Here’s my part of a panel from Hereville 3. (It’s from page 128, if you have the book and would like to compare.)
I usually don’t use photo reference for figures – it’s difficult to prevent photo-referenced figures from looking lifeless, at least for me (other cartoonists do it better). When I use a photo ref and the resulting drawing looks like it was photo-referenced, I think of that as me “getting beat up by the photo.” But some poses are just too hard to figure out without reference. This three-way hug is definitely one such pose.
So I made my housemates Matt, Maddox and Sydney pose for for this photo (Matt is the girls’ dad), and used that as the basis for my drawing. Even with the photo, there are still differences between the reference and the final image – although there are also bits that are very similar (compare Fruma’s hands to Matt’s). The biggest change was Mirka’s entire figure, and turning Layele’s head so that readers could see her happy expression.
I think I’ve gotten much better at not letting source photos beat up my drawings. In the first Hereville book, there are some drawings that still make me wince because they look so obviously drawn from photos.