I rely on photos rather than drawing from life, so a great photo is king. My commissioned portrait clients supply me with their own photos, which can sometimes be challenging. I strive for hyperrealism, so I really need to see every detail in the photo. These days, most of us take pictures with our smart phones (myself included), but with a few tips in mind, you can take a clear, well-posed shot of your pet. This high resolution photo of my dog, Toby, taken on my iPhone, is the type of photo I look for.
First, lighting is very important to achieve a high resolution photo. If you were to expand the photo on a screen, the details would become more visible. In the case of a low resolution photo, you lose detail as you expand the photo, and it becomes fuzzy or grainy. A lot of natural light is key. If you take an indoor photo, make sure a lot of sunlight is flooding into the room. Outdoor photos can often be a better alternative. If the file size is at least 1 MB, you can be sure the photo is a high enough resolution.
Let’s face it, pets aren’t always the easiest to photograph, because they don’t always cooperate. Sometimes it takes a little persistence and patience. The best way to capture a great pose is to get down to their level. I receive so many photos that are taken while standing and looking down at the pet. This doesn’t make for a good pose. You need to get down and see them at eye level in order to capture their personality. The dog or cat can be lying down, sitting or standing. It’s really a matter of personal preference.
Finally, choose a photo that best represents your pet and try to picture it as a portrait hanging on the wall. Some dogs naturally show their tongues and pant or “smile,” while others don’t. Certain breeds have very distinctive faces and work well close up, while others look better showing the full head and body. In some cases, large dogs look better as a “head shot,” and smaller dogs are better suited to a full portrait.
A perfect colored pencil portrait starts with a great reference photo. Follow these tips, and you’ll capture your pet’s image like a pro.