How to Choose/take good photos for a pet portrait

Choosing a photo for a pet portrait can be a difficult decision. There are many things to think about, pose, expression, mouth open, mouth closed, full body, or just a portrait the list is endless. And if your pet is one that is professionally groomed, thinking of what stage of hair growth would you like for your pet portrait. So in this blog I will try to address these things for you to break down how you want your pet portrait to look.

Full body or portrait?

Full body drawings for pet portraits have many perks over portraits. If your pet has a notorious sitting position or like the pointer has a striking pose the breed is known for. It can very a very striking center piece. Or if your pet is a agility animal, or show jumper it would make a very nice pet portrait to have them leaping a jump, or gracefully flying through the air.

Portraits however show a lot more detail, I find with picking just the head and neck of the pet for the pet portrait, the drawing is more life sized, and so it is more like the pet is actually with you. A head and neck portrait allows me to put in a ton of little details, details that make your pet them. And all those details will add to clearer memories.

A Pet portrait I am currently working on, is two dogs laying side by side, so you can see their paws, and there shoulders. This is also a nice idea, it’s the best of both worlds. These dogs love sleeping together, and so it shows the details of the face, but also brings a memory back of a personality trait.

Pet portrait of two dogs

pet portrait of brittany dog

What expression for your pet portrait?

Expression is a big one for a pet portrait, bigger than what people think it is. Personally I love when dogs have their mouths open, I find it’s that big grin that dogs have. If you have a more goofy pup than that may be the way to go, however if you have a more regal dog such a rough collie having them sitting tall with their ears pricked may be better suited for their pet portrait. Other animals have their own adorable expressions. Do you want your cats head tilted a little, or some cats have a shocked expression, or if you have a rabbit ears way up in alert or more droopy to show them relaxed. If you have a bird feathers ruffled up or sleek against the body.

I think the key to finding the right expression for your pet portrait, is to think what does your pet spend most of its time doing. Or another question how do you want yourself and others to react, do you want to look at you’re drawing and laugh at how much of a goofball they are, or do you want to look at the pet portrait and say “awww”.

pet portrait of golden labrador dog
pet portrait in pencil of german shepherd dog

What lighting is best for a pet portrait?

The photo needs to be well lit for a pet portrait, not too bright or dark, this allows me to pull as much detail from it as possible, so it can ring true to your beloved pet.  The fuzzier, darker or brighter the image the more I have to guess what was there before, which isn’t always easy or sometimes possible. Another problem with lighting, is light is many colours, a dog in the shade will have completely different colours than the same dog sitting in the sun. I suggest photos outside are always a more natural representation of the colours, on a slightly overcast day is best.

However I know how hard it is to take photos of a pet, in the exact pose with the exact expression and all with proper lighting. It can be a complete nightmare. So send me as message, say you would like to use this one for the pose, but this is a photo with the correct lighting.

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