Recently I got an email asking about a comment I made in my book, about how a fellow artist (early on) told me it was obvious I was painting from photos. The question I got was - when is it obvious that a painting is done from a photo? This is what I told her, basically (IMHO):
A camera is incapable of capturing all the values (or colors for that matter). All the darks tend to go black and all the lights, white. So paintings from photos often have black shadows and white (or near-white) skies.
Also photographs are 2-D, and contain only a limited part of a scene. When we are painting from life we see it in 3-D and are able to change and borrow based on information that may exist outside the "scene" we are painting from (stuff you wouldn't have captured with just one photo). Paintings from photos often have awkward bits that probably should have been edited.
But there's hope! Here are some things you can do to improve your ability to paint from photos:
- paint from life whenever you can - you'll learn a lot
- take lots and better pictures (try multiple exposures, or my method, always take one picture of each scene with lots of sky in it so you can capture the true color instead of white)
- use the shadows/highlights tool in Photoshop (also in other photoediting programs - not sure which ones) to "see" what's in the shadows (I use this all the time)