In all my demos and workshops I often say painting from photos is the reason that the end result of so many artist paintings end up so mediocre. Well, that is the polite version. It usually comes out like this, “Photos are the reason you paint so bad.” :)
I’ll try to outline my reasoning throughout this article.
First and foremost, most photos the average person takes are un-composed and shot on auto. Some make great snapshots but nothing really great to paint from. I’ve done it, sure. But I refuse to anymore.
At minimum use the rule of thirds by placing the main subject in one of the four quadrants. Then start looking for lead in lines, overlapping elements, reflections, lighting, cast shadows, etc. Just being more conscious of the composition will help improve what you get.
Since most users use the ‘auto’ feature on their camera, the depth of field is large. This means ‘everything’ is in focus. Which usually translates into everything being painted in focus as well. Uggg, boring. Don’t fall into that trap.
Look around you. Go outside and focus on a tree, a door, a bicycle, anything really. Then notice how you can still see your entire environment in your peripheral vision and how it gets more blurry the farther your peripheral vision extends. Use this experience to give your painting more life by making edges softer here and there. Heck, take a risk and lose an edge of something as well.
This doesn’t mean you have to start taking photos with all blurry backgrounds, but that does help. What I want to get across is to try treating your photo like a large vista with some objects/areas blurry and others in focus. Take a chance and blur those edges.