How to Find Pictures to Paint for Beginners
Step 1 of any Painting: The Idea
When starting a painting, the first thing you need, even before any drawing or painting supplies, is an idea of what to paint.
Every artist needs an inspiration, something that triggers the big idea of what the painting will represent.
It does not matter if the painting is realistic or abstract, it always comes from an idea, an image, or a feeling; some kind of spark that ignites the artist’s imagination and creativity.
Often the trigger is a beautiful image.
Stunning Capture of Bee-Eaters, Copyright Free
It Is Not OK to Use Copyrighted Photos for Your Paintings
As tempting as it is to use photos from a google search as reference, if you find a picture on the internet, you can safely assume that it is copyrighted, unless it is expressly specified that it can be used.
The same concept goes for calendars, magazines, books, and all publications: they are all copyrighted!
When you enter your painting in a competition or show, many times they will ask for proof that you used the photo with permission, and it’s very important to be honest, especially if you end up winning.
The fact that art competitions ask for proof that the photo was used with permission, is a strong signal that it is not correct to use copyrighted photos for your paintings.
Using Your Own Photos as Artistic Reference
When you paint a landscape on location or a still life from life, you don't really need reference photos, though you can still take photos of the subject for later reference.
However, when you paint your picture from a photo reference, the best photos are those that you took yourself.
If you have taken a photo, it means you have been there, saw it, experienced it, and felt it. It make the painting much more meaningful.
And if you are the author, you don't have to worry about copyright infringements.
In many cases though, it is not possible to have your own photos, so you go looking for photos taken by others.
Public Domain Photo License
To be totally safe I usually look for photos that explicitly carry a Public Domain license.
My favorites are those that have this kind of disclaimer by the author:
"I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law."
What Is Derivative Work?
Some photo licenses explicitly state that derivative work is not allowed. What does it mean?
Every time you paint from a photographic reference, you are creating a derivative work of that photo.
So make sure you peruse the license agreement and understand if you can paint from it or not.
The keyword you are looking for in the license is "allow derivative work", which a painting would be.
Do Some Research
When in doubt about the photo license, make sure you have your back covered, do some extra research.
You don't want to use a photo and get sued later, at the peak of your beautiful painting's success, or being disqualified from a competition that you could have won.
If you really like a photo and you want to use it, consider approaching directly the author and ask for permission to use it as a reference for your painting.
Chances are that it will be granted to you. Make sure it is in writing.
Examples of Websites with Royalty Free Photos
Content is owned by the individual creators; most of it may be freely reused.
Free Digital Photos
You can use the free photos as artistic reference, but if you plan to sell the artwork, you have to purchase the extended license.
Flickr Creative Commons
Pay attention to the different kinds of license.
Specifically created for artistic uses as a free reference photo database.
Beautiful Photo of Poppies from MorgueFile
- Make sure you paint from royalty free photos.
- If you received the photo from someone, get a permission to paint it - in writing.
- Look for photos with a license that allows derivative work.
- Make sure the license allows commercial use of the work, in case you want to sell your painting.
- Give attribution to the author, it's always a nice thing to do.
- Get you back covered.
- Happy painting!
Do You Know Any Other Good Web Resources?
Please feel free to suggest additions to the list of web resources in the comments.
© 2013 Robie Benve