Remember, you know exactly what your Pet looks like, but unless this is shown clearly in your photos, I wont be able to capture it in the portrait. You don't need a fancy camera, some of the best photos I've worked from are taken on an old phone! It's all about Lighting, Camera Angle and Pose...
- Make sure your Pet is calm and in a receptive mood
- Take your photos in natural daylight
- Have your Pet facing the light source
- Take photos from your Pet's eye level
- Have your Pet on a flat surface
- Take photos when your Pet is sleepy or hyperactive, or has their mouth wide open!
- Take photos in bright sunshine, at sunset, or under artificial light
- Get too close to your Pet
- Take photos from an angle which casts any part of your Pet in shadow
- Have your phone on 'Portrait' mode
If you're on a mobile device, it might be a good idea to screenshot the Do's & Dont's to refer back to when you're snapping away! Now I'll go into a bit more detail about why Lighting, Camera Angle and Pose are so important...
The quality, direction and type of light in your photos determines what colours and details I see. Your Pet might have the most beautiful chocolate brown eyes with golden flecks, but if the Sun is shining on their back it will cast their face in a shadow and I will see a much duller version of the true colour. Equally, sunsets and very strong sunshine will bring yellow or orange tones to fur and eyes which aren't really there.
Before setting up your photo, identify the the angle of the light first. Maybe even put yourself in the ideal position to catch as much of the light as possible, then you'll know how to direct your Pet so that they're facing towards the window/sun when the time is right.
This determines the shape or 'outline' of your Pet's Portrait. In a photograph, it's easy for the eye to make sense of a warped perspective - we know its head isn't as big as the rest of it's body - but in an illustration, it can just look plain odd.
To keep your Pet's figure looking proportionate, make sure you're standing between 1-3 metres away depending on their size, and that you can see the entire body. For smaller Pets with shorter legs, it's sometimes good to sit them on a table if it's tricky for you to get down to their eye level.
This is a trickier thing to control, as some dogs can find it quite difficult to take direction! If this is the case, bide your time and wait until your dog is relaxed, keep your phone/camera at the ready should they assume a good position.
The ideal pose for me to work from is a seated pose, face tilted slightly downward, hind quarters and tail slightly at an angle so I can see as much of them as possible. Make sure your Pet is on a flat surface as opposed to a sofa or bed.
Don't stress if it takes a couple of tries to get it right. Your Pet will sense your frustration, which will make it even harder. This portrait is something you'll have forever, so don't worry if it takes a week or two to get the best picture. It will be so worth it!
More Good Examples...
More Not-so-Good Examples...