In order to create the best portrait of your pet as possible, I need good reference photographs. Obviously, not everyone has access to a professional pet photographer (although, if you’re in Central Ohio, you have ME!) or a fancy camera. That’s absolutely fine. Here are a couple tips and tricks to get good results.
If you’re taking your pictures outside, try to stay out of bright sunshine that will cause harsh shadows. An overcast day is the perfect time to take reference photos! Early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is no longer at its peak, is also a great time. If it is sunny, move your subject into the shadows of something solid, like a building or fence. Put the sun behind you so that your subject is well and evenly lit.
Don’t take photographs under a tree in bright sunshine or you’ll get “dappled” shade and your subject will have bright and dark spots everywhere! That is very hard to edit correctly.
Try to find as much natural light as possible, like a big window. Have your subject face the window so that you have your back to it or one shoulder and they get all the light or 3/4s of it on their face. If the light is behind them, it will be difficult to get detail in the shadows.
Don’t take photographs at night, where you rely on indoor lighting. It’s the most difficult lighting ever – cameras struggle to get detail in the shadows, incandescent lighting makes everything a weird yellow. If you can, wait until the next day.
The best portraits create an intimacy between the viewer and the subject. That means you have to get to eye-level.
Camera lenses create distortion the closer you are to your subject. That’s how you get some of those “big nose” portraits. Step back a few paces to take your pictures.
While seeing your subject’s beautiful eyes is definitely a positive, you don’t necessarily need a portrait of them staring at you all the time. It’s OK if your subject is looking off into the distance. The trick is to make sure it looks deliberate. So that they’re not just looking slightly over your shoulder but really looking off at an angle. My Finch has a very distinctive aquiline nose so I like portraits of him with a ¾ profile.
If you want direct eye contact, choose a toy or a treat and hold it right above the lens of your camera/phone. This works better than calling their names because they usually get up to come see you!
If you’d like to have more than one subject in your portrait, please PLEASE take reference photos of them in the same light and from the same angle. They don’t all have to be in the same shot at the same time – we all know how difficult it is to get them all to pose simultaneously! I’m more than happy to composite them into one portrait. But it makes the final result so much better if they have the same lighting and angle.
THE MORE, THE MERRIER
Send me everything. The more pictures, the merrier. Sometimes you have a good pose but their eyes are closed but you have another picture with their eyes open but their tongue out – send them both. Or you have a pose that you like but the color is washed out or has a weird blue cast. But you have another photo that shows the perfect coat color – send them both. Or you have a picture of the scaredy cat but her eyes are super wide open and you like the other one with her eyes partially closed but her chin is missing – send them both. Send them ALL!
PLEASE, NO FILTERS
I am a professional photographer with top of the line software. Please don’t edit or add filters to the image. You’d be amazed what I can do with your image right out of the camera/phone. Send it to me with as few edits as possible.
BUT I DON’T HAVE A “GOOD” CAMERA
Cell phone photographs are just fine. Make sure your phone is set to take photographs in as high resolution as the phone is capable. Don’t worry about special settings like “portrait”. We’re just looking for a clear photograph. When you send me the images in email, attach them to the email instead of embedding them (where they pop up in the body of the email – you want to use the little paper clip). I recommend downloading them to your computer and sending them that way. If you send them directly from your phone, many email programs will compress the images to make them a smaller file size. I want as many pixels as I can get!
*If you have a professional photograph of your pet that you would like me to paint, you will need to get written permission from the photographer.
** If you live in Central Ohio, I offer a reduced session fee to take reference photographs of your pets for paintings. No big equipment or backdrops – just me, a camera, and my experience.