Artist’s Reference & Rendering

First and foremost, we are flattered that some of you enjoy our photos and wish to use them for inspiration in your artwork. However, we have noticed that there are common misunderstandings about copyright regulations and how they pertain to artist references and renderings.

All photographs, not just ours, are automatically subject to copyright and are the property of the photographer. As owners of a photograph, we have the exclusive right to reproduce, sell, display or distribute the image. This includes reproducing or referencing the image via other artistic mediums such as painting or sculpture (whether digital or physical). It may seem like a fine line between referencing photos and reproducing photos, so we  will try to simplify the terminology and process.

Let’s say you are a painter and you want to paint a tree with some birds on a branch. And even though you are knowledgeable about birds and trees, you aren’t exactly sure of the beak shape or feather patterns for your chosen bird. You then find a photo on the internet to reference the beak shape and maybe the exact feather color. The background and other elements in your painting are completely different than in the photo. And in the end, the photo that you referenced is not recognizable in your final artwork (this is a key point). This would be deemed a photo reference. We support other artists, scientists and naturalists, and we are generally open to granting permission for such use.

In another scenario, an artist finds a photo on the internet and decides that it would look beautiful as an oil or acrylic painting (or sculpture or any other artistic medium, including digital). The artist then creates a painting which is a recognizable reproduction of the original photo. This would be deemed a reproduction, and this is a violation of the photographer’s copyright. Then let’s say, in this same scenario, the artist changes a few elements in the background so that the final painting is not an exact replica of the original photo. This is still a copyright violation. If you are an artist that wishes to reproduce one of our photographs, please contact us for express permission and a quote.

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