Hello Charles and Pat,
The dilemma of the modern practise of working from photographs is an interesting one as it has got easier and easier for people to snap away and print out their own photographs.
I do find it a necessary evil to use photographs as a part of my source material however I would qualify this with the following.
When talking to my students about working from photographs I point out the pitfalls and ask them to consider the following:-
The curve of the lens distorts what the eye sees and makes it especially dangerous to copy from, a great example of this being when showing them how distorted the perspective of a building or street scene becomes. Have they ever noticed how the printed image looks so different in terms of colour and tonal values from the image viewed on the computer screen and therefore what is the reality of colour and tonal value of the actual live scene and then the printer will print the colours differently again? I also point out that a camera has the unhappy effect of averaging out colour and tonal values and ask if they have ever thought about why black and white photography is so much more highly regarded than is colour photography? Look into the shadows in real life and then look at those shadows in your photographs, there is no comparison.
My advice is to ALWAYS sketch a scene no matter how quickly or slowly, make colour notes and then take some photographs for studio use. The act of sitting and making a sketch imprints more truth about the scene than any amount of photographs could and always best of all is to get out and paint from real life as often as is humanly possible. The truth in nature can only be seen with the naked eye and so much of that is missed when working from a photograph, often the result of which can look dead.
When I refer to a photograph I have all of the above in mind but will always favour working from nature!
I lead painting holidays for HF Holidays and my own in Europe and the main aim of these is to get people out into the great outdoors to paint. I am greatly looking forward to my next drawing and Painting holiday in France near Bergerac and then an HF Holiday ‘Landscape Painting In Artisan Water-Mixable Oils’ when I will be with the guests at Glencoe in May.