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Taking photos of your dog for a pet portrait : Do’s and Don’ts

My King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Mona, has posed for us to help demonstrate how to get the best photos for your pet portrait.

  1. Take photos outside.

    Cloudy days are ideal and you can shoot at anytime during the day. If it’s sunny out, it’s best to plan to photograph around an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. Give yourself around 30 minutes for a photo session. The first image of Mona below is from a huge image file, but it’s a blurry image without a lot of detail because it was taken inside.

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    Photo taken inside

    photos for a pet portrait painting

    Photo taken outside

  2. Get on your pets level.

    Though my ten year old Mona does look awfully cute and puppy like in the first image below, images taken from above distort the body and feel kind of generic. I find images shot from closer to a dogs eye level feel more intimate and show a clearer picture of who your unique furry friend is.

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    photographed from above

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    Image taken from Mona’s eye level

  3. Get up close.

    The first shot below looks great at first glance, but it’s shot from too far away. When zooming in on the face, you can see that the fine details are lost. Capturing the little details if part of what makes your portrait special and if the detail isn’t in the photo, I can’t paint it.

    Photo taken from far away

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    Far away image zoomed in

    Photo taken up close

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    Up close image zoomed in

  4. Light up their eyes.

    A little light reflected in the eyes gives your pet a lively alert expression. Mona looks like she’s kind of sad or very sleepy without that light. Even on a cloudy day you should be able to get a reflection. If you’re having trouble, try to position the sun behind you.

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    No reflection in the eyes

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    Reflection in Mona’s eyes

  5. Take lots of photos.

    When trying to get the perfect shot, I took over sixty images. Be patient and try lots of different angles. Block out 30 minutes to take photos and even if you feel like you got the perfect image 5 minutes in, keep shooting for the entire time.

  6. Get a helper.

    Not all dogs are as docile as Mona and having someone there with toys and treats helping pose your dog is a tremendous help.

  7. Bonus tip.

    Don’t forget to brush your dog’s hair! Mona had some tangles I missed before we took our photos. ūüėČ

I look forward to seeing your images!! If you’re having trouble or if you’re unable to get new photos, contact me. Good luck!

Visit my Pet Portraits gallery to see some of my past pet portraits and see my tips for taking photos of your cat for a portrait. And now I’m going to have to make a portrait of Mona! Check back in a few months to see which image I end up choosing.

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Lucy Reclining, getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting

Most of my pet portrait commissions are made by referencing photos provided by my clients. I like to get a big range of images, not only to reference the painting, but also to get a sense of my subjects personality. Cats are notoriously difficult to photograph but getting the perfect images for a cat portrait painting is easier if you follow a few tips and have lots of patience. From these images, I pick the ones that inspire me the most and do a couple of mock-ups for the client to pick from. 

I have pulled some of the images from a recent commission of Lucy to help you get an idea of how to take photographs. Take a look at my tips below and if you have any questions about commissioning a portrait, feel free to contact me. 

1. Get on your cats level

Images for a cat portraitPhotographing your cat from a their eye level tends to make the image feel more intimate and it shows your cat without distortion. Cat’s do like to climb so you don’t always have to get down on the ground to achieve this.

 

 

 

 

2.Natural Light

Images for a cat portraitNatural light is ideal and its best if the day is slightly overcast. Cats are usually indoor creatures, but steering them towards a window will achieve the desired effect. Not only does natural overcast light help avoid harsh shadows, it gives me a more accurate representation of color for the fur and eyes. Try to pose them so that they get the light to twinkle in their eyes for a lifelike appearance.

 

 

3. Hi Resolution / Fill the Frame

Images for a cat portraitHi resolution images are a must but if most of the picture is just background, I’m not going to get any detail (unless the landscape will be a part of the painting!). Never compress images before sending them and fill the frame with your cat as much as possible for the most detail. Getting the correct texture of your cats fur and the subtle color changes in the eyes is impossible if the image is blurry. Filling the frame with your cat gives me all of the details that are so fun to paint and to look at. Use the zoom feature on your camera to help you get close without attracting too much attention.

 

4. Take and send lots of images!

Primary reference image for composition

You can not send to many images for a cat portrait! Molly sent me dozens and it helped me get a sense of Lucy’s personality and get a feel for all of her different expressions. It also gave me flexibility in designing the composition that we chose for the painting. The primary reference image that inspired my portrait of “Reclining Lucy” didn’t fit any of the above suggestions. The client and I both loved how the pose and expression captured her so perfectly though. And since Molly sent me so many great images I was able to reference other images for accurate colors and fine details.

 

 

5. Help!

If you’re having trouble, getting someone to distract them helps you focus on photographing. Toys and treats can also be useful to get them to go and look where you want.

What a Mock-up looks like

Images for a cat portraitMy mock-up’s are constructed digitally and they help give a sense of what the painting will look like. This mock-up was submitted with the note that the color and fine details would be taken form another image (the one used to demonstrate “natural light” above).

For more information about commission, please visit the commissions page

 

 

 

From Molly:

We got the box today!  OMG, I absolutely love Lucy