Taking Photos For Your Art - Part I

 Photo/Oil/Cold Wax | ©Beth Cole

Photo/Oil/Cold Wax | ©Beth Cole

Taking Photos For Your Art - Part I

by Beth Cole

This is a new series on taking photos for your art. I believe taking your own photos is a big part of the artistic process. When you use your own photos for painting you are already connected in a way to the scene you want to paint. It is always just a good policy to work from your own photos.

One of the biggest helps I have found in taking photos is being intentional about taking them, i.e. giving myself time and space to do this. I often carry my phone with me when I’m walking and I always have it when driving and I have been known to pull over many times to capture something that catches my eye. Sometimes I don’t stop driving but shoot sideways out the window…..eeeeeek……not recommended!

Another way to be intentional is just to take an afternoon and drive around your area to see what you can see. Don’t forget to look in the alleys and out of the way places, there is beauty to behold in all corners.

I have painted many a failed painting from a poor photograph which I fell in love with when I took it. I have learned the hard way that not all photos will translate into a good painting. Sometimes I omit much of the extra stuff that’s in the photo and just simplify the composition to include the main thing the photo is about.

For example, I am just getting started on a painting of a puddle of water near the railroad tracks.

 ©Beth Cole 

©Beth Cole 

I absolutely love the puddle and the reflection so this is what my painting will be about. See the row of trees and a bunch of complicated grain elevators in the background? The elevators will be omitted and simplified into a row of distant trees. I love the elevators but the photo is not about them. Maybe another day, I will crop the photo and paint the elevators just by themselves. Here is my value study showing the simplified photo. I hope it will work because the shapes and values have been simplified.

 Value Study for Painting

Value Study for Painting

I also look for good light and shadow contrast. For that reason, I believe the best time of day for taking photos is the early morning, or the golden hour of the day in the late afternoon. The light is so magical at those times of day.

After I have gathered some photo inspirations, the next step for me is editing. I will share a little of my editing process in the next post.

I would love to hear your thoughts about your photo process, what do you look for when you are taking photos to paint?

Have a good week, thanks for reading.

--Beth Cole