Choosing the perfect reference photo

When I draw pet portraits, I follow the reference photo exactly in terms of the animal's position and expression. (Of course my stylized art adds a flare in terms of texture and color.) It is important to send me a reference photo that truly captures the essence of your animal friend. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a photo reference of your pet:

1) Overall vibe. Are you looking to portray them as playful, wild, peaceful, sweet, intense, etc? Look at photos of your animal and notice which aspect of them is most represented. Is this what you want to come through in the finished work?

My cat Owen can look playful, "insane", or peaceful. 

My cat Owen can look playful, "insane", or peaceful. 

2) Consider the angle of viewing. Are you looking down at the animal? Typically the best reference photo is taken when the camera (person) is eye level rather than standing over the pet. 

Getting down to the rabbit's eye level is much more personable than a photo from above.

Getting down to the rabbit's eye level is much more personable than a photo from above.

There are exceptions to every rule right? I love the shot from above of this pit mix. It captured her perfectly.

There are exceptions to every rule right? I love the shot from above of this pit mix. It captured her perfectly.

3) The crop. It is usually best to have all of the animal's face showing. We can crop it down if artistically warranted, but it is difficult to draw what is beyond the photo. 

This is a super sweet photo of my cat, but it is cropped very tight. It would be better as a reference photo if we had the rest of the head and ears.

This is a super sweet photo of my cat, but it is cropped very tight. It would be better as a reference photo if we had the rest of the head and ears.

4) The quality of the photo is important. I need to be able to zoom in and see details in the eyes and accurate coat color.

Henry to the left has clear, bright, and in-focus features. This is a good quality reference. The center photo is dark but can be lightened and has good features so I could work with it. To the right Henry is dark, blurry and it is hard to determine his coat pattern. This photo would not work as a reference.

Henry to the left has clear, bright, and in-focus features. This is a good quality reference. The center photo is dark but can be lightened and has good features so I could work with it. To the right Henry is dark, blurry and it is hard to determine his coat pattern. This photo would not work as a reference.

When in doubt, email me a bunch of photos and I will coach you on choosing or taking the best reference photo of your animal. If the animal is deceased we will work together to find a photo that I can work from even if the quality is not perfect.