Pet Portraits from Photos- How to take a great photo of your pet, using your phone
As an artist who creates pet portraits from photos taken by my clients, helping you get a great photo of your pet is really important to me.
If you are thinking of commissioning a portrait of your pet from a photograph, the first thing you will need to do is take the photograph that you want your pet portrait artist to work from. I thought I would do a blog post specifically on using a smartphone to take your pet portrait photo, as this is what most people have to hand.
These days, phones do have good enough cameras to take high quality photographs that are needed for a pet portrait. If you do have a DSLR camera, thats great and will do a fantastic job and I bet you will already have lots of fantastic photos of your pet for me to work from. However, if you are more of a novice when it comes to pet portrait photography, or just want to learn specifically what kind of photo is best, then you have come to the right place. Here, I am going to show you with the help of my pet portrait studio assistant Monty, how to take a picture for commissioning a pet portrait from photos taken on your phone. Even if you are not thinking of commissioning a portrait, its nice to have clear, high quality photos to remember your pet by anyway.
For reference, I took the photos in this post on an iPhone 7 Plus, so it is not like I have the most up to date recently released phone. If you have a newer phone, great, then the photos it can take are likely to be even better.
Pet portraits from Photos -Step 1- Gather your equipment.
You will need; your pet (!), some treats for bribery, a toy, and a brush if you have a longer haired dog.
Firstly you need to make sure your pet is in the right mood or a little photography session. If he's really hyper, leave it till he has calmed down, or have a little play session with the toy you have brought out with you.
You should also take the opportunity to get your pet looking his best. If like me you have a dog with a beard, then now is the time to give it a good brush. You don't want to take the time to get some photos, only to realise his beard looks funny in every one of them. If it is a really windy day, I would forget it and wait till the wind dies down, as you will never get a good photo with their hair billowing about.
Pet Portraits from Photos- Step 2- Location
You need to go where the lighting conditions are good. This means they are bright but not full sun. A bright but overcast day is perfect. You want to be positioned so the sun/brightness is facing your pet, so the light brightens their eyes. This is very effective in making a portrait photo look more alive. Facing with your back to the sun also means you do not get any glare in your camera lens.
Lighting is very, very important when taking photos on a smartphone camera, going somewhere where the lighting is good will make one of the biggest differences in the quality of your photos. Flash on a phone camera is a very blunt tool, if it is needed for lighting, the photos always look like flash has been used, which is not ideal.
Pet Portraits from Photos- Step 3- Height
You have 2 options when taking photos of you pet on your phone. You can either get down to their height, or you can bring them up to you.
To get down on their level, it is probably going to me you get your knees a bit mucky, so don't wear your favourite white jeans. (Do any dog owners even bother buying white jeans? Because I know I don't, they'll just get dirty...) You need to be down low enough so your camera is level with their nose. The best way to do this is to pretty much be on your knees, kneeling down on the ground. If you have a tiny dog, or want a photo of your dog lying down, you may even need to lie down yourself.
To bring your pet up to your height, the best thing you can do is sit them on a chair. When you do this, you need to remember the positioning of your lighting, still make sure that your pet is facing the sun and you are facing away from it. A garden chair is perfect for this, it can easily moved into the right position and it is about the right height.
Pet Portraits from Photos Step 3-Composition
Once you are in roughly the right position, with your pet level with you and the lighting is good. you need to think about what kind of composition you want, and how you and your pet need to be positioned in order to achieve this.
I personally, think it is best to go a bit crazy and take loads of photos and then decide. This means you have a bit of choice as to what you like best, and what shows off your pet and their personality the best. As you can see I am positioned very closely to Monty. You really do not want to be using zoom on your smartphone if you can help it. You will yield far better results by physically moving closer to your pet.
You want to fill the entire frame of the photo with what you want your portrait to feature. If you want a head and neck portrait, fill the frame with your pets head and neck. If you want a fully body portrait, make sure you include every part of your pet from ears to paws.
Once you are nice and close, so your pet fills the entire frame of your photo, you need to get your pet to look where you want him to. The way you do this is with bribery, using the treats you brought out with you. As you can see, I have my treat of choice in my hand (yoghurt drops), and I am holding that where I want Monty to look. I find that photos of pets look best, if they are looking offer to one side, either to the right or left of the camera. This is personal choice and it is up to you and what you think looks best. I have more of a challenge because I have to factor in Monty's magnificent eyebrows, which means it is harder to see his eyes than most dogs.
The eyes are to be your main focus really, you want something that shows them off, so you can see the colours and reflection in them. This will happen if your lighting conditions are right.
Remember to reward your pet for all their hard work! Heres Monty making sure I give him what he deserves...( He absolutely loves a yoghurt drop!)
So, there you have it, a pet portrait artists guide on how to take the perfect photograph for commissioning a pet portrait from photos. A quick recap, step one have your pet face the light, step two get on the same level and step three think about your composition.