These are tried and true professional tips that I use when taking reference photos for commissioned portraits…. Have a friend help you, and have a few treats on hand for rewards also squeaky toys to help get your pets attention and to get those ears to perk up and turned forward. Have your helper stand slightly behind you to the right or left. Position yourself at your pet’s eye or chest level. (If you are to low you may get a shot angled up his or her nostrils, not the most flattering of angles). I never go below knee level unless I am taking a photograph of puppies and kittens. Ask your helper to squeak a toy at your shoulder level, (to the left or right of you) and your pet’s attention should turn slightly off center towards the toy and then snap a shot. Best angle is slightly off center because it captures a noble pose of your pet especially in the case of horses. I suggest continuing to move around your subject to get slightly different angles as you take more photographs. Try and fill the frame of your camera with your subject, a telephoto lens can help you get in closer without disrupting the situation. Look at the edges of your viewfinder. Do you see things you don’t want in the picture? Yes, than get in a little closer. (Also the closer you can get, the more detail will show in the photographs). Please note, if you want a full body portrait you will need to get the whole body and still get some close ups for details. Trying to keep the angle of the photographs the same in the detail shots as the angle of the full body shots will be helpful to the artist when drawing from your reference photographs, especially in the case of animals with unique color markings and patterns.
Tips using Film or Digital Cameras; with 35-mm cameras using a 200-speed film is still a good choice. It gives you good detail and moderately fine grain and still allows the faster shutter speed to help stop action. Outdoors on bright days, or indoors with a flash, a 100-speed film is your best bet. If you are not used to the exposure settings on your camera just use your basic zone modes as I do. Using full auto mode on digital cameras works great outdoors, especially on bright sunny days. For action shots I used to use a 400- speed film to capture animals in motion- whether it was a dog catching a Frisbee or a horse prancing in a field. Now with my Canon EOS digital Rebel XTi camera I mostly use the sport mode with my 300 mm f/4 IS lens and my animals will stay nicely focused against a soft background. I find Sport mode is also great to use on cloudy days. For close up’s of children & pets try the portrait mode on your digital camera as it will blur the background and make the human and pet subjects stand out. Please do not use your cell phones for reference photos as fine details will be lost. When you download your photos save them at 300 dpi, (no larger than 8x10) as this size will give me great details and still be easy to upload and email.
Lighting techniques: Morning and late afternoon light is soft and more desirable. On sunny days I try and keep the sun to my back. Also, the soft, dull light of an overcast day may be a problem because it won’t highlight the texture in your pet’s coat. You can alleviate such problems if you can get in close. That will allow your camera’s auto exposure system to accurately read the light off the subject. (It will also make little details bigger in the frame). Sidelight can bring out the details of your pet’s coat. But be sure that your pet’s face is not lost in shadow. Looking for reflections of the light source in the eyes will tell you that you are all set. Backlighting is another option. It can make your pet’s coat shimmer, but it also leaves the face in shadow. Again, getting in close will help your camera’s auto exposure system to compensate. I recommend taking your images early morning up to 10 am or late afternoon after 3 pm to just before Sunset. I also love capturing an image with dappled light filtering through the branches of trees. Try and see for yourself. Take a variety of shots of your pet in different positions and lighting. Shooting 12-24 images for a photo session is normal. When you’re finished enjoy a job well done. Pick out your favorites and submit the ones you feel best represent your pet’s true personality and likeness. Making sure to pick out at least one photo that shows the pose you want for the finished portrait. Please note I retain the right to refuse reference photos that are captured to far away or blurry as I need good clear images showing the fine detail of your pets coat in order to paint that special portrait everyone enjoys.
If you have any questions or would like to commission your own portrait please contact us.