Still Life & Portrait Photography Tips and Hints

for People PortraitsOld Cars/Trucks  &  Still Life & Floral  Galleries by Diane Shabino

Since I can only paint what I can see, 

it is important that the photographs of your subject include as much detail as possible in addition to reflecting the ‘look’ and character that you love and want portrayed in your watercolor commission. 

There are many websites that offer photography instruction, search photography and digital photography, photographing 'your subject' and similar searches to find information.  For photographing pets, see Pet Portrait PhotoTips page.

Here are are a few photography tips I find helpful:
  • Capture the Character and Personality - and be sure to include the whole subject you want painted  in your photos, I can't make up the part that is cut off in your photograph and since I can only paint what I can see, you get the idea.
  • Subject should look natural, unless you are going for something dramatic with lots of highlights and shadows and if this is the case, please make sure I am aware of it.
  • If this is a human or animal subject, the eyes need to be clearly visible, in a relaxed open position and reflecting their natural color - the eyes along with mouth demeanor: open or closed, somber or smiling are vital. One really good facial close-up is very helpful even when doing a full body portrait.
  • Use natural light, without a flash or bright sun (these tend to create unflattering images and are not good source material for a portrait) - bright overcast conditions outdoors are ideal or indoors near a large unobstructed picture window works well with the light source behind or just to the side as you face the subject.
  •  Avoid odd angles, contrived positions and looking down on your subject. Human subjects look best with their eyes looking into the camera. Profiles should be avoided as they do not project enough personality.  For inanimate subjects, be objective and aim for the best view possible. You'll know a good shot when you see it.  
  • I retain to right to deny commissions based on inappropriate subject matter and insufficient resource materials.
  • Finally, take lots of photos and be patient, only one in fifty might be a ‘good one’. Using a digital camera here is very beneficial as you can edit on the spot, saving time, money and frustration. Just set your digital camera to its highest resolution so you will have all the details recorded when you get the evasive ‘good shot’(s).

  • I use only one pose to create my composition, however, 
  • Additional photos that more clearly define the coloring and character and especially detailing the eyes are useful and appreciated, please include at least 4 or 5 photos to work from, and 
  • Please mark particularly good or favorite poses as well as noting those that most accurately reflect coloring.

How to send your pictures

  • Please complete the ORDER SHEET information and send with photographs:
  • I like to use digital photos, if possible. Take them at the highest resolution you have on your camera.
  • Digital Pictures can be sent in jpg. format attached to an email or sent on a CD through snail mail.
  • If you are not using a digital camera, I can use regular photo prints, usually I need to enlarge these and the negatives need to be included, unless you already have the prints enlarged. Small snapshots without the negatives often do not have enough detail to transfer into a larger portrait without the negatives for enlarging.
  • I am happy to look at your pictures and let you know whether I can paint from them.
  • Contact me at diane@dianeshabino.com for additional information.


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