Tips for Creating/Choosing The Best Photo References

Quality reference photos are the foundation of a realistic painting. If you would like to know more about what makes a one photo a better choice for a painting than another,  please carry on reading this article. Almost any photo can be used to create a painting, but if the quality is low it will likely be best for a miniature size painting.

If you’re concerned, please email me at ashley@ashleycorbello.com. Remember, I prefer you email or dropbox me a ton of photos rather than just one blurry photo. Don’t be afraid to spam me if you are unsure.


Photo Quality

What qualifies as a good photo for a painting?

Really clear, well lit photos where I can zoom in on the features and see good detail are top quality for paintings. The more detail I can see, the more accurate the painting will be. If you are looking at photos your phone, zooming in will help you determine if they are good enough.

A photo with that is blurry or with a lot of artifiacting will look like this when you zoom in:

 From a distance everything seems clear, but when you zoom in everything gets really soft.

From a distance everything seems clear, but when you zoom in everything gets really soft.

A good quality one will look like this:

 On this one even when I zoom in all of the details surrounding the eyes and nose stay sharp and clear.

On this one even when I zoom in all of the details surrounding the eyes and nose stay sharp and clear.

Lower quality photos can still be used to create a painting, however I would recommend a miniature size (5”x5” or 6”x6’) as smaller paintings require less detail than larger ones.

Which Camera?

I’ve created paintings from photos taken on phones, tablets or DSLR cameras. DSLR’s or point and shoot digital cameras would be my number one choice as the detail captured allows for more flexibility on the size of the portrait and provide me with all the detail I need to make sure it looks exactly like your pet. That being said, photos taken from phones and tablets can be used so long as the photo is clear, close up and does not have blurring or pixelation that can be caused by cell phone settings. Smartphones today are capable of taking very high resolution photos as well, just make sure you are using the highest quality settings in good lighting without the zoom, and also emailing the original file size or largest file size possible if attaching directly from your phone.


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Lighting

Natural lighting is ideal for pet portraiture as artificial lighting can alter the color of the coat. Particularly if your pet is black or very dark, outdoor lighting is the best option to see all of their features. Indoor photos can also be used if they are taken near a window or with a large amount of light in the room (think photography studio). 

Photos taken in the dark with a flash often lead to red eye, unnatural shadows and a small amount of blur. These things can be altered, but it is preferable, if possible, to take photos outside or to send additional outdoor photos so that I can accurately see their colors

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Fill the Frame with your Pet - Get Up Close

When shooting your photos, I recommend getting up close and filling the frame with your pet. It is also a good idea to get down at eye level with your pet. Photos shot looking down at our pets, as we often see them, results in pets that look like they are floating or are missing essential body parts.

If you’re looking to get a full body portrait done its recommended to fill the photo with as much of the pet as possible, get as close as you can without cutting off feet or tails. 

What if it’s a surprise or the pet has passed?

A lot of commissions that I do are often a surprise, so I understand you may be limited on the photos you have access to. Or you may be unable to re-photograph the pet. In that instance I recommend sending me all the photos you can get. I will use information from all of the photos to try to build a better painting of the pet. The quality of the photos will dictate the size of the painting, but I can also combine a few photos to get one good image if necessary.

 For this painting, none of the photos provided were ideal, so I combined them to make create a better image.

For this painting, none of the photos provided were ideal, so I combined them to make create a better image.

Still have questions? Email me, I’m happy to help. ashley@ashleycorbello.com