Why Drawing from Photos is Treacherous

Drawing from Photos vs. Drawing from Life

By Vladimir London

You may agree or disagree with opinions expressed in this presentation. Let your voice be heard. Please make comments and ask questions below. I will be happy to answer your question in another video presentation.

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As the Drawing Academy founder and tutor, I get many questions from Academy students and subscribers. Some of the questions fall to the same category. Many want to know “is it good to draw from photos”, “does Drawing Academy course have lessons on how to draw from photos”, “does the Drawing Course provides photos to draw from” and so on.

To answer these questions, and help you to decide whether to draw from photos or from life, I created this presentation. I cover this topic in depth and raise questions you might want to discuss. So, please feel free to give your feedback and post your comments below on this page.

My name is Vladimir London and I am passionate about teaching art students how to draw using traditional drawing skills that have been developing since the time of the Old Masters. My fine art education spans over 15 years. It includes intense learning of drawing, painting, sculpture, composition, and history of art. I also have an art teacher degree, which makes me qualified to talk on the subject of “How to learn drawing.”

Do you find drawings from photos appealing?

I am sure you’ve seen on the Internet intricately done drawings in hyper-realistic style. Such drawings in graphite pencil can appear as realistic as black-and-white photos. And there is a reason why they look like photos; they’ve been hand-copied from photographs.

I have to give credit to those craftsmen and crafts-ladies that painstakingly copied photos onto drawing paper. Such dedication required a great deal of patience, attention to detail, thoroughness and other skills. I’m sure the results are gratifying to them and many viewers find those drawings quite pleasing.

At the same time, there are many people, including professional fine artists with solid traditional art education, who do not support the idea of drawing from photos.

Let’s see why.

Is drawing from photos Fine Art?

Hyper-realistic copies from photos might look impressive in real life due to the fact that they are not photographs, but hand-drawn pieces. The paradox is: the more accurate a copy is drawn, the less valuable as an object of art it becomes.

I will illustrate this statement with a simple example. When a traditional professional piece of art is photographed, this photo still gives an idea of the true representation of the artist’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs, his or her personal artistic style, art school, art movement, and so on.

When a hyper-realistic copy of a photo is photographed, it loses most of its appeal. Making a photo of such an artwork closes the circle – from a photo to a drawing and then back to a photo. Given that the drawing in graphite or charcoal for example, was skillfully copied, the photo of the artwork will look like the original photograph it was drawn from. This defeats the whole purpose of the exercise. There are no artist’s personal style, no creative thought or feelings put into it, just whatever was there beforehand – the representation of a photographer’s skills.

You may think making such a copy is true art because it requires skills not everyone possesses. Yes, it is a valid point and I totally agree that hyper-realistic copying of photos demands skills in rendering shades and correctly seeing and judging tonal values, being patient and precise, how to scale a drawing up or down, and how to accurately transfer it onto a paper.

But all those skills are mechanical, not creative. Whoever has those abilities is a good copier, which doesn’t make him or her a fine artist. Being a fine artist requires something else above those mechanical skills.

Look at it this way. If someone re-writes the book by Leo Tolstoy “War and Peace,” copying more than three million characters of over half-a-million words, it would be a good copy of the book. We can admire the effort and undertaking of this immense task. But it wouldn’t make that person an author. No matter how accurate the copy of a book is, it doesn’t make the copier a writer.

The same goes for visual art. A perfect copy done from a photo does not make one a fine artist. And exactly for the same reason, the process of copying from a photo cannot be called fine art in its real meaning.

Why do people draw from photos?

You may say:
– It is easier to copy than to draw from life or imagination;
– A beginner can achieve better looking results faster;
– It doesn’t require long and intense art education and practice;
– It doesn’t require a knowledge of human anatomy and proportions;
– It doesn’t require a knowledge of how to draw in perspective and composition;
– It feels good when results look so “professional;”
– It is good to have positive feedback, approval and recognition from others.

This list can be even longer since everyone has his or her own reasons. Or, it could be as short as: “I draw it, and I like it.”

