Many artists draw their inspiration from the world around them. They rely on models, the great outdoors, and their own imagination. They also rely on reference photos. Reference photos are particularly helpful when you’re drawing from your imagination or don’t have any real-life references to draw from in your area. Below we explain the best practices to using a reference photo in order to create a realistic piece.
When drawing from a reference photo, it’s important that it’s nearby for you to quickly glance at it with each stroke of your pencil. We recommend placing the photo right next to your drawing or taping it right above your workstation. That way it’s always in your line of sight.
Modify, don’t copy
A reference photo should never be copied completely. It is there for inspiration, and simply copying a photo won’t allow you to practice your creativity. Additionally, your drawing could appear unnatural. For instance, if you’re using a reference photo to draw a waterfall, you’ll want to modify the waterfall to fit your particular scene, so it doesn’t appear out of place.
If you’re drawing a waterfall, you don’t need to use just one reference photo for your waterfall. You can use many references to get the scene you’re looking for. Doing so can help you create an entirely unique feature that is still realistic. Study each reference closely and see what they have in common and what’s different about them.
Look online or create your own
The internet often seems like a treasure-trove of photos, but beware. Most photos found on the internet are under copyright laws. If you plan to use a photo from online, make sure it is not copyrighted. You can also try creating your own reference photos. Use props around your house or take photos of things you see as you’re going about your day to find something that’s truly unique.