If you are visiting our dog photography tips page, you must be thinking about commissioning a dog portrait in oil or pencil from us. The first step is for you to look at the photos you already have, to see if any are suitable for a portrait. If you feel they aren’t quite good enough, new photos would be the next step. For clients who’s dogs have sadly passed away, have a look at our advice below to see the kind of photos we work with. We are always happy to view your photos and let you know what we can create from them. If you are able to take new photos of your pet, follow our helpful guide as it should give you all the information you need to start clicking away. We have chosen one of our clients commissions as an example to show the photos we worked with along with the painting at the bottom of the page.
It's so easy these days to take a quick snap of your dog with a mobile phone, we all do it all the time. When we are out and about on the beach or a cliff walk, my iPhone is always in my back pocket and I am forever taking photos of my dog Lily as a memento of the day. They are handy and the majority of us have them available at all times. Mobile phone cameras are getting better and better as the years progress, however they still aren't as good as using a digital camera by any means. If you have access to a digital camera or can borrow one from friends or family, this would be the ideal if you were embarking on taking new photos.
If you only have access to a mobile or tablet, there are a few tricks you can use to get the most out of your devices. The first and biggest snippet of advice would be to always take photos of your dog outside in natural daylight. Mobile and tablet lenses do struggle in low light and you can easily end up with a grainy and shaky, slightly blurry photos. The photos below were both taken using an iPhone 4 camera phone and you can see the difference between the two photos immediately. The one on the left is a little dark and grainy, whereas the photo on the right has picked up the dogs flecks in his coat really well. This is all down to being outside in natural light. Another tip would be to step forward to get closer to your subject, rather than using the 'pinch zoom' feature. The zoom on any mobile device uses a digital zoom, the further you zoom, the less detail and pixels are in the photo. Finally don’t be afraid to take as many photos as you can, you can always delete them. The more photos the merrier as you can then pick the best one for the portrait.
Following on from the advice above about stepping forward and zooming, whether you want a head study or a full body its important to fill the frame with your dog. This can make all the difference to the quality of the photo. We are unable to work from the photo below left as the dog is too far out in the scene to see any detail. To avoid this you can either step closer to your dog - or use your optical zoom on your digital camera. Or why not do both! Try to fill your viewfinder with the entire subject.
If you are looking to have a full body portrait it might be an idea to take a photo of the dog full body portrait fill the camera frame with the whole of your dog making sure not to cut any limbs or tails out of the scene. A pro tip which would make our life as painters much easier would be to get close enough to fill the whole dogs body in the frame and take the photo. Then immediately zoom into the dogs face without moving and take another photo. By following this procedure, we as artists will have a great photo of the full dog to work from, along with a very highly detailed photo of the face.
If you know that you want to have a head portrait study, fill the photo frame with your dogs head, similar to the photo below right. This will retain as much detail as possible and will help us in creating the best possible portrait for you.
Many clients who’s pets have passed away or who are in their dotage, have to make the difficult decision as to which kind of photo they would like to use for the basis of the portrait. They have the choice of portraying their dog at a young age, middle aged or as they remember them in the later years when they are older and perhaps with a few more grey hairs. It can be an extremely difficult choice as each set of photos will hold different memories. Ultimately it needs to be a photo that makes you smile when you look at it and one that brings back happy memories of your dog. The photos below show the family dog Jack in three different stages of his life and each photo would work as a painting in its own right. The choice is entirely up to the client which they would prefer to have portrayed. If you just cant choose which photo to use, perhaps you can opt for my pencil montages which gives clients the opportunity in having a central study with four outer studies, which could capture them at various ages.
The client decided to choose a photo that captured Jacks enthusiasm for life, his shiny eyes and his colouring when he was younger. We did a number of mockups using a range of photos the client emailed. Working together with the client via email, they asked if it would be possible to work from the photo below left. This is an unusual composition as it was taken looking down on Jack. However in this particular instance, it was possible to omit Jack's back and back leg when painting and create the illusion Jack was on our eye level. You can see the mockup below right.
Here is the final painting of Jack painted by Nicholas Beall at 12 x 10 size. If you require any help in choosing photos for your portrait, just drop us a line and email us your photos and we will give you our professional help and advice. We look forward to working with you soon.