When did drawing from photos start?

I think with the invention of photography. People are always looking to make jobs easier. We’ve seen a sharp increase in drawings from photos with the advancement of photographic equipment. Since high-megapixel digital cameras became affordable in the mass-market, it has reflected on a number of gifted amateurs who copy photos inch-by-inch, pixel-by-pixel. This practice is fueled by peer approval on social networks. It’s also found its way to the very top of the art industry.

Every year I visit the BP Portrait Award exhibition in London. Every year among the artworks, many oversized hyper-realistic portraits are exhibited, which are clearly hand-copied dot-by-dot. Such copying is totally mindless. It includes photo-lens distortions, focusing imperfections, photo-perspective, etc.

The only question that comes to my mind when looking on such portraits is, “WHY?”

WHY someone wasted so much time and energy to become a human photocopier? WHY portray every pore on a face with equal attention to main and secondary parts of the image? WHY create a carbon copy of a digital image without adding any creativity whatsoever?

I am sure there are many people who will not agree with this opinion. Many may say: “But copies from photos look so realistic, I wish I could do that.”
Would the Old Masters use photography for their masterpieces?

I think if the Old Masters had access to modern equipment, they would use it. But not to copy from photos. They would use photos for inspiration, as a point of reference, as albums, archives, and similar.
Here’s what the Old Masters say about drawing:

“Drawing is based upon perspective, which is nothing else than a thorough knowledge of the function of the eye.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“No one should ever imitate the style of another because, with regard to art, he will be called a nephew and not a child of nature.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“An artist must have his measuring tools not in the hand, but in the eye.”

“Choose only one master – Nature.”

Copying from photos vs. fine drawing

You may say, so what. Let’s judge by results. An artwork looks great and who cares if it was done from a photo.

If the objective were to produce a realistically looking image by hand, then for someone with no formal art education it would be easier to copy a photo than to create an original artwork. However, if someone wants to learn how to draw, copying from photos would do more harm than good.

An amateur, self-taught artist or a beginner might be confused at this point. How is drawing from photos not helpful in acquiring good drawing skills?

Photos provide visual help to an amateur artist because it’s much easier to reproduce a two-dimensional image on a flat surface of a paper.

I remember reading one artist’s story when he confessed that despite becoming a recognized portrait artist, he had real difficulties drawing those portraits from life. He secretly photographed sitters in his studio, and then worked from the photos. He admitted that he learned how to draw from photos, and he was never able to progress his art skills.

Here it comes, the most important question of this presentation:

Why is drawing from photos not good for you?

There are seven main reasons why drawing from photos prevents development of good art skills:

1. Copying two-dimensional photos inhibits an artist from seeing objects in volumes and space.
2. It prevents an artist from judging distances and perspective.
3. The artist doesn’t think and visualize the three-dimensional nature of an object, but subconsciously regards all objects and shapes two-dimensionally as seen in photos.
4. By copying flat images, an artist doesn’t make a constructive drawing; there is no comprehensive understanding of objects’ masses and their spatial relationship.
5. Drawing from photos forces an artist to draw what he or she sees rather than what one knows.
6. It stops an artist from learning and following the traditional, time-proven, step-by-step, drawing methods, which have been perfected by many generations of fine artists starting from the Old Masters.
7. Working from photos prevents an artist from learning from his or her mistakes, and makes it impossible to improve drawing skills by analyzing and fixing those mistakes.

Drawing from photos wires an artist’s brain to become a copier, not a creator. Artist’s eyes get used to flat images and it is very hard if not impossible to re-educate such an artist into drawing from life. Here is the biggest downside of drawing from photos – if you get too used to copying flat images, you will most likely limit your ability to learn how to draw proficiently.

To understand why, we have to explore one more question:

How does the magic of drawing happen?

If your goal is to learn how to draw, you need to develop your eyes, your hand, and above all, your head to achieve success.

The magic of drawing isn’t just happening on paper. It mostly happens in one’s head.

