I use photos all the time......especially when painting complicated subjects like city scenes, figures in motion and places where it would be especially difficult to paint (like standing near or on a dangerous street). I must say, the more I paint, the less I like using them - in fact when I'm out painting plein air I don't even take a photo of where I'm working for the most part. I have discovered that the photos are so untrue to the scene and often quite disappointing that I would rather rely on memory. The 12" square painting below has been sitting on my drying wall for over two years - there was something I liked about it but something I hated about it too. I had some painter friends visiting from RI and one of them mentioned this one which caused me to see it with fresh eyes. It used to have a sign above the door which always seemed crowded and too close to the edge. So......I took the sign out and liked it much better. Still, the drawbacks of "photo-painting" seem to be embodied in the difference between the top painting and the bottom painting which was done plein air in my yard.
This painting which is 24x12" has drawbacks as well...........the composition is weak since I wasn't paying all that much attention to it because that wasn't my focus. Now, this painting is soaking wet and at least two (probably three) years newer than the top picture so one would hope that my skills have improved somewhat but I find it much more interesting than the top picture (which does have a kind of neat composition) plus it was a lot more enjoyable to paint. Now that I see a photo of the painting, I see other issues as well but it does have a "life" that the top one doesn't. I don't expect to ever stop using photos since they are so valuable to my process but it's nice to be aware of their limitations.
I've been pretty light on the posting for the past month. I had cataract surgery on one eye and am waiting to have the other eye done (next week). It was very successful so far and I can't wait till it's all over. Right now the only issue is the huge difference between the done and undone eyes........I'm hoping I won't even have to wear glasses anymore. So far it seems like a miracle!