What Kind of Photo Reference Makes the Best Pet Portrait?

One of the first questions I often get is “what kind of photo should I pick for my painting?”

This is a great question, because the photo selection is key to painting a wonderful painting that will capture the true spirit of your beloved.

Here’s a short list of what to look for in your photos, to guide you in selection process for the reference photo to be used for your painting:

  1. Pick a photo that captures the “glint” of light in your pet’s eyes.
    Many snapshots are missing that, and if your photo clearly shows your pet’s eyes, that will help me create a painting that will really capture the animal’s unique expression and personality.

  2. Pick a photo that does not “crop off” a paw, or a tail (especially in a full body portrait)

    If the main focal point of portrait is their face, well then, cropping off the body is just fine.

    However, if we’re working from a photo that is more of a full-body portrait, a photo that crops off just one paw (and not the other) can look a little weird in a painting. Keep in mind that what may work in a photo, doesn’t always translate as well to a painting.

  3. Pick a photo that has “complete” visual information to work from.
    Sometimes our snapshots of pets are missing information, and without that information, it’s hard to extrapolate what is there.

    Examples of this would be over or under exposed photos in extreme light (“blown out” or “dark masses” where details are missing.)

    This is especially true if your pet happens to be black, like mine is! (And you will notice that I have painted my fair share of black dogs.)

    Being able to see the form and direction of the light reflecting off black fur will help to define the form of the animal’s body, making for a better painting.

    Bottom line: Photos with optimal lighting will always work the best!

  4. Select a photo that “tells a little story"
    Sometimes dogs have a favorite chair, a toy, or can be captured “in their element” whether it be out in nature, standing on a boat dock, looking out a window, or sitting at your feet. These kinds of photos often will translate into superb painting reference material.

    Remember, your dog is unique in all the world, and so will be your painting!

Contact me today and we can talk more about your future portrait!