Best Places to Find Reference Photos for Artists!

Hi friends! Today I’m going to share my secrets to finding great photos you can use to inspire your next painting!

Here is a list of references from the video! Enjoy!

  1. Your own photos, get in the habit of taking photos when you see something inspiring during your day. It is the best way to create unique art meaningful to you. The phone on your camera will do a great job and is usually on you so it is a perfect option. You can always bring a nicer camera if you are going on a trip or plan to take a serious shot but often inspiration hit when we don’t have our fancy camera on us.
  2. Free commercial use, public domain or creative commons photo-sharing sites. These sites have beautiful professional photos for the taking. These websites are sponsored by the big paid stock photo sites so if you can’t find what you want for free you might consider paying for other options. These first two websites have a collection feature so you can organize the photos you like for future use. (if you like to paint food)

There are many other free stock photo sites online but the above have the best references useful to artists in my humble opinion:) The downside is that other artists may use the same exact photo you do so it’s a good idea to use a few photos to compose a painting so you have a new artwork in the end.

Another option is Wikipedia, not only can you find creative commons photos on nearly every post (check terms of use just in case, I often use a reverse image search if I am unsure of the source and if it is OK to use) and you can research your subject matter at the same time.

  1. Peer to Peer photo-sharing sites. Search facebook for “photos for artists” groups and request to join ones that share photos in a subject matter you like. Be mindful of the rules so you don’t break them and create drama in these groups. Another great option is Paint My Photo where you can share your reference photos as well. Just be sure to abide by the rules of the group. In most cases you need to create an account and join these peer to peer sharing groups and you are expected to share and contribute to the community wherein the stock photo sites you can remain more anonymous. These groups give you the benefit of an art community in addition to the free photos.

Another resource I want to mention (especially f you are not keen on using a computer) is a series of books called “Artist Photo Reference” from North Light Books. I have the complete series now but it took some filling in on amazon as they are all out of print now. They are a wonderful investment and organized by theme. If you get a change to pick these books up I highly recommend them. I hope this was helpful and if you know a great website with photos please share it in the comments!

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