Any monkey can make a mark with a pencil. But no monkey can draw. Drawing is a quite complex, cognitive process, which is very different than the one that happens during copying. By drawing from photos a draftsman will not develop the mental progression of observing, processing, interpreting and then expressing a three-dimensional space on a flat surface, which is called drawing. Quite the opposite, those thoughts and processes will be suppressed and replaced by others that help to reproduce a two-dimensional image on a flat surface. That is why copying from photos will push an art student further away from the goal he or she wants to achieve – that of developing good drawing skills.

The Old Master understood this theory extremely well. Here’s what Leonardo da Vinci said: “The painter who draws by practice and judgment of the eye without the use of reason is like the mirror which reproduces within itself all the objects which are set opposite to it without knowledge of the same.”

Michelangelo Buonarroti put it even more plainly: “A man paints with his brains and not with his hands.”

Drawing is a function of the brain. I advocate the theses that a fine artist draws what he knows, not what he sees. This goes perfectly with another quote from the famous artist, Rembrandt: “Try to put well in practice what you already know; and in so doing, you will in good time, discover the hidden things which you now inquire about. Practice what you know, and it will help to make clear what now you do not know.”
How about drawing commissioned portraits from photos?

When it comes to drawing commissioned portraits, some say that drawing from a photo is very helpful because even a mediocre artist can achieve a greater likeness. And a client doesn’t need to pose for hours. I do not disagree with these points. However it comes back to the question, can a copy from a photo be called fine art?

When clients ask for a portrait, they don’t necessarily have a clear idea what they want – an accurate image of themselves done by hand, or a creative, skilful and artistic representation of their persona in graphical form.

I am sure clients already have personal photos, who doesn’t? So most likely they have in mind a piece of art that portrays them. They probably want to see their image through the eyes of a fine artist. The originality of an artwork – that’s what counts here and makes a portrait more valuable. Most likely clients want a unique, stylish and professionally done masterpiece that mirrors their inner-self. This can only be achieved by the cognitive process of drawing, not absentminded copying.

Of course, a portrait must have likeness. And what if an artist has no skills to achieve it? There is no other way, but to learn how to draw.

Here we come to an important question:

How do I get good drawing skills?

If you want to be a skilled copier, please do so, but don’t expect to become an artist. By copying, you will always be handicapped by the aid of a two-dimensional image you have to reproduce.

If you want to develop your drawing skills to the level of drawing whatever you want from life or from your imagination, there is no other way but to learn how to draw.

It is never too late to learn drawing. One of the greatest artists who ever lived, Michelangelo, once said: “I am still learning.” He also mentioned: “If people knew how hard I worked to achieve my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.”

Yes, learning to draw takes time and effort. And if your aim is to become a good artist, the time spent on learning is well worth it.

Whatever your age, you can learn good drawing skills starting today.

When it comes to the question of where to learn drawing, I have to say that contemporary art education will not give you strong drawing skills. Today in Western Europe and North America, good quality art education has been replaced by the “express yourself” curriculum. There are not many places left in the world where you can still find art institutions teaching traditional, time-proven drawing techniques.
To help you in your desire to learn how to draw, I created the Drawing Academy Course where you can study the skills of drawing in the comfort of your home.

The Drawing Art Academy is an online course that teaches solid skills of classical drawing. Academy tutors will show you, by their own examples, how to draw as they create artworks right in front of your eyes from beginning to end – all while explaining, step-by-step, everything you need to know about drawing.

To your creative success,

Vladimir London
Drawing Academy tutor

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This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. Susan N. says:

    Wow, this video is an eye-opener! The more I draw from photos, the more I rely on them. I didn’t realize that drawing from photos can slowdown my creative progress. Thank you, Vladimir, for telling how it works.

    I want to learn drawing and be able to sketch from life.

  2. C J says:

    I have never fallen in love with hyper realistic drawings/paintings before. Watching the video and the image examples supplied really helped me to realize why. The non copied drawings just look so much more expressive.

