art, the images are free to use, you can enter them into competitions if you like , unless the competition rules say otherwise.You can also sell the work you have done using these photos. Check out the website. When you get better at painting I think you will get better at "seeing" and so, take better photos. Use whatever you need to paint good paintings. Don't stress, paint to enjoy the experience and you will learn in the process; don't worry about competitions until you are feeling more comfortable about your abilities. I look forward to seeing your work :)

  • Yes I got, I also tried to be kind and helpful offering my help too, ur response sounds a little bit arsh. Do you get it?
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