Why Photographers Love Paintings Based on Photos

August 04, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

classic portrait based on a photo
Painting by Karen Sperling based on a photo by Linda Gregory.

I am seeing continued growth in photographers' interest in offering paintings based on their photos to clients. I see two reasons for this interest:
1. Paintings appeal to clients and with their high prices, also appeal to photographers;
2. Offering paintings based on photos is a way for photography studios to set themselves apart from their competition.
In fact, I continue to see more and more photographers adding paintings based on their photos on their websites, with some photographers showing paintings based on their photos exclusively--no unpainted photos at all!
And what software does everyone say is the gold standard for paintings based on photos? Why, Corel Painter, of course! (Enter my Elite Corel Painter Master code ELITEKS when you purchase and get Painter for $329!). Many also use Photoshop for paintings, but the trend I see is that Painter is the way to go for the best results!

Corel Painter portrait
Painting by Karen Sperling based on a photo by Ebert Studio.

There are two ways for photographers to ride this wave of painted portraits popularity.
You can either learn to turn photos into paintings yourself with my Artistry books, in-person and online classes and videos, or you can subcontract the painting.
How to choose is based on your interests.
In terms of doing the painting yourself, my feeling has always been that all photographers are natural artists. Art is a visual medium like photography and it isn't that big a leap for photographers to learn to paint. I call my books Painting for Photographers and not Painting for Construction Workers not because I don't think construction workers could learn to paint, but because it's more of a natural progression for photographers to pick up a brush (or stylus).
The downside is that learning to paint takes time. I recently saw a photographer ask on Facebook if there were a quick filter to get the painted effect you get with Corel Painter. The answer is, no. I understand where the photographer was coming from--he wanted to be able to capitalize on the painted portrait trend without having to invest the time and money to do so. But no filter or action can give you the look of painting by hand, brushstroke by brushstroke, in Painter.

Corel Painter portrait
Painting by Karen Sperling based on a photo by Sterling Hoffman.

Meanwhile, you will find yourself loving painting. Photographers find that pursuing their interest in painting turns into a passion. One of my past professional photographer students who is very successful selling paintings based on his photos told me that if he doesn't have a painting to paint he is unhappy.
Just because you're a photographer doesn't mean you will love to paint, but if you do think you'd be interested in painting, then you probably would enjoy pursuing it.
The other way to go if you'd like to offer painted portraits to your clients is to hire someone to paint for you. Of course, if you do, then you have to pay your painter. But you can include your artist's fee in the portrait price and still make a great profit with paintings based on photos. I know for a fact that many of the owners of the high-end photography studios that feature paintings based on their photos are hiring artists to paint for them and are making nice profits with paintings. Offering painted portraits to clients has become a great growth category for photographers. Whether you decide to do the painting yourself or have someone else do it, including painted portraits in your product line is sure to please both clients and you.

Update: Richard Jones added this on Facebook:
Hi Karen, I'm not as close to the market as you are, so this opinion is purely anecdotal-intuitive. I believe adding a hand painted look gives the image more uniqueness. I know it isn't true, but some people look at a photo and think, "I could do that." I don't think many of us look at a painting and say that. A good painting depicts a mood much better than any photograph can. So, I think photographers want to have an emotional element in their work and that's why they are moving in that direction.

Corel Painter portrait
Painting by Karen Sperling based on a photo by Don Ling.


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