How To photograph your pet for a portrait painting April 01, 2016 13:09

This is a short, simple guide to photographing your pet for a portrait painting.  Starting with a good reference picture is essential to creating a successful painting, though the picture by no means has to be perfect!  The simple suggestions below will help solve the most common problems I see with pet photos. 

Location: It is best to have a background that is plain, neutral, and contrasts your pet - such as a blank wall. Hanging up a light colored bed sheet (or draping it over furniture behind your setup) is a quick way to achieve a neutral setting.

Lighting: Choose a spot indoors or outside, ideally with good natural lighting. Flash and indoor lights can often distort true colors and create washed-out photos or odd shadows. Experiment with your camera settings and figure out your best lighting and location options first.

Angles: The best basic portrait photos are at eye level with your pet. You may have to sit or crouch on the ground, or place smaller pets on a table top. Shots from above create forced perspective that distorts size – which is sometimes a desired technique, but not often for formal portraits.

Multiple animals: Group portraits are always more tricky, and often require much more effort. With animals of greatly different size, separate paintings are usually better.

Focus: Do you want a full-body portrait, or a headshot? Get close and try to fill the viewfinder with as much of your pet as possible – the larger the usable area of the photo, the more detail that is available for a good painting. If you want a headshot portrait, focus on just that area.

Review: Take a look at the photos and make sure they accurately represent your pet. Are the colors correct? Do the poses capture his/her personality?

Sending photos: Full-size, unedited photos are best. More photos to choose from is always better than not enough. Make sure to earmark at least one as a good example of your pet’s true coloration, even if the pose isn’t perfect.

More information: Again, photos do not have to be perfect! I can make adjustments to an image as I paint, so long as photos are clear and sharp enough, have a workable pose, and a good color example.