    All my decent portrait drawings were from a photo reference. I have the concept of facial proportions/features down, but when trying to draw without a reference I struggle to get a more realistic image.

    I’m working on not relying on photo reference and am hoping studying facial anatomy will help me even further.

  3. STEVE says:

    I use photos to get the likeness for accuracy.then use perspective of the head,shadow patterns to develop the drawing further.the closer …more detailed…the foarther the less defined….also the use of aerial perspective and so on.

  4. alyrae72 says:

    What are your thoughts on David Hockney’s thesis regarding the old masters’ use of the camera lucida; he cites an expert in optical physics and lens distortions to show evidence of his claims. There was a BBC documentary about it, which was quite controversial.

    I don’t like to rely on photos myself because I want to achieve the power of independence from devices. I ask myself, “If I was stuck on a deserted island with only a stick and sand, could I draw a masterpiece?” I wouldn’t consider myself a “fine artist” until I could HONESTLY answer, “yes”.

    • Anne says:

      Now I know why I didn’t like Rodin. It’s like using a wheelchair, why would you need one if you are able to walk and run?

      • DDone says:

        That really is a silly reply to the flexibility and mental dexterity of a true master. You don’t like Rodin because he used photos? I mean really.

        Gauguin used some photos for some of his exotic female portraits and he also used his imagination. Don’t like him either right?

        And Degas was using photography as well. Don’t like him either?

        Photography is a very useful tool for those with an open mind and imagination not for the goal of becoming a copy robot.

        Use photos, use “the live” model, use video, use imagination, use it all.

        • Anne says:

          You are missing the point, no matter how accurate you rewrite someone’s book, you will never become an author of that book.

          As in regard to Gaugin and Degas, they are not in my taste either. I think the quality of fine art has declined since photography spread out. I found here another video that illustrates this topic: http://drawingacademy.com/contemporary-art-bubble

          Sure, if you are not a good artist why not to use photos to compensate your skill-gaps

          • DDone says:

            Drawing from a photo is not writing or rewriting a book.

            Writing is writing and drawing is drawing.
            Regardless of the drawings reference.

            And who said you have to draw from a photo accurately?

            If you have your style you can use the photo as a study
            or base for a fine sketch, drawing or work of art.

            And what if you are the author of said photo. Drawing from
            your own photographic composition. Your own idea.

            Most of all the impressionists and post impressionists
            drew ALOT from 2D prints. The Japanese and classical prints from former masters. Not to mention the countless trips to the Louvre to practice previous master works from the “2D”

            If you are going to cherry pick masters only from the Renaissance you are deleting a massive chunk of fine art history to draw and learn from.

            And even Masters like Albrecht Dürer did drawings and studies from 2D surfaces like plates, prints and woodblocks from previous masters and contemporaries like Mantegna.

            So, if you’re going to let technology turn you into an artistic Luddite you’re missing out on the science part of art.

            “Study the science of art. Study the art of science.”

            “The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”
            ― Leonardo da Vinci

            P.S Are you against 3D printing as well?

            Because that is going to be the next technological wave for artists to draw(double entendre intended) from.

    • Nadine Gorshuck says:

      Hmm. I have read in many different books that Rodin liked to have models who freely moved around the room as he drew. So he worked from life. Take a look at his watercolors and drawings. They were not done from photographs.

  5. pamela says:

    I agree with everything in the video. The great challenge is how to pay for a live model for the length time needed for a proper drawing/painting to be completed. If you co-op it with a group of artists to keep the cost down, you co-op your original idea of how to set-up the model/scene. My current atelier teacher tells us it is unrealistic to think we will be able to work from a live model very often yet doesn’t offer solutions for the problem other then to tell us we learn from life and then draw from photos in the studio. That doesn’t seem like a very good solution to me. I really wonder what working-professional artists to do to solve this problem if they aren’t making enormous amounts of income to pay for the model’s time.

