One of the first things I'll ask when you enquire about a commisison is "have you got some good reference photos you can send me?". As I've likely never met your pet, the images you respond with are super important - these photographs will be all I have to paint a likeness of your pet from. I love to see your casual photographs, as it helps me get to know your pet, but it's essential for you to provide at least one "main" photograph for me to work straight from too. Although it takes some patience and a little coaxing, you don't need to send across editorial quality photographs - just flattering, well lit ones. Here are a five handy tips to instantly improve your animal photography:
Getting the best animal photographs
1. Get up close and down on their level.
As most of my paintings are headshots, it's best if you can take a photo where the head fills most of the frame, being careful that parts of the face aren't out of shot. Holding the camera at the same level of your pet is a great idea too, as it gives a much more flattering perspective to work with.
This isn't a bad photo of Bilbo, but as it's taken from a high angle it's not as flattering as it could be, and a few details in the face are lost.
By getting a closer and bringing the camera right down to his level it immediately makes the photo more appealing, and shows much more detail too.
2. Pay attention to how bright the photo is.
Although there is a wealth of editing software about to help correct photographs, it does have it's limits. If you're photographing in poor lighting, then it's likely that you'll find patches of either bright white, or dark black, with no detail at all. This makes it really tricky for me to discern your pets face shape. The best time to take photographs is during the day, in natural light with no flash.
This photo of Fifi was taken inside at night in low light. It's far too dark for me to make out important details.
Instead, I waited until morning, and took another photo in natural light meaning every detail is perfectly exposed!
3. Make sure the colours are accurate
Colour is another really important aspect of my paintings, so photos need to be as accurate as possible. If you run your photograph through a photo filter, it alters the colour of your pet making it much harder for me to create a likeness. Some live-camera filters also obscure details which mean it's impossible to work with them!
By running this photo of Pippi through an instagram filter I've altered her colours. Be sure to send me the original, unfiltered photo so I can colour match the painting correctly.
4. Make sure their eyes are clear.
The eyes are usually the focal point of all my paintings, I almost always use their placement to create a good juxtaposition in my paintings. Not only that, but I use the eyes to inject lots of personality into my paintings too. With that in mind, it's important that you send over images where the pets eyes are both open and in focus. If you're working from a camera phone, then you can tap the screen where their eyes are to refocus the image in the right place.
In this photo, Darwin is out of focus, as the camera has focused on the cushions behind him. His eyes are also almost closed.
Here I made sure the camera focused on his eyes by tapping his eye on my phonescreen.
5. Try to make sure it's a flattering photo.
If you've followed the tips above, you've probably already snapped a nice photo - but sometimes it takes a bit of patience to snap a truly flattering photo! How is your pet facing the camera? Are their eyes are fully open? Are their ears alert? What is their expression like? Typically pets look best when they are focused on something, so try catching their interest by waving their favourite toy or making a funny noise as you take the photo.
This photo has checked all the boxes from my advice above, but Dodo looks a little grumpy!
By holding a toy to the left of me, it pricked her interest and allowed me to capture a much more flattering photo.