What Photos To Choose For A Pet Painting?

Posted on April 2, 2022 by Categories: TIPS

When it comes to choosing a photo for a pet portrait, there are many things to consider.
I will try to list the most important ones, some of which I am sure you would think of, and some might be a bit less obvious.

What Setting Should I Choose?

Think about what the most important thing about the painting is for you. Is it the likeness, a memory, a particular character trait or a fun moment? Then see which photo best captures it. It can be a combination of things, of course; every portrait is unique. If you are unsure, let’s talk! See these few examples and my recommendations:

Photo Quality

You don’t need a professional photographer to obtain a good enough photo; most mobile phones are capable of taking very good quality pictures.

The question here is: is the most important part of the photo in focus? Is it well lit or is it disappearing into the shadow? If it’s a close-up portrait, are the features sharp enough? I can’t paint what I can’t see. The photo should also be large enough; not just a thumbnail. See the following few common issues:

Detail Or The Whole Pet?

This partly depends on how large is your painting going to be. The smaller the painting the smaller your pet’s face, meaning less detail. If you want the whole pet but also need detailed facial features, you might need to go for a larger painting. But you don’t need the whole pet in order to capture their personality – cropped images often work very well for smaller portrait.


There are a few options when it comes to a background. From a detailed background – if that’s important part of your painting, blurry backgrounds that are just a suggestion, or a different coloured background altogether. If you choose a different coloured background, it needs to be chosen carefully so it goes well with the colours of your pet and doesn’t clash, creating an unpleasant colour combination. It needs enough contrast that your pet doesn’t “disappear in it” either. I am very happy to advise on the right choice.

Some people like to consider the colours of the room where the painting is going to hang when choosing the background colour for their pet painting.

The paintings below show different options, from a fully painted background to a very loose brushwork effect “disappearing” background.

What Size Should I Choose?

One thing to consider when choosing the size is the space where the painting is going to hang. If you have lots of space you can go for a larger size, but a large painting in a small space will look overpowering. A small painting on a large wall will look lost. Consider the frame too – it will add a bit to the overall size of the painting.

Another factor is of course how much you want to spend on it – a larger painting will be more expensive and the frame will cost more as well.

Combining Several Photographs Into One Painting

This is certainly possible with the right photos. While photos can be “photoshopped” to match, I can’t change the angle of the light hitting the subjects. For a successful “merge” I need the light to fall on the subjects from the same angle (roughly at least) and it needs to be a similar type of light. For example there is a difference between daylight and artificial light, or even a sunny and overcast day – colours look different and shadows can be deeper. If there are big differences in light direction and type, the combination will not look convincing. I can do a digital mockup for you first.

Front, Side Or In Between?

Usually, when it comes to capturing the character, the “in between” angle looks the best. Looking straight into the camera can make the face look a bit more flat. BUT! You can use the light to make their face look a bit more sculpted and interesting. You can make a big difference by having the light come from a side and not straight from the front or back.

Consider whether you want your pet looking straight at you.

Some Fun Photo Ideas For Inspiration

If you are thinking about commissioning a pet painting, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

You can email, call or WhatsApp me during the usual working hours.

© 2024 Jana Forsyth

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