Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Review: Paint My Photo

This is an initial overview of a new site called Paint My Photo - for those interested in painting from photos who also want to be able to access reference photos taken by other people to do this.
A number of art forums have created photographic resources for their members - notably Wet Canvas's Reference Image Library (although this has been inaccessible for long periods on occasion).

A new site has started up on Ning  - apparently independently of any major corporate interests which is interesting of itself - and it's all about painting from photos

Not only that but it's set up deliberately to create a pool of photos for other people to use - and hence is called Paint My Photo  (subtitle - Where photographers and artists meet).  The intention is that reference photos supplied by photographers are copyright free and hence can be used by artists to produce art which they can sell without a fee to the photographer.

Paint My Photo can be found at

The site seems to have been set up earlier this year and this is how it describes itself.
What's The Idea?

Very Simple, there are lots of great Photographers out there in internet land, and there are lots of Artists of all abilities who would like to paint from photographs. The problem is that Copyright law prevents this, although many photographers would love to inspire other Artists (Yes I do agree photography is an Art, I chose the terms 'Artists' and 'Photographers' for clarity). So-If you have posted photographs here, it is because you are happy to allow derivative works to be created. You still own the copyright of your photos of course. The Artist can, if the photographer has selected that option on joining, contact the Photographer to enable them to see the work. The Artist can sell their work as normal, if the photographer wants 'first refusal' on the Artwork, that should be by private arrangement and has nothing to do with 'Paint My Photo'. Artists can place links to where there work can be purchased. Photographers can place links to where other work and prints can be purchased. Anyone spamming and not following the spirit of the site will be warned and advised before any action taken.

We are a site for natural media only, no digital artwork, thanks for sticking to this rule.
Features of 'Paint My Photo'

Here are some of the features I could pick out:
  • over 7,000 photos already loaded onto the site.  However it's a little puzzling as the reference photos are mixed up with the digital images of the artwork created as a result so it's unclear how many photos there are altogether
  • 442 members to date - suggesting it's got enough to keep going
  • 22 videos loaded - usually by reference to a link to YouTube where people have chosen to share their videos
  • a monthly challenge - which tends to be a very popular feature on many of the forums targeting leisure artists.  
  • a forum - of the conventional sort with categories and threads.  This isn't as well advanced as I'd expect given the number of members. Thereagain a lot of interaction takes place by way of comments on individual photos and paintings.
  • Leader Boards - for content, members, photos and videos -  which allow people to see what's most popular at any given time - which is a good idea (but does I find tend to reinforce the popularity of 'early adopters')
  • a group for painting from photos.  Now as a Ning Moderator myself I'd personally have preferred to have set this up as a category within the Forum.  This would then allow people to start threads for their individual artwork - just like you get over at Wet Canvas.  Using the group function means that it's going to be very difficult to see anything other than what got posted today and people's work will get "lost" (as in difficult to retrieve) over time unless you're looking at that person's individual page.
  •  a very fascinating tool called a drawing grid - which looks amazing but I can't work out how it works!
The one thing which struck me is that the position on copyright would benefit from a much clearer and more prominent explanation - maybe along the line of a FAQs document about what people can and cannot do with the photos they use.  From my perspective, I'd put an emphasis on people learning about good practice as well as what they can do when using other people's photos.

It's also possible with Ning to get prospective members to look at something before people sign up and then ask when they agree to abide 'by the rules' when they join.  However from what I can see there's actually only one rule and that's 'don't create digital art'!

What's good is that you can have a good look at the site before joining - and if this is something which interests you that's what I suggest you do.

I'm not a member and would be interested to know how the people who are members find it.
  • What does it do well? 
  • Is it useful?
  • Is it likely to be a site that you'll use a lot?
  • What could it do better?


Roy The Artist said...

