Many times I’ll capture a photo of a beautiful place with the intention to someday paint it. Now as I write this, you need to understand that creating a painting from a photo is not the same as to make it look just like the photograph. If that is the intent, why bother in the first place, just use the photo.
I use the photo as reference for shapes and placement. If you look at the picture above you will see my original photo of Boulder Creek and the unfinished painting. The original photo is dark due to the overcast day. I love to use color and using brighter colors, especially compared to the muted tones in the photo, gives the painting more life and joy than the photo. The color gives me more of the emotion of how I feel when I think of Boulder Creek. I use the photo to get a general idea of placement, a starting point for a composition, not as a compulsion to put every single bush, branch and stone into my painting. The photo is a starting point only.