Drawing from Photographic Reference vs. a Real Life Subject or Scene

Chad Neuman, Ph.D.
A free video tutorial from Chad Neuman, Ph.D.
Professor / Graphic Designer / Photographer 20+ yrs exp.
4.4 instructor rating • 15 courses • 517,748 students

Lecture description

I explain the considerations to take into account when drawing from photographic reference vs. drawing a subject or scene from real life.

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19:13:53 of on-demand video • Updated June 2020

  • Draw everyday objects, people, animals, and scenes, using effective techniques.
  • Draw realistic and conceptual content, with appropriate light or value, shadow, texture, and form.
  • Learn gesture drawing, line and contour drawing, structural drawing, perspective drawing, portrait drawing, and more.
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English [Auto] They're both pros and cons to drawing with a subject in a photograph in this class we offer support files including photos of various subjects drawn in this class. However I do suggest drawing with a real live subject whenever possible. It's fine to practice with these support files but when you draw using a real life subject it's a much more rewarding experience in my opinion. This is true regardless of whether the subject is a nature scene. Still I've simply a collection of objects person portrait or figurative work. When someone takes a photo the photographer has selected certain settings of white balance focus and depth of field with the aperture field of vision and composition. Even shutter speed that produces a specific angle or a zoom level of value or light as well as color in the resulting photo. As an artist when looking at a photo it can be used as a great reference point for drawing but often a photograph can come across as appearing flat. As an artist you might want to think about not just merely copying the photograph or that subject some art is drawing a more representational manner while others change a lot about a scene or a subject as they draw drawing from real life. Allows us to work with light and form in that three dimensional environment in real time. When you work from life if you understand the subject and its form and how the light interacts with it you can get a much much more believable or greater illusion of three dimensional space on that two dimensional surface. When drawing from real life lighting might change while drawing the subject and the artist can then decide which lighting situation to use as inspiration. Of course this kind of situation can be frustrating for beginners. Of course it's easier to portray the lighting in a photo. It's been done for you. It doesn't move while you're drawing. So again there are benefits to drawing from a photo especially for beginners but there's definitely benefits from drawing from life drawing from real life allows us to practice depth perception and it can make you a better artist. However drawing from a photo or photographic reference can be helpful practice drawing from real life takes a lot more time to master since again lighting conditions can change the subject matter can shift. So while I prefer drawing using real live subjects and I think that adds so much to my personal art I encourage you to do the same whether the subject is landscape still life or portrait drawing using a photograph including the support files in this course can be helpful practice as you learn to portray depth lighting form and other aspects of the subject or scene. Thanks. We'll see in the next lesson.