• GillianUssherArt

Choosing a reference photograph for a portrait of your pet



As pet portraits can rarely be done from a live sitting, a huge part of creating a portrait that a client will love is choosing the right photograph.


Willow's reference photograph was taken from her eye level meaning I could create a portrait which shows her looking out from the canvas rather than her being looked down upon, and her features are not distorted by an overhead angle.

The ‘right photograph’ should ideally be clear enough to work from, and not over or underexposed. The lighting should show the true colouring and the subject should be in focus, blurred photos are so difficult to work from. Once those simple guidelines are covered, the ‘right photograph’ is largely defined by what the client wants.



Although outdoor lighting is often best, Fig's reference photograph was perfect as there was enough natural daylight in the room.


Some of my favourite portraits were created from reference photographs I would never have chosen or ideas I would never have had, but were requested by clients. If you have ideas or unusual poses, please suggest them!



Blondie's reference photograph has unusual shadow as is an usual pose, but the client had a great idea in choosing it!


Clear headshots are often the best option when choosing a reference photograph, but sometimes, there may be a photograph which captures much more of a subject, especially for tender moments which cannot be staged or posed.



Group portraits can be achieved with separate photographs, but photographing each subject from about the same angle is essential.


If a photograph is to dark, too blurred or too small I won’t be able to create a good portrait from it. If, sadly, it is the only photograph available then I will do my best to create the best painting or drawing that I can.


The photo on the left would make a really good reference as it has a lot of light on the face, as opposed to the photo on the right which is in shadow and makes it difficult to see the features and true colouring. The photo on the right would still be usable as a reference, but I would need to see other photos also in order to see any missing detail and get a better idea of the colouring.



The photo on the left would work brilliantly as a reference as it is in focus. The photo on the left is out of focus making it unsuitable to use as a reference photograph.





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