I regularly accept Pet Portrait Commissions and love doing them. It means so much to me that people will trust me to create a likeness of their loved furry kids and its a task I take very seriously.
It is however a job I can only complete if I have a good photo to work from, so I’m writing this post to give a few tips and insights into what I need to draw your pet portrait.
I sometimes wonder if pets know when we want to photograph them – they never seem to do what we want once we have our camera handy! Whether it be a dog, cat, horse or bird – you know your pet the best. With dogs a treat or funny noise will usually make them glance in your direction. Always make sure that the sun is slightly off your shoulder to the left or right. This creates nice light in the eyes of the animal you’re attempting to photograph and light in the eyes are key! It also creates interesting lighting as light coming from the side will create a nice contrast between the light and dark side of the face.
Try not to photograph at midday as the sun from overhead casts shadows in the eyes, and also rather photograph outside in good light. I often find that photos taken indoors are rather poor quality due to low light.
A Cellphone photo is sufficient for drawings up to A3 as long as it remains unedited and is sent via email. Editing apps and whatsapp decreases the photo quality to a size that I cannot use. I often have people sending me images from Facebook that I sadly have to decline due to quality. In some circumstances – as with memorial portraits – we don’t have a choice, and I’ll only book the pet portrait once I have a viable image to use.
Try getting a head and shoulders image – cellphone cameras are wide angle and will distort the long nose of a dog or horse – so step away. It also gives me a bit of space to compose a good artistic rendering. Don’t cut off the ears – I need those!!
Ears pricked forward is important when you photograph a horse for a portrait. Step away and use an animal noise app or mirror to get your horse’s attention. A portrait from the front works better than from the side – but remember to stand a few steps away to avoid your horse’s face being distorted.
I am always available to give tips – send me your photos and I’ll give you detailed feedback on what I can use for the drawing or how to improve the image. Usually I have a bit of a waiting list, so we will have time to gather some images.
I sincerely hope this helps a little bit towards getting the perfect shot for your pet portrait!