In most cases, I am not able to meet your pet in person so I can only rely on the photographs I receive as reference for your portrait, which are the most important part of the commission process. I usually work solely from photos, so without clear, sharp images of your pet, I am not able to paint the fine details that show their true characteristics and personality. Basically, the more detail I can see, the better the portrait will be as it will allow me to portray your pet accurately in every way possible.
The eyes have it. In my opinion, the eyes portray the personality of your pet and can tell a thousand stories about who they are, their moods and character. Expressive, open eyes are most important in capturing and portraying your pet’s personality.
To ensure I can achieve the best possible results for your pet portrait, it is crucial that I work from clear, sharp photographs which show the unique details of your pet such as their fur, feather or scale direction, their colouring, markings and in particular, their eyes, so feel free to send as many photos as you can.
Please read through the information below which may help you in achieving the best quality reference photo for your portrait.
If you have any questions regarding this process or if you are unsure whether the photos you have chosen are suitable, please do not hesitate to contact me as I am more than happy to help in any way I can.
I prefer to work from high resolution digital photos and these days, most of us have a digital camera or a smart phone ready for that candid shot. If you are using a digital camera to photograph your pet especially for a portrait, take as many pictures as you can. It won’t cost you anything other than your time and patience. Digital photos need to be taken on the highest quality setting on your camera so as to not lose the finer details.
Sometimes, some of our favourite photos are the traditional paper ones, especially if you would like to commission a portrait of a beloved family pet from years gone by when digital cameras weren’t everyday commodities, or you may have an analog camera to photograph your pet with. Either case is fine. Just post your photos to me so I can then scan them at a high resolution. Your photographs will be well looked after and returned to you with your portrait.
File Size & Resolution
When I am working from a photograph, it is very important that I am able to see every detail of your pet in order to produce a highly detailed portrait, therefore, I prefer to work from high resolution photographs which are usually large files.
If possible, please send the original size file via email or using the Pet Portrait Order Form.
Below is an example of what happens when I enlarge the image of a small sized file. This is a photo of my cat Max and it was taken with a 24MP DSLR. The file and image size has been reduced for the purpose of this example and although the small file may look fine, the details are far too small for the eye to see without enlarging the photo. When the photo is enlarged, the details are completely lost due the the small file size and low resolution. As you can see, the photo becomes completely pixelated and the details are non existent. A small file is impossible to enlarge without it becoming blurred which makes it very difficult to accurately portray that coloured fleck in your cat’s eye or that trademark freckle on your dog’s nose. When photos are taken with a mobile or tablet and sent as a reduced file, the image becomes even more pixelated due to the reduced pixels in the original photo.
SMALL FILE ZOOMED IN
In comparison, when a photo is sent at it’s original size, the details are clear and sharp allowing me to see every nuance of your pet and especially the direction of the fur. It allows me to zoom in to certain areas without losing detail. A large file can be reduced in size without compromising detail but a small file or photo cannot be enlarged or zoomed into without it becoming blurry and pixelated which makes it absolutely impossible to see any vital information which needs to be portrayed accurately.
When emailing photos, please check that your email program isn’t automatically reducing the size of your file for faster delivery. My inbox will accept all sized files so please do not hesitate to send large photos of your pet. The more I can see, the more accurately I can portray him/her. If you need any help, please feel free to let me know.
ORIGINAL LARGE FILE
ORIGINAL LARGE FILE ZOOMED IN
Natural lighting is the best lighting to photograph pets although it shouldn’t be too harsh such as the mid-day sun. Early morning or late afternoon light is better but a bright, overcast day is the best lighting as it gives the most accurate colours without casting strong shadows or highlights which can change the colours of the fur and hide the details. If you are photographing on a bright, sunny day, place your pet in the shade. Try to have a contrasting background colour to your pet; if your pet is light in colour, a dark background is perfect. If your pet is dark in colour, a light background is best.
IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Sometimes it is not possible to photograph outside for a variety of reasons so it must be done indoors. If photographing your pet indoors, try to place him/her near a window where there is natural lighting. Try not to use a flash as this will give your pet “green eye” (same as human “red eye”). If you do use a flash, keep the flash away from your pet’s eyes.
Angles & Positions
Try not to photograph your pet looking down on him/her. Try to take the photograph at their eye level which could mean having to crouch or lie down to get the perfect shot. As an alternative, you can always raise your pet by placing them on a table or higher surface to get to their eye level.
Having said that, sometimes there are exceptions to the rules where front on photos result in beautiful portraits showing the pet’s full expression and characteristics, so don’t worry too much about getting the perfect shot. As long as the photo is sharp, clear, in focus and the lighting isn’t too harsh, I’m sure it will result in a beautiful portrait. If you are not sure which photo would suit best, simply send me as many photographs as you can and I will be more than happy to discuss which would be best suited for the portrait type you have in mind.
PHOTO TAKEN AT EYE LEVEL
PHOTO TAKEN FROM ABOVE
As a general guide, it is always best to have your pet looking slightly to the right or left of the frame with both eyes in view. Sometimes, front on shots can look a little flat and side profiles don’t fill enough of the frame leaving too much negative space. Try not to take shots where your pet is not looking straight into the camera.
HEAD & SHOULDERS
If you are choosing a smaller sized portrait where only the head and shoulders are portrayed, please take close up photographs where half the body is filling the entire frame. These photographs are always best taken with your pet sitting upright (not laying down). Full body portraits are not recommended for small sized papers because too much detail is lost due to having to reduce the size of the pet.
Full body portraits are best suited for the larger sized papers as not to lose too much detail. Your pet can be laying down, standing or sitting. So long as the photograph is in focus, at eye level and fills most of the frame, it will be perfect for full body portraits.
For portraits with more than one pet, it is not necessary to have all your pets in the one photo. Although this is preferable to ensure that they are all at the same angle with the same lighting, separate photos of individual pets can be amalgamated together to create a unified portrait.
Personality & Character
When photographing your pets, try to capture their personality, character and facial expression as best you can. Only you know your pet best so keep their personality in mind when trying to get that perfect shot. It’s better not to force them to sit up straight and look alert when they would rather slump on the floor gazing at you with those beautiful, soulful eyes. All animals are beautifully unique and I’m sure that no matter what poses you are able to capture, there will be a few that will be perfect for your pet portrait.
PROFESSIONAL & COPYRIGHTED PHOTOS
If you have had professional photos taken of your pet and would like to use them as reference for your portrait, please note that these photos are copyrighted by the photographer that took them and I must have their written consent to use them as reference. Most photographers are fine if you ask them and thus far, I have not encountered any professional photographers that haven’t allowed an artist to use their photographs as reference. Having said that, it is a photographer’s right to decline so therefore, it is always best to ask for their permission. I will not use a photograph taken by a professional photographer without first receiving written confirmation that they are happy for the photo to be used as reference for a hand painted / drawn portrait.
My Final Word
I know that it isn’t always an easy task trying to capture the perfect shot of your pet as they aren’t always as cooperative as we would like them to be but please don’t be dismayed if you feel that your photos aren’t good enough for a pet portrait as I can work from most photos regardless of their quality. Please keep in mind though, that I can only portray accurately what I am able to see. If I am not able to see a certain feature or aspect of your pet, I can only guess what may be there. As you can see from some of my blog posts, the reference photos used for quite a few of the portraits were less than ideal, but still resulted in a lovely portrait. If you require any help or would like to check if your photos can be used for a portrait, please feel free to email as many as you can to me and I will be more than happy to advise. Also keep in mind that sometimes, unusual positions and angles make for the most interesting portraits.