What is a "quality" reference photo anyways?

What is a "quality" reference photo anyways?

Commissioned pet portraits are a wonderful way to showcase the fur-loves in your life!  Commissioning an oil painting that truly captures their essence is crucial and dependent on the artist and the quality of the submitted reference photo. 

Choosing the Photo

"Quality" reference photos should have bright, indirect, lighting that is preferably natural (from the sky). Make sure it isn't TOO bright/direct which will cause the pet to appear washed out, or even squinting at the camera! It is important that the lighting is bright enough to see clear details of the face, especially their eyes.  We all know THAT is where their love lies, in those sweet eyes!

Make sure your pet isn't too far away from the camera.  When you zoom in, can you see the color of their eyes? If not, they are too far away and the artist won't be able to capture their likeness as well. The goal is to make sure the painting looks like your French bulldog, not French bulldog. 


The dog is too far away in this photo and it is too dark.  It's hard to see her adorable frenchie details! 

Another thing to consider is, is the pet looking AT the camera? If the pet's eyes are pointing in another direction, consider if that is how you want their painting.  It can make for a fun and more expression-full painting; however, it isn't what everyone has envisioned for their pet's Regal Portrait. 


I touched on lighting briefly and now I want to talk about it with more depth.  Too bright of light will cause your pet to be washed out, too dark causes a lack of detail. Simple , right?  The last, very important bit is reflective light.  I don't know your pet and I am relying on the photograph to tell me your pet's coloring.  If the reflective light is causing their tan fur to look red, I am going to paint it red. I'm happy to paint your dog red, I LOVE color; however, I know that it may not capture their true likeness so please review your reference photo for accurate fur coloring (if that's something you want).


The light in this room is causing a lot of browns and yellows on this black dog.  It would still make a good painting but it won't reflect her truly. 


(left photo) The lighting in this photo is too dark. It could be a very "dramatic" painting but may not represent the pet's true features

(right photo) This photo would be acceptable if we didn't have anything else to work with; however, it isn't ideal because the sun is so bright on her that is "washes out" the black coloration of the fur.


Here are a few examples (of my own pets) of excellent reference photos: 

profile of French bulldog

A dramatic pose. The lighting doesn't wash out her black fur and I can see all of her details clearly. 

Even though this photo is a tad bit blurry, all of her details are visible and her coloring is true. This photo will make a great painting! 

This photo has great lighting and detail.  The colors and details of her eyes are really evident in this photo which is great!

 The cats eyes are visible and the color is clear. There are some shadows on the sides of their faces that will lend to a more interesting piece of artwork.


Okay, so far we have discussed a "quality" reference photo, now what is my "ideal" reference photo? 

For starters, take all of the above and throw in a lot of PERSONALITY! Especially with dogs, I love to see smiles (tongues out), head cocked to the side, and drool! Cats are all about that MOOD. The better the lighting on those big beautiful eyes, the better the photo! 

Finding the "perfect" photo can be challenging, I know. Especially if you have said Good-Bye to your sweet fur-baby and only have limited photos to work with.  If you are unsure if your photographs will work, email them! I am happy to look at them and talk about it with you.  If I don't think it will translate well into a painting, I will tell you! 


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