How to Find Photos to Paint From

Blog Post, General, Inspiration

How to Find Photos to Paint From

A Note about Copyright

It’s important to know that copyright is always attributed to the original artist (or photographer) as soon as the artwork or photo is created: it’s automatic and the creator does not specifically need to put the copyright symbol on it.

The original creator of the work retains the copyright immediately and for their lifetime, unless specifically assigned to another entity.

Copyright is only assigned to someone else if done in writing with a specific contract. If you buy an artwork you do not automatically have the right to reproduce it, the copyright of that artwork is still retained by the artist unless you have the assignment agreement, which usually has an additional cost.

I Always Try and Play Fair

I cannot advise on the intricacies of Copyright Law, but I can share with you how I work.

I always try to play fair, and put myself in the shoes of the original artist.

Reference Photos

I never steal images (even reference photos) without permission and attribution. I try to only use photos that are posted on copyright-free sites, where photographers have given us all free rein to use them for whatever we like. Or I look for images where the license specifically mentions unlimited use without attribution.

When you are searching in Google images you can filter on the license type:

It’s also important to go to the page the image is from and read around to check for any liscencing notes. Many photographers use Creative Commons licenses — which you can read all about here.

Artworks by Others, Art Classes, Public Art

I never take photos of other people’s artworks in galleries.

For art created in workshops or classes, it’s important to acknowledge the teacher and their guidance when publishing the artwork. This is even more important when the reference material is supplied by them (especially in the form of their own painting).

For example, the paintings I created in the recent Winter School retreat I attended, are posted with the text “created in a workshop with Craig Penny” or similar. I asked for and received permission from him to sell them, as they came from his own source material.


I am unqualified to advise on copyright law.

But let’s all play fair, and put ourselves in the shoes of the original artist.

Jacqueline Hill

Artist, Teacher & Author

Jacqueline Hill is a multi-award winning artist who has been teaching complete beginners how to draw and paint for many years. After extricating herself from a high-flying international IT career, she now paints full time and sells her art to collectors around the world.


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