Commissioning a Portrait
Here’s a quick summary of how to commission a portrait-
Get in touch with any questions. If you decide to go ahead, we’ll then have a chat by email about exactly how you want your portrait to appear in terms of size, style, and composition. I can help guide you as to what will achieve the best result for you.
I will need a very good quality photo to work from. The picture needs to be clear and close to the subject with the direction of hair visible. I have provided a guide to help you get a suitable photograph below. When you have got some photos you like and are suitable you can email them to me so we can see what might work best. Depending on your location I may be able to visit to take photographs myself.
To help you I have created a guide to taking a photo for a pet portrait, where I go through the process of taking some suitable photos of my dog, which you can view here. I also have some information below on what to look for in a photo.
I will then once I have made a start on your portrait will send you progress pictures so you can see your portrait as it comes to life!
Once I feel the portrait is finished I will send you a photograph/scan of it. This then allows you to take a look and see if you find it to be of a good likeness or if there are any parts you would like altering. When you are happy, you can complete the final payment and I will post out your portrait.
When the portrait has been approved by you, I will email a final invoice with payment details. Delivery in the UK is by Royal Mail Special Delivery. This postage is fully tracked and signed for so you will be provided with tracking details and I will contact you in order to send it on a day where delivery is most convenient. International orders are sent via UPS.
I have an more in depth guide on the commission process on my Commissioning a Pet Portrait page.
To produce a portrait of a pet I tend to use one key photo that will be an exact copy. However it is useful to have a few more key photos in order to get a true representation of the animal. These extra photos do not have to be as good quality as the main photo but are useful in getting an idea of colour and appearance.
Photos taken with a digital camera tend to be of the best quality and of the largest size therefore these are preferred. Photos taken from a social media account are not suitable as they have been compressed and resized. Do not take photos on a portrait type setting, as these create small depth of field and therefore a blurred effect behind the focal point, and can blur details further back from the face, for example the ears.
The most integral part is that the subject is close to the foreground and every part of the animal you want included is visible. If you want a portrait just of the head take the photo just including this, as cropping from a much larger image reduces the quality. Some examples of what is good and bad are shown below.
This picture is perfect, it is in good natural lighting with detail and hair direction clear across the whole of the dog. The head is in a good position level with the camera and you can clearly see the colour and detail of the eyes.
The lighting in this photo is too strong, creating highlights and shadows on the dog.
In this photo hair is covering one of the dogs eyes. This is okay if you want it drawing like that. However if you want both eyes completely visible it is not.
This photo is too dark. See the photo to the right for what a difference good lighting can make, especially to being able to see the details in the eyes.
The lighting here is perfect, both bright and soft. I can see all the detail and colour in the eyes which is very important. It is taken from a good low angle, which creates a photo that is perfect for a portrait.
This isn't a great composition, the dog is looking down and a lot of his features are not visible.
This photo is not focused on all of the face. It is a beautiful photo of the eyes, however the nose and tongue are not clear. On a camera where you can change the aperture setting you want to choose a higher number.
Whilst this is a lovely photo, it is taken too far away from the subject. Once zoomed in the detail is not clear enough.
This photo is great, other than the top of the ears are cropped off. Include every part that you want on the portrait.
Lighting- Natural lighting outdoors is best. Avoid harsh bright sunlight or artificial light indoors. if the sun is out, position yourself so the sun is behind you and facing towards the subject, this way the sun lights up the face. If you have to take a photo indoors, position your pet in front of a large window, with you positioned with your back to the window, and the subject facing the light from the window.
Composition- Think about what angle or position you take the picture from. It really pays off to get down low onto your pets level to get a photo directly level with their head, you may need to be lay down on the floor, or at the very least crouched down. You may find it easier to get your pet higher up, for example on a chair if you are not able to get down low enough. A photo taken from higher than the dogs head can be poor, unless the dog is looking up at you, which can be a good composition, especially if you are commissioning a full body portrait. Enlist the help of someone else to help with getting your pets attention so they are looking where you want them to, this can be done with treats or a squeaky toy.
Eyes-The eyes are one of the most important features of a portrait, they show expression and are the focal point of pictures, so it is really important to be able to see them clearly, with the colours of the eye visible. One of the main ways you can get a photo with a good definition of the eye is to have good lighting, this means the camera picks up all the colours of the eye.
Aperture- it is best not to use "portrait mode" as this reduces the amount of the image that is in focus. Using a setting that keeps the entire picture in focus will create a picture that is better for producing a portrait from.
With digital cameras you can take as many photos as you want, the more you take, the higher the chance that you have got the perfect image. Remember to take off accessories that you do not want included on portraits, such as dog collars or harnesses.
If you are wanting a tribute portrait of a pet that has passed away, contact me with any photos you have available and we can work out which ones are suitable. Whilst is is easiest to start out with the best quality photo, editing can be done to work with available photos.
Need more help? Check out my step by step guide to taking the perfect photo here.
Live in near me? I can take photos for you.
Want some personalised advice on taking the perfect photo for a pet portrait? Contact me for a chat.