The Good, the Bad, the photo reference

Over the years I've collected a lot of photo reference for various projects, and much of it hasn't seen the light of day. It's fun to look at all the behind the scenes junk that goes into an illustration, so I hope you get a kick out of seeing me pretend to be a tween girl (and sometimes tween boy).

Now, my work isn't as realistic as some illustrators, but I still need good reference for most assignments. I'm not so hardcore that I need to hire a model and professionally shoot them, but sometimes Googling reference just doesn't cut it. Even my mediocre photos help with checking proportions, lighting, clothing folds, etc. For my purposes, I just need pretty good reference pretty quickly.

More often than not, I use what I have on hand, which is myself, my old camera, and my grandpa's old tripod. I definitely don't have a kid's body, but it's easy to make myself pose at all hours of the day, and I know the pose I need. Also, I've used the Photo Booth application on my Mac in a pinch, for quick photos when I don't want to set up my tripod.

 As you can see, for this photo I hung from the ceiling to get the lighting just right. I definitely didn't just flip it in Photoshop.

Nancy Drew covers almost always need reference, because the covers have a bit more action, plus tricky angles!

 I put the tripod a few steps down my stairs, set the timer, and would run up the stairs and strike a pose to get the low angle right. I did this about 12 times and it was a good workout.

 For this angle, I set the tripod up high on my dining table while I crouched in the corner. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.

Maybe me posing in a cocktail dress put their suspicions at ease! I shot these in Photo Booth in quick succession to get many angles for the pose. Often I convert the photos to grayscale so I'm not distracted by the color.

 Even my personal work benefits from shooting reference. The photos I shot for this illustration were super under-exposed, but I levels'd them up until I had something passable to draw from. It's very much "perfect is the enemy of good" in this case.

Also, our cats LOVE to photobomb our reference.

Particularly in this case, when I helped Drew shoot reference for his own assignment. Our cat Loki just jumped up on the table and struck the same pose. Looking good, Loki!

So that's about it. It's a fun process, even when it's ridiculous. And it is often ridiculous.

YARR! (for a future Nancy Drew cover ;) )
Til next time, take care.


Anonymous said...

I love this! :) -Annalise

mijbil said...

Ahah, I used to do the same a few years ago, and always felt a bit weird! :) Thanks for the lovely post (btw, you look super cute!) and big big hugs from Sweden! :)

grg said...

The "super under-exposed" photo is actually quite nice!

lissa said...

I love seeing reference photos and the final piece, it really gives an idea what goes into the piece. I often google for references but there's never just the right one but it is a great idea to create your own.

thanks for sharing these. hope you have a sweet day.


Oh I love seeing your process. As an aspiring writer I read so much about writing and that process, but seeing your work and how you do it, I wish I were doing your work. I can barely take a picture. I admire your work. I'm doing an illustration reveal for The Real Boy- The Glass House on my blog tomorrow. I thought I'd pop over and see if I could find a picture of you.

But wow! I love your Nancy Drew Diaries covers. And Frogged! And of course, what I've seen of The Real Boy. My copy is unfinished. I really love your work! You make the stories come alive!