Pet Portraits: Photo Hints & Tips

I’ve put together this blog post to give you a few hints and tips for taking the best photos for your pet portraits.  My canine assistant, Logie Labrador, has posed for me to show you different examples below. 

I hope the following examples will be of some help, but please don’t worry if you don’t have a perfectly lit, fine detailed, head shot. I do understand that sometimes my customers might have limited photos available; for example, if a pet has sadly passed away, or if it is a surprise gift. I will be able to advise which images are best for the work, or if photo quality will limit size options.

Take as many photos as you can. I’ve learnt that you can never have enough treats, or whatever your pet will happily sit still for, to try and give you a few seconds to take a nice posed photo!  Aim to take photos at your pet’s eye level, in natural light. Taking photos indoors using a flash can wash out details and cause red eye or light reflections off the eye lenses.

Fine details. The more details that appear in your photograph, the finer details I can work into the painting.  The eyes are the most important feature, they bring your pet to life through their painting and are often the first thing that draws you in to it, therefore, nice clear eyes are really important to try and capture.

Smartphones. As good as smartphone cameras are nowadays, they really cannot compete with the sensor quality of a proper camera, which usually provides a better natural overall colour tone as well.  Below are a couple of examples. If you use a smartphone, ideally take photos outside in good light, allowing the senor to pick up fine detail.

Cropping heads: The example below is a nice pose, but crop in on the head and you can see how the quality of detail to work from is not as great as having a good close-up to start with.

Poor light.  Indoors or poorly lit photos can be difficult to work from as the subject can appear very dark/flat, with little in the way of contrast and fine detail visible. I get as much detail as I can if this is the only source of photos you have.  

High resolution photos. Please send me the highest resolution of the photo you have available, ideally the original image that was taken with the camera without any editing. Images saved from places like Facebook have usually been compressed to a smaller file size. Cropped photos, or photos where the head isn’t very large on the main image, shown in the example below, will lose resolution when enlarged. Pixelation is an artist’s enemy…

Please remember that I only have the photo to work from and, in most cases, I don’t know the pet.  If any areas look a solid dark colour on your photos, such as eyes or fur, that is all I will be able to see. I do try and put in more detail if the portrait requires, such as fur texture/direction and eye colour, where it may be washed out or in dark shadow in photos.

I hope this blog post has given you some helpful hints and tips when taking photos of your pets for their portraits. I do know how difficult it can be to get pets to pose; they are very good at blinking just as the camera takes a photo! I’m happy to help and advise with any pictures you have, and make suggestions as to which provides the best details.

See the Commission Information page for full details on how to commission a pet portrait.

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