You certainly need to know how to go all about this in the illustration biz.
Outside of that not so much. Depending on your temperament; sometimes never.
Morandi did it all with a few dusty bottles, Donato does it with a mountain of photographs. Both are artists.
The important thing is synthesis.
From Gegarin's point of view
I just found this blog with a great story about meeting Williamson and brief discussion of his process. Great pix. Scroll down.
"Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
There is actually quite an art in finding just what you're looking for on Google images.
Sometimes you can have quite a long dialogue with the dialogue box, like "man in a suit swinging a hammer." Sometimes you do better abbreviating that to "swinging a hammer." But if you reduce that to "swinging" you're going to get porn.
I have learned, for example, that a search on "toe" is going to give me nightmare shots of foot injuries. Plus, I picked up a computer virus on one of those images. I surely wish I could unsee some of the things I've turned up. Oof!
I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).
I've found that I rather dislike Google image search, mainly because I'm 1) not always that great at figuring out the best search terms to use, and 2) a lot of the images it throws out tend to be duplicates and not always of the best quality. It's self-repeating in a way. Person searches for image, nabs the first thing that appears for their blog, so the image becomes more common place, and then the next person does the same thing, and before you know it, you just end up getting variations of the same picture on different sites. It can be handy for specific stuff, I suppose.
My new favourite source for general non-specific reference is magazines. If you can find somewhere that carries all the speciality interest magazines, it's great. There's magazines for everything. Cars, planes, motorbikes, boats, animals, gardening, travel, electronics, fashion, you name it. They're normally not much more expensive than the costs of all that printer ink if you were printing this stuff from the internet, and the photos are normally good quality and clear. If you pick two up a month or something, ones with lots of photos in, and it wouldn't be too long before you'd have a nice little stash of stuff you could look at.
Not much good, of course, if you need a specific item, place, animal or whatever, but I find it helpful just to study the colours and lighting of materials I'd never normally get the chance to see first hand.
so true... i'm only using google search if i can't get what i want any other way because i got sick of all that disgusting stuff....even when you are looking for something totally harmless.
i don't understand why so many people are uploading super disgusting stuff and why videos get so much clicks where people are attacked, injured (sometimes really bad injuries) or even die.
I find that Google Images works best as a starting point... I usually either augment it with regular Google searches to find what I need, or click the most promising images (if they don't have suspicious URLs,) and, if the images lead to sites with related material, I'll most likely find what I need by surfing around from there. Or at the very least I'll find info I can use to refine my search.
The "Find Similar Images" option is pretty good, though... For example I just did a quickie search for "office chair", and I had a specific type of chair in mind but didn't know the name of that chair style. Out of the first page of results, there was maybe one chair close to the right style, so I clicked "Find Similar Images" on that chair, and voila, pages and pages of exactly the chair style I was looking for.
(But if you think searching for images is tricky, try finding information on obscure Flash quirks. That takes some seriously creative searching.)