    • Steve R. says:

      yeah, paying models can drain one’s pocket. how about drawing or paining your friends and relatives? also, you can draw a model for free, giving a portrait away while keeping the rest for yourself. same goes for commissioned portraits, just place an ad that you’re doing free portraits and you will get a line of clients/models waiting for your next available session.

      doing so you will learn how to draw and improve skills to the level when you don’t need a model for the whole session.

      Leonardo and Michelangelo didn’t have photo cameras, yet were able to create masterpieces.

      learn how to draw from life, then you will be able to draw from memory and imagination.

  6. Yelena Solomina says:

    Drawing from photo makes Art vocational, not professional. I teach Drawing and Painting for 25 years. I totally agree that it makes impossible to paint mother’s portrait when she WAS young and beautiful, your kids when they WERE cute without photos. Using photographs for composition is inspirational and beneficial. But copying does not mean creating! I feel sorry for those who think about copying: “Who cares?!” Is it Fine Art?- it looks more close to industrial: mechanical work. I have a friend, who painted exact copy from a photo, then photographed it and tried to sell PRINTS of this painting! What is the reason? And where is the logic?

  7. boris123 says:

    Dear Vladimir,I must not tell you what a treasure WEB ART ACADEMY and DRAWING ART ACADEMY are because you know it the best. We are all lucky to have the possibility to learn from you and Natalie program of ACADEMIA in our homes. Thank you for such a great gift…
    Once more thank You for giving us so much.

    yours Boris Lav

  8. nicole Lee says:

    I have been drawing a rose from a reference this whole time, and never understood why I couldn’t draw it 3 years later with out a reference, no matter how many times I drew it… now I understand.

  9. Virginia Hoffman says:

    You’ve posed your arguments well by explaining the nuances which occur in the mind of a creative artist. I would put this as there are different kinds of artists and some choose to remain in limited universes. There are few artists who can interpret the human form from life with a unique & soulful expression. Perhaps this is why it is so easy for the masses to be seduced by the superficial. Classical art will continue and thank you for keeping it alive.

  10. sbmackin says:

    Learning to draw is imperative. I agree with all the points so well laid out in this video. Case in point: copying an author’s work will never make you an author. Even so, great authors use reference material. Photos are reference material, like your own library of reference material.

    I for one, lack the resources to hire live models, or go travel to where I once saw a fishing boat or scenery in the mountains while hiking. But my photos will bring all that back, refreshing my memories.

    So, learning to draw from life is essential, and photos are reference material.

  11. Haris V says:

    At first I felt like, here we go again some boring guy with a boring video, but then I noticed how helpful this is. I was gonna draw a lot from reference photos like that and your video stopped me from as you said going further away from learning how to draw. Thank you :)

  12. Mika B says:

    Well I am actually shocked in that your balanced reasoning has won me over ! I have been a fan/admirer of photo realism for a while now and have been spending some time trying to teach myself BUT whilst I still respect the skill and dedication of such artists I would personally rather devote my time and energy ( my energy, unlike my time, is limited ) to become a creator of an original piece of artwork rather than a copyist, I very much doubt I will be able to afford the luxury of becoming a Drawing Academy student but wanted to give you some feedback on your promo vid, and to say a genuine Thank you for convincing me to pursue the skill of becoming an expressive artist ;-)

  13. Jeremy Sutton says:

    Hi Vladimir, Just want to say a big thank you for your video on Drawing from Photos vs Drawing from Life. I have exactly the same reaction to the plethora of un-creative and uninspiring but masterfully executed photo-hyper-realistic drawings and paintings that seem to occupy so many galleries and win the portrait contests such as the BP Awards, not mention become viral videos. I appreciate your efforts in returning to fine art and the skill of drawing from life! Cheers, Jeremy

  14. AnAbortiveRomance says:

    I love this. Thank you. It should be mandatory viewing for all the “human photocopiers” on YouTube that copy photos of celebrities, the receive millions of likes and admiration from ignorant people.

  15. Alex Winchester says:

    This video really put into perspective my drawing capabilities. I’ve always been able to draw from 2d images with perfection. But never understood why I couldn’t reproduce anything original. I stopped drawing for awhile because of this.

