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Tips for taking reference photographs for a pet portrait.

Painting a high-quality pet portrait takes skill, planning, a lot of hard work, and most importantly, a good reference photo. My commissions come from clients across the country and are of animals that I've never actually seen in-person before. My only connection to that animal are the photographs that my clients provide.


This is an example of what happens when you get too close and how bad lighting doesn't show enough detail.

Getting a good reference photo to paint from is the most common issue I have when I am commissioned to paint a pet portrait. Clients always send me their favorite photographs of their pet.


This is an example of a photo that uses very bad lighting. The sun is coming from the back of the cat and causes the entire animal to be in a dark shadow.

Unfortunately, what they see in the photo is much different from what I see in the same photo. They see their pet doing something unbelievably cute. I see a dark, out of focus and low resolution image which shows me very little detail of their pet. The photo might be great for their scrapbook, but it's impossible to paint from. Honestly, this happens just about every time I accept a commission.


Remember, I can't paint what I can't see! That's why I've put together this quick guide to help you take photos that I can use to create your portrait painting.