How do you choose a great photo for a custom pet portrait?

How do you choose a great photo for a custom pet portrait?

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So you have decided to get a portrait done of your beloved pet, and you've chosen the best professional artist to make it happen. You have gazillion and one photos of your pet, but don't know where to start in selecting the perfect one. How do you choose the best image that makes for an amazing reference for your custom portrait?

Here are some tips and tricks in order of most important to least important:

1. Choose a photo that evokes an emotion.

The most important element of a reference photo of your pet is that it elicits a strong emotion when you look at it. This is more important than lighting, composition, pose, and sharpness. Your picture could make you laugh at a funny moment captured. Your image could make you cry from seeing your long lost pet. Your photo could make you smile from the joy and happiness it captures. The portrait honors your cat or dog, and should memorialize the emotions you feel and have felt with your pet. 

Above all else, the "perfect" reference photo is one that means a lot to YOU and gets you feeling something.

2. Select an image that brings up good memories.

Photographs freeze a moment in time. Try to find one that captures a memorable moment, big or small. In this digital world, we are able to catch and memorialize so many snapshots of our lives. There is bound to be one image of your pet that can embody a wealth of memories.

Your picture could be of the typical expression of your pet. Your photo could be a perfect snapshot of an hilarious moment. Your image could be an action shot capturing the youth and energy of your long lost pet.

You'll know that you've found a good candidate for a custom portrait when seeing the photo makes you reminisce and smile.

3. Pick a photo that shows your pet's personality.

Just like people have a wide spectrum of personalities and quirks, so too do all of our furry friends have their own temperaments and dispositions. When we take photos of ourselves or our families and friends, we always try to capture the best expressions that show character. You should do the same with pets! Try to find a photo that lets those traits shine through. 

It could be an image of your pet's expression when he or she sees a treat. It could be a photo capturing your cat or dog's relaxed expression after waking up from a nap. It could be your pet's serious deep contemplative face reflecting his or her calm nature. 

The photo reference should be the embodiment of your pet. When you look at it, it won't be just of a generic cat or dog. It will be an image of your unique family member, with all of the peculiarities and qualities that makes him or her so special to you.

4. Select a photo that has a good pose, preferably with the pet looking at or towards the camera.

The eyes are the windows to the soul. JoyousJoyfulJoyness specializes in capturing the "soul" of the pet in her portraits by breathing life into the drawing of the eyes. To get the best result, the best photos have the pet looking at the viewer or at least looking towards the camera. 

For the rest of the headshot, take care to find an image with proper proportions of the facial features and choose angles of the head that do not distort proportions. For instance, a dog with a long snout would not look ideal with a photo too straight on, making the nose foreshortened or too short. JoyousJoyfulJoyness will guide you with pointers on what works and doesn't work with respect to your particular pet. 

You do not need to worry about uneven ears, cropped parts of the head, or eyes looking in the wrong direction. The artist can use her imagination and tools to correct all of these issues and make a final perfect portrait of your pet.

5. Try to find a photo that has good lighting and detail, but these elements are not essential.

Just like photos of your friends and family, you want good lighting, clarity, and detail in photos of your pets. Lighting should not be so harsh as to create high contrast shadows or blown out highlights. The image should be in focus and zoomed in on your pet's face, so JoyousJoyfulJoyness can best capture all the fine details of your pet. 

Life often doesn't let us capture perfect moments in a perfect way. Often, we may get lucky with photos hitting all the important aspects outlined above, but they are out of focus, too dark, or too bright. With her extensive experience in drawing dogs and cats, JoyousJoyfulJoyness can work with less ideal detail and lighting, as the artist can extrapolate and imagine the details not present in the photo. As long as the image has a good pose and some details, the artist can do the rest!

Please see an example here of a very blurry photo that still could be made into a beautiful portrait:

 cat reference photo portrait customcat reference photo portrait custom


To find the best photo for your custom pet portrait, make sure the image has the following: (1) evokes an emotional response; (2) memorable; (3) shows personality; (4) good pose and gaze; and (5) decent lighting and detail.

JoyousJoyfulJoyness will work with you every step of the way in your search for the best picture reference that captures the essence of your pet! The artist will make sure the photo chosen will result in an amazing hand drawn custom portrait

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