    I recently started to draw again but still had the “human photocopier” syndrome. So I looked into it and found this video, which really helped me to see what my problem was. Thanks for the amazing video.

  16. TheVeyron81 says:

    It is the truth. For some it will be hard to swallow, after being praised for years as an artist for something you have only copied meticulously. A new age of hyper-realism is upon the art world. Overcome by those blinded by the eagerness to out-do each other. The Xerox generation.

  17. doru says:

    The movie is suggestive and nicely made; I use photos of my clients for the portrait, to draw a pastel in a painting, but also photographs of paintings of various painters, mostly form the Internet, in order to make reproductions for clients. In my country, my creations are not very well bought and this is why I must make reproductions; this is life. Tanking pictures has been my passion ever since I was a child and it was solely done in black and white and on clishes. I used to have an improvised laboratory and to develop hundreds or thousands of photos; then, back in the 80s-90s, for publications, publishing houses, magazines, newspapers, catalogues and when slide technique was needed for printing. Starting with 2000, at the same time with digitalization, it is mu
    andreeappsc: the technique of programmes such as photoshop, for retouching and graphics with photos for printing, in corel draw and illustrator.

  18. Birdman says:

    I can’t argue with anything stated in this video. It’s a perspective (no pun intended) that I have never considered before. However, I have chronic strabismus and I’m not nearly as able to render drawings from real life as with a two dimensional photograph. This eye condition creates a great deal of conflict within an artist’s brain with regard to volume, space, distance and perspective.

    There is a great deal of truth in what this video is stating, though. I also do oil paintings that are clearly NOT from photographs. Within my personal style the viewer can see my personal struggle between the two dimensional world and the three dimensional world. This would not be the case if this video was incorrect.

    In defense of the hyper-realistic drawing (fine art or not) it’s just human nature to see how far one can take the concept of “perfection”. We do this in every aspect of our mortal lives. Once a caveman blew color onto a wall to represent his subject matter, it was only a matter of time before hyper-realism would be reached. …That’s what we do!

  19. Anne says:

    When I was in art school and in college as an art major, we were not allowed to work from photos, copy or trace. Everything had to be done from life or imagination. I still prefer to work from life as much as possible. It really improves your drawing skills. A lot of would be artists seem to think that working from photos has to be exact. They don’t realize that photos are only a reference tool. Working from photos leads to copying. There is too much of that around. Your video is spot on.

  20. Lene Bartholdt Sønder says:

    Thank you for pointing out this “dead end”. So very true. I myself like to take photos, which I may/ may not use, but only for remembering something that inspires me, figures, people,structures, colours … all kind of input I feel could be used some day. In painting I have never used photos, only my memory and imagination ( and a few statues), in decoupage I use pictures cut into peaces and used in another way, but in drawing I used to use fantacy and now strictly followed your drawing lessons – videos – pictures with great pleasure, and as a learning process. Like your way of educating, thank you.

  21. James McCreary says:

    Hi Vladimir
    Thanks for this inspiring video. I feel like in some ways you are the true defender for fine art. I know I really didn’t understand what fine art was until I listened to some of your videos and was so inspired that it made me really began to search and dig. Some of the other video’s you have on you tube about what it takes to become a fine artist and the other one about the mistakes and things to avoid has really helped me get a grasp on what fine art really is. You have helped me to set my standard and learn to think and be creative and accept nothing less. It is very exciting even though it isn’t easy but I know where I am going because of you. Keep doing what your doing and thanks!

  22. Kathleen James says:

    I agree with this video completely! That is why I’m so anxious to be able to take the drawing course. I am hoping to win membership in the competition right now! There is no doubt in my mind that the Drawing Academy has what I need to become the artist I know I can become!

  23. Rosalie Rizzo says:

    After all these years that I have been drawing, I never knew, and no one ever told me what your article just reveled to me Drawing From Photos Vs Drawing From Life. I just realized that I am a copier and not an artist. Thank you so much. I will stay with your course and learn how to become a real artist.