Well thanks for such a fair and accurate review of Paintmyphoto! I started it really 'on a whim' as a kind of 'wouldn't it be good if' idea. It struck a chord with many quite quickly. Since your review, we have worked on the wording of the terms, It is very much a work in progress. There is now a video explaining how to use the drawing grid. Your idea about creating a seperate category in the forum is sound, in my defence I have been learning as I go along! We now have a brace of fine administrators who help me with a few admin tasks, notably encouraging tagging of photos and featuring notable work. You have correctly identified our greatest challenge, finding and sorting the photos. Would love to hear any other ideas you may have, thanks again for the review.


Jullia said...

Nice review of the PMP. As a member I can say that the community is very great. There have been some ideas discussed in the forum, according the PMP, but unfortunately the ning platform does not allow us to do them all.. for example separating photos by subjects (because now as you see there are too many and it's hard to browse them all). There is a "making albums" feature, but is very unfriendly and hard to use.
And btw there is a "position on copyright" in the Terms of Service page(still in progress) and there are also explanations in the "what's the idea". But yes, a FAQ document sounds good :)

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What I've done in my Ning websites is create different CATEGORIES within the forum for the different types of paintings or topics. That way you can post work in much the same way you can on any other forum. Plus it also allows for people to post a thread about their work.

You can also create albums for specific subjects which can accept photos or paintings by anybody who is a member - in relation to a specific topic.

Like with most sites the more you get to know it the more you can make the most of it.

Obviously the options vary according to the level of platform in use.

Roy The Artist said...

Thanks Katherine, good input but unless I have missed something you cant currently have shared albums. My dream feature would be shared unlimited Albums. As Jullia has said, our requrement is fairly specific, and related to heavy use of photos, and being able to categorise them. Still looking for a good solution! Even if it means an archive on a different platform which would be hard to implement I think.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

What it looks to me like you can do as an administrator is set up an album (eg USA landscapes) and then make it possible to pull in pics from all images

So the process (I think) is as follows
1) add an album
2) Click choose from "everyone's photos"
3) identify and insert the tag to use as a filter (eg USA landscape)
4) this produces all images which fulfil the criteria of the tag
5) you as a moderator can then drag them across to the album

Obviously you need to get people to use tags if they want their image in the album. Which is also a good way of people being able to exclude their images if they don't (ie they don't use the tag)

You'd also need to manually update - but if the filter does the identifying then that might not take too long.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

If you don't want to upgrade sounds to me like you might possibly be better off in Flickr.

Certainly getting people to use tags is a great way of being able to look at past photos by type.

I see you aren't using specific categories for diffent categories of photos in the Forum. Maybe try diffentiating a bit more in the Forum?

VeryJoyful said...

Hi! nice, fair review. Thought I'd provide an update. I'm a Paint My Photo member and am so glad to have found a site with this purpose...providing "free" images from which artists can paint. There are no fees and few restrictions on painting from the photos. (Basically, just giving the photographer credit when displaying the artwork).

It's obvious Roy's idea is filling a 'need' -- hence the tremendous growth. There are nearly 700 members now and over 10,000 images.

Separating paintings from photos is still a challenge. However, members are now being educated and encourage to provide better tags, making searches easier. Housekeeping is in progress to remove duplicates and other unneeded photos. Site protocols and help are in development which will provide more consistency and ease of use. A group of administrators and Roy are dedicated to this development work and to fine-tuning the NING platform so the the site's purpose can be fulfilled in an even more user-friendly manner.

Keep checking back. I firmly believe all will work out and this site will fulfill even better the need it addresses.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks for the update. I'll continue to keep an eye on it and have added it into my website about Art Forums

Angela Fehr said...

I know this is an old thread but I have a concern that I never see addressed when it comes to these sites promising copyright free reference photos for artists. What prevents people from uploading photos that they don't actually own the copyright to?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Nothing ever stops people who cheat

SJ1 said...

I was a member for a few weeks and really enjoyed it until I tried uploading my art work. This is challenging to say the least. I didn't do it correctly and received emails that were impolite. The last one from Lorna was so rude that I deleted my account and the website. Paint my photo, no thanks. I will look elsewhere.

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