Before taking photographs as references for my final image based on ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ I started by developing a couple of images purely from imagination. These sketches allowed me to capture shapes and forced me to start thinking about composition. Although I only sketched two pieces, drawing these urged me to focus on interesting or maybe difficult angles. Reference photos turn out the best when they are based off of initial concepts.
Things to avoid, from 'Writing and Illustrating a Graphic Novel':
- Copying or tracing the photos exactly
- Trying to duplicate all of the details
- Allowing the photograph to trump your conceptual ideas
- Being influenced by colour from the photo instead of using black and white
- Using the photo for the final drawing when it should be used only for the comprehensive stage
Leonardo Da Vinci noted that “You cannot draw what you cannot see.” Drawing from imagination has its advantages, however sometimes vital detail can be left out. This detail may be necessary if it relates to the composition of the entire image. References from real life can be used to develop backgrounds or a characters position. All aspects of the photo don't need to be used, which is the practical thing about reference photos. Andrew Loomis the illustrator advised “Never guess when you can find out.” The camera simply acts as a tool to develop your concepts and ideas. It is however significant not to depend on them or use the entire visual information. Photo references should act as a tool to vision the later drawings and compositions, encouraging creativity and inspiration.