2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Tip for Organizing Reference Photos

'One November Morning'           6x8            pastel         ©Karen Margulis
It always comes back to the photo. I rely on my reference photos for most of my paintings. I wish I got out more for plein air but on a daily basis I seem to be a homebody.  Most of my students also work only from photos and I find that the photos cause most of the challenges they have. Over reliance on the photo can really hurt a painting and I am going to make it my mission to help my students use their photos in ways that will help them, not hinder them.

So I am going to start an occasional blog topic of 'Artist Photo Tips'.  These will be tips designed to help us all make better use of reference photos. Today I'll start with a simple photo storage tip.

I like to pop a painting into a frame to see if I think it is finished
 I store my reference photos in photo boxes divided by subject matter. But now I am loving the tiny contact sheet photos.  These small photos measure about 2 x 3 inches and tend to get lost in my big boxes.  So the other day I came across an empty plastic CD sleeve and Voila!

The perfect little storage envelope for contact sheet photos. You can get 100 of these envelopes for 99 cents on ebay!  I think I'll order some clear ones which will make it easier to see the photos inside.

Since they are so thin and inexpensive I decided to take this storage idea a step further. I will use a separate envelope for photos that could be grouped together for a series. This way I can easily work on more than one series at a time without getting my piles of photos mixed up.  If I am not in the mood for a Lowcountry painting I can pick up my envelope of Southwest photos and see if any of them spark some excitement.

How do you keep you reference photos organized?


robertsloan2art said...

Looks like a good way to organize them!

Anne Laslo said...

I am new to landscape painting and follow your blogs and watch your videos. To answer your question, I don't print my reference photos, they are all stored online. I often lay in bed and look through my photos on my iPad and email myself a few ideas that I will revisit in the morning.
Anne Laslo Small

Deb Fox said...


I love to print out small reference photos (2x3). I store them by subject in a rolodex file. I use the rolodex cards as dividers. Once I have used a photo, I put in the back of the section so that I rotate all my photos. It keeps them handy, neat and easy to look through.


Very wonderful spring painting !!!
Happy and creative new month !!!