It’s important to paint from life when trying to grow your observation skills. Photos – especially from your phone – may not accurately capture lighting and form and colour. But sometimes you need a way to capture a moment, take it with you so that you can use it at a later date.
Smartphones have replaced cameras for documenting life. So many of my students have them and I recommend that they use them to take reference photos for art class. However; so many times I hear from students that they can’t access those photos because we don’t allow cell phones in class.
Aside from not having access to the phone, it’s not a good idea to draw from your phone. For one thing, the screen is small and you can’t see details. Even if you zoom in, you’re not getting a full picture. As well, sometimes you’ll want to use multiple versions of a scene or object; you should be able to look at them side-by-side in order to compare and contrast and use the best features. Print your photos so they are full-sized and you can look at them as a set.
Another good reason to print photos is because photography is also art and if you have an excellent composition, you could include the photo as part of your portfolio.
So by all means, take photos. But then print them out and bring them to class. Or use them on your own.