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Monday, July 10, 2017

A Tip for Working with Reference Photos

'Greeting the Morning'           8x10       pastel       ©Karen Margulis
available $145
I was excited to get home to have a better look at my pictures. I just spent a wonderful week in Chicago visiting my kids and grandkids. It was all about quality Grammie time but I did manage to get some reference photos of some of my favorite places in the area. There are several parks and gardens that I like to visit and this was the my first summer visit. The wildflowers were starting to put on a wonderful show! I took hundreds of photos. Now what?

I usually work from my reference photos in the studio but I am old school and like to use printed photos. I don't enjoy working from my iPad because the photos are too bright and in focus. I can see every detail in perfect clarity. You might think this would be a good thing but for me it isn't.

If I see the detail I am tempted to paint the detail. I would rather interpret a bad photo than copy a perfect one. This allows me to make the subject my own.

inspiration from my trip
 One of the first things I do when I return home from a trip is print out a few photos. Since I take so many pictures I don't want paper copies of all of them.

  • I load them all on my iMac in the Photos program. Then I scroll through and click on the photos that catch my eye. I try to choose 10 to 12 photos. 
  • I then print them as a contact sheet using regular inkjet paper. Each photo is about 2x3 inches.
  • I cut the photos apart leaving a small border and put them together in a labeled envelope. I try to keep categories of photos together.
  • Next I shuffle through the photos. Usually one will speak to me and that is the one I use!
  • I will usually go through the pile of 10-12 photos for a week or so until I feel like I have exhausted the subject for the moment. The photos are then filed for future use.

close up of the flowers
TIP:  Try Paper photos!  I enjoy scrolling through photos on my phone and tablet but there is something about holding the photo indoor hand that brings me closer to it. It is easier to hold a small paper photo to study it. I like to take my time to make thumbnail sketches from the paper photos. It is also easier to clip a small paper photo to my painting board. I like leafing through paper photos when I am looking for inspiration. I like to feel and touch of paper over the brightness of a screen.


Unknown said...

You should check out the HP Sproket printer. It prints sticker backed 2x3" pics straight from your phone. I am loving mine to put ref photos in my sketch book so I can do thumbnails from them. It is wonderful!

Basia0412 said...

Hi! Which program do you use that minimizes photos to print out on just one sheet? Thanks for all that you do and info you give. Have a great day

Karen said...

Ahhhh! Something new to try! Thanks for the heads up on the HP printer!

Basia....I use the PHOTO program that comes on the iMac. There is an option for contact sheet and you can even adjust the slider to make them as small as you'd like. I like to have mine about 2x3.

David Greer said...

Another merit to your method is that the painter is not tempted to duplicate the brilliance that backlit images on tablets produce.

Linda Kriegel said...

Excellent recommendation Karen! I've mostly been a portrait and wildlife artist and so I have always struggled to find the perfect photo for my subject. But with landscapes it is different. I will try this technique. I also just tried something new today. I converted my image to black and white and filled in the values in colors I liked. Not necessarily ones that were there. It turned out pretty well. Still would like more practice but it's coming along. Thanks!