I learned early on that good reference material get you a good painting. I have file cabinets full of clippings laboriously collected over the years but I find that even with all of those images available I usually end up shooting new photos for each project. It’s better to have a photo tailored to your design than it is to tailor your design to the reference you have on hand.
I have also found that even with the ba-jillion images available via the Internet I still have to set up shots. Google “The Romulan Starship ‘Buzzard’s Breath'” and you’ll get 100K results… but 998K of the images will be the same identical shot.
I don’t set out to use myself as a model but I often find it so much easier to do so. With this cover painting I wasted 45 minutes trying to get my model into the desired “crazed cult-member pose,” and in the end I had to pose while he took the photo. My only regret is that I couldn’t keep my McGuyveresque locks into the painting.
You never know beforehand who the best models will be either. I tried using one of Lori’s drop-dead gorgeous friends for a FASA Star Trek piece but the girl had no acting “muggability” at all. The gentleman who posed for the soldier in this painting verbally worried about “everyone in the neighborhood staring at him” during the shoot despite the fact that there were two, maybe three kids (no adults) within a four-home radius.