  24. Rosalie Rizzo says:

    there are many occasions where one cannot draw from life, but would like to draw or paint something from a book, photo, online or just copy a flower from an online photo. What do you suggest?

  25. elmangruyo says:

    this discucion is very bizarre, because in an art studio, when drawn to a model, this has to stay motionless for a long time for the artist to do their job. Motionless as a photograph !!

    • Simon says:

      You are so naive : ) This is exactly what models do – keep their poses for 20 minutes, taking a break for 5 minutes and continue to pose. Sometimes one pose can last for 20 to 40 hours depending on the creative task and span over several weeks!

      This is how I studies fine art – painting and drawing life. This is what they do in proper art education institutions. For example, in Repin Academy of Fine arts, copying from a photo is considered the BIGGEST SIN in drawing.

      And don’t be stupid; a model doesn’t need to be as motionless as a photograph, they can move and stretch from time to time to feel comfortable.

  26. elmangruyo says:

    I see many comments harshly judge who copy or attempt to copy a photograph faithfully.
    Who already had the good fortune to see works of Flemish masters as Vereer grandeas, Dürer, Van Dyke or VanEyck can not deny that they were trying to copy as perfectly as they could, reality. Even the smallest detail.
    They are great teachers. Today, a person who approaches perfection with their work is treated as a photocopier.
    Say you are different styles and another way of understanding art.
    What is not good for you or might not be acceptable to me. And tienenque respect that.
    Or understand the art from absolutism?

  27. elmangruyo says:

    Simon: You have to excuse my intellectual level of stupid not let me understand something so simple. I can never stop being stupid, it seems to be in my nature, but I learned to be tolerant …

  28. Marbella Alberto says:

    This video literally changed my perspective forever and now began to realize how art today is not taught the way it’s meant to be. I’ve have always find it quite easier to work with photos instead of life, yet I felt like I was not progressing the rate I wanted to be. At times, it was very difficult to interpret the shapes within a 2D surface because I had no knowledge what was happening the moment it was taken. Working with life may be of a challenge, but training the mind to maneuver through different lines, shapes, and form, I’d say, is far more reasonable than drawing from photos without any skill. Artists must realize that taking the easier route is surely the worst possible mistake they can do, as it diminishes the natural creativity they harbor and work only with what’s superficial. Thank you so much for this informational video and clearing up the misconceptions. ☺

  29. robinet joel says:

    j ai lu l article sur dessiner d apres une photo cela ma ouvert les yeux je l avous je penser aussi qu il falai recopier merci encore pour cette article

  30. ernest treagus says:

    Dear Vladimir,

    Thank you for the opportunity to offer a comment.
    I have been ‘life drawing’ for a number of years and have done a little sitting, usually clothed.
    My experience is that I enjoy drawing from life as it seems akin to sculpting the image onto paper, whereas copying someone else’s piece/photograph is comparatively lifeless, so the experience is limited.
    From my reading, it appears that ‘masters’ like Caravaggio and even Vermeer, used pin-hole cameras to capture their sitters’ images. This casts the compepetence of these into question for myself.
    To now change to topic, if I might; I have been reading about ‘sight-sizing’ recently which seems to gather folk into one of two camps, quite stongly and I’m not clear where I sit. Could you offer a comment on same.

    Kind regards, Ernest.

  31. Lekarev says:

    I went to Art College and was taught to draw what I see, not what I know. Funny how you said the opposite. :D I honestly think drawing what you see, coupled with the information you have gained from life drawings is the best way to go. I draw portraits from photos and people react as you say, “So good! Looks exactly like them”, and I have found myself questioning what the point of it all is. I try to make sure it does still look like a pencil drawing and not an actual photograph. I take photo’s that aren’t perfect, and take a section of it I like, so it becomes an piece in it’s own right. I like rough textured paper, specifically because it keeps the viewer aware that that this is just pencil, not a pretend photograph. I don’t measure with grids or tools, but do it all by eye. People are willing to pay for them, so that’s great, but I do feel somewhat unsatisfied still. I think I am ready to branch out, finally!

