Taking that perfect pet pic for a portrait!

To create the best pet portrait possible I need high quality photographs to work from. Below I have given you some tips on how to get the best photos for me to work from to create your pet portraits.

A high resolution photograph is essential, along with the position of the pet in the photo. There is an element of photo manipulation I can do to help make the perfect portrait, but there has to be that one look which speaks to you, and that is what i would love to see in a photo.

The high resolution also helps me to see the unique details of your pet such as the fur, eyes, markings etc. I normally like 3 or 4 images to work from pointing out which one shows the most likeness to the colour and character. If you wish to email me photographs for a your pet portrait and you are not experienced in photographing pets here are a few tips you might find useful.

  • Photographs taken by a large window are the best to avoid unnatural lighting and colouring of your pet.
  • Photographs taken outside might result in squinting as the dog or cat looks up at you. Also the fur will have too much light and may not appear glossy.
  • Try to avoid a really sunny day as the sun will create big shadows on your pet. This in turn can make certain details hard to see. The best sort of day for taking photographs is an overcast day. People often make the mistake of thinking a sunny day is the best.
  • It always recommended to take photos with the sun behind, or a large picture window behind you. This will avoid the sun casting dark shadows across your pet and making certain details difficult to see. Also it will create some great reflections in the eyes.
  • Take the photographs for your pet portraits at their level. This will avoid distortion and unnatural pose. For a head and shoulder portrait I often recommend the subject is looking directly at the camera, to create an intense look to the portrait, like they are pulling you into the painting. check out my image on the poses you need to do to get the best shot.
  • Try to get as close to your pet as possible and fill the cameras view finder. This will ensure you get more of the subject in than the background. Backgrounds can be added, but your pet is the focus so that is the most important part. I can super impose subjects on backgrounds.
  • Try and make sure all the photo’s you send me are in focus, please don’t bother sending em any blurry images as they will be unusable. The maximum amount of detail will make painting your portrait easier. I can appreciate the  individual markings and details that make up your pets character. I use my iPad to look at the photo as I paint and zoom into the image to refine any details.
  • What camera? Phone cameras are so good now it is totally possible to produce a portrait taken from a phone photo. The same principles apply to any other camera you would use and make sure it is full resolution please. Remember it is worth taking as many photos as possible.
  • Often people struggle because their pets won’t sit still. If possible take a friend with you so they can tempt them with a treat or similar while you take the photo, but I find I work better alone, without distractions. They beauty of using your phone is you can use the volume button to snap your shot without needing two hands.  For dogs, imitating a bark seems to work a treat. Even if you do feel a bit daft! Make it fun photographing your pet, as much as you can. A tennis ball or favourite toy is often a winner for photoshoots, I personally use their dry dog food biscuits, get them to sit on the floor with me, as I feed them and praise them, always looking into their eyes. My phone is ready just under the eye line, when I feel they are comfortable and invested in my treat giving, I will bring my phone up, and position the food on my side of the camera. As the food disappears they generally cock their head, looking in the general direction of where the food went. This will be the money shot.
  • The key is getting on the floor with your pet, and never breaking eye contact. Never look into your phone or bring the phone infant of your face.  Just keep going and don’t give up. You will get that perfect photo.There may be a few unusable ones on either side, but one which is perfect.
  • If it is an action shot, that may take you a little longer to get. I would suggest taking your dog out and with a friend and get them to throw the ball at you, or actually over your head. As your sat on the ground the dog should run towards you. I would hold the camera button down, taking multiple shots as the dog runs towards me, and within there you should get the shot. You may have to do this a few times, or even lie down in the long grass to create a different view point and to get a cool angle. Just make sure you don’t get hit by the ball.
  • If you want a slightly quirky pose or a painting of your pet in mid leap, this can be done. The essence of this means we are not so focused in the detail of the features and more on the movement of the body.
  • Below you will see a couple of examples of what sort of photograph makes a good pet portrait. The quality of the photographs are essential for your pet portrait as I can only paint what I see! Obviously the best examples are the many million photo’s i have of my dog Bella, and it will give you an idea of styles and positions.

If you have any questions about taking a photo of your pet, before sending me the images, please get in touch by emailing me at sam@artbysamanth.co.uk.

One final top tip – always email – never send through social media or whats app, as these app reduce the quality and resolution, making it pixilated when I try to zoom in. always send in the highest resolution, even if it takes an age, or ask me and i will send you a Google drive folder to add the images into. I hope you have found this blog helpful, and I look forward to receiving your cool shots. watch out for a demonstration video coming very soon, once Bella decides she will model for me.

Sam x


Good Examples

You can see that Bella is facing the light. She has a character to her expression as if she is speaking to you with her eyes. She is also in good proportion within the screen and can create a stunning painting. The key is that her face is at eye level. That means when you look at the portrait you are looking face on, and not down on the dog as you would normally. To do this in a painting creates a confusion in the brain, because we look at a painting on the wall at eye level, but when we see a subject looking up at you, it makes you hesitate to figure out the composition. Any hesitation in art can cause conflict and that is not what you want with a pet portrait. My aim is to create a harmonious, emotional response, either a memory of a moment in time or a smile, as you know just what your pet is telling you in that moment. 


Bad Examples

Although on the face, all these seem like great photos, (ecept the middle one) there are elements which make them unsuitable. Bella looks sleepy in the first and her eyes are droopy. This is not the Bella I want to remember, as she is normally so expressive. 

The second image is the typical image we would take of our pet, out on a walk, but as you can see the wind is blowing her fur, she is looking away from the camera and we are looking down on the dog. I won’t mention the lighting either, as we have cast all sorts of shadow over her. I can’t see her eyes and, in reality, the dog is too far from the camera to capture any of the fur detail. This is a perfect example of a combination of lots of “no’‘s’ in a photo.

This last image of Bella is great though and I love it. It feels so happy, and I could happily paint it, I just wish I took it from a slightly little lower angle. Painting a portrait with a dog’s tongue out can be fun, as the contrast in colour is lush, but watch out the cavernous hole of the mouth, and judge just how much of that black hole you want to see.

I know in this final image that she is waiting for me to throw her a ball, which means this image is speaking to me. I would suggest a different image to use for a portrait though.

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