Top 5 Reasons to Photograph Your Own Reference Photos for Your Art

These Five Things Will Help You to Take Control of Your Art Career.

Why is it extremely important to photograph your own images that you use for your paintings? Today we have countless ways to search for images on the internet. There are Google Images, Pinterest, Pixabey, and Pexels to name just a few; Although the last two, Pixabay and Pexels, are much better than the other websites since we can paint from them without breaking copyright laws (Pixabay, and Pexels images are copyright free). Let’s say that if you just created the next Mona Lisa, you will have ant reproduction rights to your painting. If the copyright owner of the image you worked from feels like it, they can litigate against you. This is not a good look for you as an artist. So here are the Top 5 Reasons to Photograph Your Own Reference Photos for Your Art.

  • 1. You will be able to paint your visions more clearly
  • 2. Learning new skills that will support your art
  • 3. Your work will be original
  • 4. How to create prints, t-shirts, or mugs of your work
  • 5. How to know if you are breaking copyright laws
“American Expressions #1”
Pastel on Board
by Timothy John-Luke Smith

1. You Will be Able to Paint your Vision more Clearly.

As artists, the worst thing that could happen to us is that our creativity is stifled. Many ideas from my paintings come from a dream or a vision that flashes before my eyes. It would be impossible or at the very least improbable that I would be able to find the exact images that are in my head. Life is too short to compromise our art because we did not want to learn how to photograph our own reference images. There are so many wonderfully informative YouTube videos on photographing the model both with flash photography and natural lighting. Adorama has a fantastic YouTube channel as well as Daniel Norton and Seth Miranda. I have learned how to take professional photos watching these channels and you can definitely learn from them as well.

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2. Learning New Skills That Will Help Support Your Art.

Anything that we learn becomes something that we can put into our Artist Resume. As your proficiency in photography grows, you will have an added service to offer to your collectors and new clients. If you have a portrait commission, you can shoot your own reference images of the sitter and create a much more striking painting than working from a blurry and poorly composed snapshot provided by the client.

“Vase Roll Out”
Pastel on Board
by Timothy John-Luke Smith

3. Your Work Will be Original

How embarrassing will it be when the paintings on your website are not original? What if your collector does an image search on Google of their treasured painting that has been purchased from you, only to find that 7 other artists have painted the same image? I tell you one thing, they will not be all that thrilled. By photographing your own reference there will not be any painting that will have the same subject unless they have broken copyright laws. If so, you have the right to litigate against them as opposed to the other way around. It is better to be in front of the 8 Ball than to be behind it.

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4. How to Create Prints, T-Shirts, or Mugs of your Your Work?

This is one of the best ways for an artist to make a living from their work. There are only so many paintings that we can do in our lifetime and selling the original is final. There is no more revenue coming from that painting or drawing; However, there is the wonderful world of print on demand. We can sell fine art prints, t-shirts, mugs, and anything under the sun that a collector would love to show off your work. The sad thing is that if you did not photograph your own reference for the original artwork you are definitely breaking copyright laws somewhere. If the copyright holder finds your images selling, they have a right to stop your revenue stream and perhaps make you pay for the lost revenue that you made on the prints.

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5. Can You Be Sure to Know if You Are Breaking Copyright Laws or Not?

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it;

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Unless you are taking your own photos you can never be certain. It is honestly not worth the risk to use copyrighted images. For practice, it is fine to use copyrighted images but for your fine art paintings, you need to use your own photographs. I go into every painting with the notion that maybe this painting is the one that puts me in an art history book. This is how all artists should think. Don’t discount our genius just because it comes from us. We must stack the odds in our favor and not play Russian Roulette with our careers. You can be litigated against and the lawyer fees alone will financially ruin your bottom line for years to come.

Learn photography to take images both in the studio and out in the field. This will be instrumental in your growth as an artist and your financial security as an entrepreneur.

What are some of your thoughts on using copyrighted material? Do you use it and if so, are you worried about getting into legal trouble? Please comment down below.


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