When it comes to painting, I think nothing “should be done this way or the other”. We all have the freedom to paint exactly how we want to. If someone had told the great historical artists, that they could only paint a certain way, we would not have so many beautiful painting styles today. If you like to paint from photos, and if you feel it will help you become a better artist, please give yourself permission to do exatly that. I always take lots of photos of flower for future reference and also from different angles, so that I have several photos to choose from before the flower wilts and dies. In the end it’s not about whether you painted from life or from a photo, it’s also about whether you enjoyed what you painted. The more time you spend being happy when you paint, the more enjoyable your painting will be and of course the better you will become too, so be easy on yourself and make your own rules.
I paint from photos because otherwise I would not be able to paint some subjects I would love to paint. When I go for a walk and I see a beautiful flower (or whatever) I just take a photo and I’m not thinking “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t, they say it’s not true art to paint from photos…”. Come on! If you take your photo with the thought of painting it in the future then your art process has started. Even if you paint from others’ photos that’s fine (of course if you have permission). If I want to paint cactuses in Arizona, I’m sorry, but I prefer painting from a photo than saving money for my whole life just to go and paint a cactus in Arizona. Let’s be rational. Try to paint a whale from life.
Another reason why I like to paint from photos is that I can capture the light. I’m a slow painter, I like details, sometimes I paint one painting for several weeks so photos are indispensable. It’s just a tool.