Reference Photos

A picture is worth a thousand words and a bad reference photo is worthless. A reference photo is just as important a tool as the pencil itself. If you want to get as much detail in your drawings as possible,then a photo references will be useful. Before I start drawing, i already have an idea of what i want my drawing to look like. From this idea i begin to look for reference photos that will help me achieve this. There are times when i take my own photographs and have them ready whenever i need them. There are many places that you can find on the internet where you can find quality photos. In your search for reference, you will find the photo that have what you are looking for but the quality is not the best, its not clear and is out of focus. Look at this one

Don’t get rid of this image, this image can be your starting point. If it has the composition that you are looking for, then it will work. If you can’t see the eyes or it has red eyes, then look another photo that shows the eyes clearly. You can make a single image from multiple images. Its a great method for composing your own images from different references. With time, after drawing this way you will learn how to add detail without using reference photos, your brain will automatically remember the details.

Something that you should keep in mind is that the longer you look at something, the easier it will be for your to remember it later on. Using photo references gives you the opportunity to see all kinds of textures,landscapes and objects. As you draw more and more, these textures and objects will be imprinted in your mind and you will slowly start to draw the details without having to look at a reference photo. For me after drawing so many animals i can easily draw fur, the only reason that i might look at a reference photo is to see the flow of the hair.


Another great way photographs can help with is what you can learn from them. Look at the photo of wood texture. Look at the hair, study it, look at how shadows and highlights behave on the hair. Hair is not a made up of long lines, it behaves differently to different environments. Its made up single hairs and clumps of hair. The reason most people draw hair that ends up looking like spaghetti is because they don’t have the understanding of how hair behaves. After looking at photos for a while you will begin to understand it and your mind will begin to find ways to put down on paper what the eyes sees using pencil lines and shadows. This technique can be helpful when working with all kinds of textures, such as grass,wood,rocks and hair.

We know what wood is, we know how it feels, but i’m sure most of us haven’t paid close attention to what makes up the wood texture. Look at the splinters, look how the splinters cast shadow and how light reflects. Look how time has affected the wood, whats the difference from old wood and new wood. I can guarantee that with time you’ll slowly begin to understand what makes up these textures. You can’t draw what you can’t see, and if you can draw it, you won’t draw it well if you don’t understand it.

Photos are a great tool and will be help tremendously in making your drawings come to life. If you have any questions please contact me. Keep on drawing :).

12 thoughts on “Reference Photos”

  1. Where is a good place to find copyright-free photos on the internet? And how can you be sure a photo you find is not copyrighted? My printer doesn't print out good copies of my own photos. Have you ever drawn from a photo off the computer screen?

    1. sorry for the late reply, a good place for reference photos is wetcanvas.com . They have a section where members upload their own reference photos for others to use. They have quite a bit of images. You can also check out flickr.com . You can always contact the owners of these photographs if it would be ok to use one of their photos for reference.

  2. how can i draw pencil drawing from reference photo by grid method or using tracing paper?What is good method for transfering photo to pencil drawing?

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