  32. tometeacher says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for that presentation. I have always believed much of what was presented but just did not know how to express it. Magnificantly put. Thank you for this.

  33. usatablada says:

    Wow! That is a real eye-opener. Thanks for the effort you placed into creating this video.
    I learned from it, and now…
    I will share the link t my friends. :)

  34. ChrisW says:

    I find this perplexing. How is an online course any better than drawing from a photograph? A computer screen is, after all, a two dimensional picture. How is it possible for your “art teachers” to demonstrate art techniques in this manner? Do you think that Michaelangelo, DaVinci, or any of the Masters would have condoned teaching real life artistry via “online courses” on a flat screen video display?
    I am looking forward to your response.
    Thank you?

    • Drawing Academy says:

      Dear Chris,

      Many thanks for your comment.

      Please check the answer here:



      We advise our students not to copy images they see in the drawing course lessons, this would be training, not education.

      If you think that training and education is the same, please check this article:


      The Drawing Academy course explains traditional drawing techniques used since the time of the Old Masters.

      It is perfectly fine to learn theory of perspective, get an idea of human body proportions and Golden Ratio, improve your knowledge of human anatomy, get understanding of rules of composition and so on from video lessons. You do not need to sit in front of a teacher to get such information.

      Of course, after receiving the necessary information, you need to apply it in your own creative works by drawing from life, memory and imagination.

      Please let me know if you have any questions, I will be happy to help.

      Kind regards,
      Vladimir London

  35. Chris says:

    I agree totally about the hyper-realism “fad.”

    Also, I would say there is a difference between drawing from a photo and COPYING a photo, which seems to be the emphasis of your fine commentary.

  36. Tatjana Latov says:

    Dear Vladimir London,
    I agree with all that you wrote.
    Some of these knowledge, I already know, but now from your`s text I’ve discovered more than one things.
    In my opinion, painting from photography is good for painters just for inspiration and for a little help, but the real art is consist to make your artwork from photography in the way “freestyle drawing.”
    Someone said: “Why photography exist if an artist wants to do their own artwork just like a photography?” Meaning of that is (what you completely know) – taking photos is an art in itself, but drawing and painting must be doing in free way.
    Thanks for all explanations, free lessons and emails with questions from students and answers from teachers.
    Kind regards!

  37. Noid says:

    Dear Vladimir,

    Thank you very much for your time and effort for explain all these facts!

    With kind regards

  38. Robert Jersey says:

    I took this course in the hopes of adding to my repetoire. I’m still learning and have the strong desire to enter the workforce in animation and 3d design. The value alone from this video has taught me the error of my ways. I have been drawing from photos and comic resources. Ive noticed that it has left me lacking. When attmepting to draw without a photo reference my images have more life and are “fun” to look at. I have small statues and many animals. I’m now swithcing my focus to life drawing in a hope that these skills will give me the fundamnetals that I feel have been lacking from simply drawing from photo refrences. My hope is to progress and use my skills I want to acquire from this course to draw a stylized comic someday. Thank you for this well put together course and for advice that has given me a new hope.

  39. Karin Merx says:

    I totally agree. I learned life drawing and painting, first via plaster heads that I had to make myself. But this did not started when photography started, it is well known that Vermeer used the camera obscura, no under drawing, no underpainting, no sketches what so ever. I did a podcast about it stating that people copying a photo or looking through a camera obscura are not artists, all no Vermeer. Even when marketing for a huge blown up out of proportion exhibition with curators and scientists claiming he was a genius. He wasn’t and even though that was said by Theodor more in the 19th century, it has been debunked by finding out he traced through the camera obscura.

  40. Tom K says:


    I couldn’t agree more. Copying from photos basically makes you a human printer. There’s no selection, no interpretation, and motor development. And, not to sound judgmental, the main drive to do it seems to be getting applause. I see it like this: a painter like Otto Dix could easily do this style, but photocopyists couldn’t begin to do a portrait like Dix.

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