A lot of artists fail to realize that it’s unethical, and sometimes even illegal, to use any image you find online to draw from or create your art. Hi, my name is Carrie, and today on Artist Strong I want to talk about the ethical use of photo references, and how you can really use them to help enhance your art.
The safest choice you can make when it comes to photo references and working from them, is to only work from photographs that you have permission to use.
This could be from photographs that you’ve taken, photographs that you have written permission to use, or photographs that you find on royalty free websites. Let’s get into a little bit further.
Obviously if you take a photograph, you have a right to use it. You’ve created it. Photography is it’s own art form, right? A lot of people who take photographs may want to sell prints of their photographs, or get their photographs licensed in some way.
When you take the photograph you have full rights to that image, you get to use it. You don’t have to worry about manipulating it to a certain extent to make it your own. You can keep it as close to the original image as you like, because again, you took that photo.
If you’d like to use a photograph that you haven’t personally taken, ask permission.
You’ll be surprised at how many people are willing to say yes. Send an email, ask someone, “May I use your image as a photo reference for my artwork?” Lots of people are going to say yes.
I recommend that you get this in writing even for friends or family. It’s just an added precaution to make sure that should your artwork ever become super famous, no one else tries to take any legal action against you to say that they should benefit financially also from that famous work of yours.
The last area that I encourage you to look into are royalty free images.
There’s websites full of royalty free imagery. They’re like libraries of all kinds of photographs that artists have openly given permission for people to use.
There is a website called Pixabay that I recommend, and another one that I encourage you to look at is Morguefile, I’ll be sure that both are linked below this video. It’s a great way to work from imagery, especially if you want to keep to the original image, and it’s very clearly going to references the original artwork. Royalty free imagery is a great way to then practice and then work from photographs like that, because you don’t have to worry about changing your image.
I want to be clear here, you can work from other images, even ones you don’t per say have permission to use. However, there’s a gray area around how much you have to change and manipulate the image reference to make it your own art. Where is the line between someone else’s original artwork and when it becomes your original artwork informed by that image? This is a gray area, and obviously I’m not a lawyer, if you really have concerns around this, I encourage you to consult an IP lawyer to have this discussion. There are safe ways to avoid having to deal with this and that’s what I am trying to offer you today.
I share this in part because I’ve been witness to a lot of artists online working from photo references without permission of the artists who took the photographs, and then actively trying to sell that artwork later. This is not only unethical but it could lead to legal issues in your future even if you are accidentally making this choice. I hope today’s video helps you make more informed decisions on using photo references for your art.
I want to show you a way to work with photo reference that helps you be inspired by the work, but really deviate from the original photograph, and still express your own unique voice. I have a new version of the Southbrush Sessions, it’s a free 10 day challenge. In this challenge I give you prompts, including a starting photograph to work from. It’s to guide you to create your own unique artwork that reflects your unique style and voice.
Sign up below, there’s a button underneath the video that you can click on to join me in this free challenge.
Today, Be Creatively Courageous: Share some advice that you have on working from photo reference in the comments below. Why don’t you tell me if you have a royalty free website that has really helped you with some of the art that you make. Share it with us and let’s create a resource for everyone to learn and grow. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.
Free Art Challenge: Create an Original Artwork in 10 Days
Play with me in the Soulbrush Sessions: ten days of creative prompts that guide you to your unique artist voice.
It's an experience that shows you something deep down you already know: you’ve always been an artist. Unleash your inner artist --> get stARTed today!