It’s Easier to Paint From Your Own Reference Photos

Someone emailed in saying they hope my Painting the Landscape workshop will give them the confidence to take and paint from their own reference photos.

The thing is, painting from your own reference photo is easier and more effective than painting from one taken by me or anyone else.

When you paint from your own reference photo, you have an unfair advantage in that you got to experience and see the subject in life. A photo cannot capture this and it’s these details which can make your work unique, personal, and faithful to the subject.

It also gives you control over the entire process. This is important. When you paint from one of my reference photos, you are adopting my ideas and vision in terms of composition and subject selection. But my ideas and vision might not play well with your ideas, your vision, and how you paint.

There’s also something special about taking control over the entire process and knowing that you did everything from subject selection all the way through to signing the finished painting. I have done some nice drawings based on master artworks, but I cannot stand proud as if they are entirely my own. My proudest works are those where I have experienced something special in life and translated those feelings onto the canvas. That’s what art is all about really.

Having said all this, there’s nothing wrong with painting from reference photos. It is convenient, particularly for practice. But when it comes to creating something you can truly stand behind and call your own, I always recommend you take control of the process and find your own subjects to paint. It might be easier than you think.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.