The more I work as a professional illustrator, the more I learn: It is a super advantage to have the object you are drawing right under your nose. If I work with dried bird specimens (for example), I can turn them around, change the light, take a closer look at them. What is the colour of the underwing coverts? Can I see the beak from another angle, please? No Problem. When you watch living animals, they are moving all the time, and you just freeze the posture you like to have on your paper. You choose how you like to show something, no photographer.
Of course, photos can be useful and support your work in many ways. And if you like to draw the dog of your aunt for christmas - I would take a photo, too, so the dog is really looking like this dog and drawing gets faster (there is enough other stuff to do before christmas)... But to improve your style of art, your knowledge and your brain, you need more than making an expensive copy of a photo - a picture that isn't new and already there.
Perhaps you like to discuss this topic below? I am curious if you would agree or think completely different about it!
Time to illustrate myself
However i don't think there is any shame in looking at reference when not sure about details.
At the beginning of learning to draw it is ok to copy photos 1:1. It is the same our ancestors did years ago. Like Albrecht Dürer. He had to copy the arts of his master before he was allowed to do his own work. They learned: how did Master draw this?
If you copy photos, you shouldn’t only draw, better you ask yourself questions while drawing.
Real birds are difficult to draw. They’re too bustling. It is difficult to see exactly each feather. (I’m thinking of a small bird, like a great tit.)
I’ve seen many zoological specimens that doesn’t look like the real one. It is often the expression or the gesture that doesn’t fit. So you can also learn wrong things of the specimens. Another point: the color of the specimens become pale and the glance of the feathers is gone. (The good specimens are closed away, because they’re too valuable to show them to everyone.)
And dried specimens are also artworks! A work of an artist!
In my opinion you should have seen the species you want to draw in real before, to know how they act and behave.
I think, copy photos 1:1 is ok at the beginning of learning. You also can use/copy photos to create your own work. Like you do this with specimens.
Yes, the photographer did the work for composition and lighting, but what if those are exactly the things the artist tries to learn? The photo also has texture, proportions and colors - all things a good painter must learn to do and the only way to learn is to study real life or photos. What if they aspire to be a hyperrealistic painter in the future but are kind of stuck trying to learn their craft through studying photos for now?
You're stomping down the idea of tracing photos entirely as a learning tool, which is quite uninformed honestly. All the compositions I had to paint and draw during my school years could have just as well been photos (a statue, a model, a tray of fruit with lamps to create lighting) and I learned a ton about the tools and the subject.
Birds are complicated and I agree that you can't learn everything about their detailed anatomy by copying photos, but photos can be one tool in the pool of many and not all subjects are as difficult to grasp. Not all subjects also need to be grasped in such detail and one can do fine just learning how they look instead of how they work - or do you really expect me to do a year long study on apples just so that I'm allowed to illustrate them without you stamping my work as "not art". See that's the kicker here.
Crediting the photographer in case of publishing your work is part of the deal. Those who don't do it, should.
But I largely agree with you, I think. If you want to learn anatomy and form through photos, you're putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. On the other hand, I understand that sometimes photos are all you can access, which can be frustrating, but work with what you can.
Either way, it's definitely best to credit photographers.