Some consider it cheating, they’re wrong for most practical intents and purposes. There are obvious drawbacks and challenges to working from photographs, but as long as you are interpreting rather than merely copying photographs are just another tool/resource in your bag of magic tricks.
I use photographs a lot with my paintings. You cannot capture every event yourself. Also, the painting is a artistic interpretation of an image, each person may paint something entirely different. You can also incorporate other images into one painting, therefore you are creating something unique.
If you don’t have the money or the practical availability of models, then photographs are definitely ok. What all the others said in this thread, but also… A photograph is a fleeting moment in time, the best that your painting can do is capture that fleeting moment instead of the living, breathing, moving subject that you have available in capturing from life. The number one thing is “are you enjoying yourself with your creative abilities?”. If yes, then it’s ok. Even with photography there are many challenges to overcome. The typical photograph is overlit, uses fill lights to kill all the shadows, leaving your subject in one mass of midtone and highlight that’s difficult to make a good portrait of. Photography for painting is different from “photography” itself.
Art is not a competition, so “better” or “good” vs. “bad” does not exist at all. What matters is that you use the tools now that allow you to learn and express yourself and then, once you have the capabilities / availabilities, go for the other options you have available. “Projecting a photograph” is the most frowned upon and I agree that probably, we should print this out and copy the photograph using sight-sizing and other techniques to allow our “eye” to be trained and utilized in the process. The exception to that rule is when you “composed” the photograph in the first place, for example by designing the composition using a digital art form. Then it’s just about transferring that into a painting in a different kind of workflow.
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