I’ve come up with a fun method to figure out lights and darks. Take a clear piece of plastic – acetate, duralar, I’m using a clear bag, and place it on top of a black and white reference photo. Then using 4 shades of gray markers, color on the plastic. Start with the darkest areas, color those dark gray. Then the medium grays, light grays, and very light. Pull out the reference photo and you get a value study! It will show you how the lights and darks alone will create a 3-D picture.
Here’s the Papillon based on Jordan Fieldman’s photo at PaintMyPhoto.
Then I decided to use different colors to paint him/her. I used Indigo for the darkest, LV2 (dark lavender) for the mid-darks and purple twilight for the mid-lights.
It was really fun and quick. Here it is with a background.
I also did the value study with warm browns for a Labradoodle. It’s a great way to get to know your reference photo.