Photos for Pet Portraits

Tips for taking photos of your pet

The better the quality of the photo, then hopefully the better the likeness of your pet in a painting.  I prefer to choose one good quality photograph, on which to base your pet portrait, but expect to use other photos for colour reference, background, or for details of eyes for example.

In certain circumstances; if your pet is no longer alive for instance, I will do what I can to try to create a portrait, based on limited photos you have available.

If your pet is still alive however, I would urge you to get as many good quality photos as you can.  Trying to create a kind of Frankenstein portrait made up from legs from one photo, a head from another and a closed or open mouth from another photo, is not always successful!

‘Panoramic photo fails’ courtesy of ‘Boredpanda
I think I make my point…

Get down to the eye level of your pet and get as close as you can to them.  This may mean moving slowly so that you don’t disturb them, or it may mean holding their favourite toy, along with your camera or mobile phone, or making silly noises to get their attention.  Even better get someone else to do the entertaining, while you take photographs.  (Although, who knew the dog selfie stick was a thing?)

Try and imagine what you would like to see on your wall and think about getting the best pose of your pet.  When is your pet looking its best?  Which pose best captures the personality of your pet?  Try and capture them when they are pulling their most handsome or regal expression, or looking alert, rather than a shot of the back of their head.  (I have taken plenty of those however- they move so quickly!)

Is your pet looking directly at the camera, or are they looking past you toward your glamorous assistant making stupid noises and waving toys and treats?  Maybe your cat is simply curled up asleep, or is in silhouette looking out of a window.

In a nutshell:

  • Put yourself level with your pet
  • Get as close to them as you can so that their features are clear and in focus.
  • It is said the eye is the window of the soul.  Focus on these if you can.
  • Natural light is best to try to get the true colour of your pet.
  • Direct sunshine and camera or phone flash can create strong shadows which obscure detail.  Flash can also produce red-eye.
  • Have the light source for your pet behind you, not your pet.
  • Be patient and take plenty of photos.  In these digital days it is cheap and easy to take many photos and to edit out the iffy ones afterwards.

Take a look at some of my own mobile phone photos, to illustrate what I’m talking about above and mostly, what not to do!

Pet Poses
Looking down on your pooch may be the view you are most used to, but would you want something like this on your wall as a painting?

Or this?

A perfect illustration of the harsh shadows from bright sunshine, however nice that sun may be.  It’s hard to make out any detail on the left side of the face.
(Also a perfect illustration of what your pet may think of you taking photos of them!)

Shade produces fewer shadows, but you can see why it’s good to have lots of additional photos to try and get coat colour correct.

Have your light source from behind you, so the front of your pet is lit, but be careful of using the flash on your phone or camera, or you could end up with some red-eyed monster.

‘It’s behind you’…
It’s not always the background spoiling a pet pic.
This also shows how black is a difficult colour for shadows and detail.

Patience and Perseverance

…STOP moving!!

….better, but a bit blurry and probably not a great pose.

I’m at his level
The shade produces a nice light
He’s in focus and up close

And lastly, good luck!

For you DRG…

…a tribute sun on the roof to a man who wore his heart on his sleeve and made me cry both with sadness and with laughter.  Standing room only all the way to the car park and some beautiful words from the director of service.  I feel sure you influenced the hymn choice, providing the last smirk at line one verse four!  With love.


Yealm Passage Race

The Yealm Passage Race from Jennycliff Bay, around the Mew Stone to Newton Ferrers Yacht Club, took place under pretty perfect conditions on 1st June.  This annual event in aid of the RNLI was rounded off as ever, with a sumptuous spread of sandwiches and cake.  (We were actually offered a glass of wine too, after we had a slight altercation with the quay side of one of the houses, where the family had been enjoying a nice peaceful afternoon in the sun!)


Art and Photography