We work predominantly from photographs, so finding a good photo is important.
Often the picture will not be perfect. Values, shapes, forms, or the arrangement of the elements themselves may need adjustment to develop a pleasing composition. Recognize what it is that you want to say about your subject and make adjustments accordingly.
The original photo on the left had an interesting backlit effect which I wanted to convey in my painting.
I wanted to demonstrate the glow of the setting sun coming from the background, so I began with adjusting the color in the photo to bring in that warmth.
The foreground is a combination of both warm and cool colors. The one area of snow has a harder edge which helps create a center of interest.
The second step is solidifying shape and form. With the light coming from behind, there aren't defined light areas of value. Instead, the light "wraps around" the forms creating the soft edges, with the dark areas most evident in the middle of the forms.
Also, painting the trees and the background at the same time helps to achieve the desired soft edges.
Note: an edge is where to different colors or values meet. When the colors or values are extreme they create a hard edge. When they are close in value or color they create a soft edge.
The final step in the demonstration is always detail. I like to keep the painting simple and let the pattern dominate the image.
Remember, a good photograph is merely a starting point toward a great painting.