Pet Portrait Photography Tips and Hints

for Pet Portraits by Diane Shabino

Since I can only paint what I can see, 

it is important that the photographs of your pet include as much detail as possible in addition to reflecting the ‘look’ and character that you love and want portrayed in your pet's portrait. 

there are many websites that offer pet photography instruction, search photographing pets, pet/dog/cat portrait photography or similar searches, for subjects other than pets see Still Life, Old Cars/Trucks and People Photo Tips page.

Here are some pet photography tips I find particularly helpful:

  • Capture the ‘Character, Personality, Quirkiness, Mood or Look’ you love -   and be sure to include the amount of the subject you want reflected in your commission whether it is a head study, head and shoulders or full body.
  • Subject should look natural, usually this means alert or perky, certainly not frightened or skittish.
  • Eyes need to be clearly visible, in a relaxed open position and reflecting their natural color - the eyes and ear positions along with mouth demeanor: open or closed 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.
  • Frame your pet as best you can without getting in too close and get down on level with your pet so he can be seen at his best. Here a telephoto lens can be of great benefit allowing you to choose and frame the pose. Avoid odd angles, contrived positions and looking down on your subject. (check out: photographing your pet for drawing at: http://drawsketch.about.com/od/learntodrawanimals/ss/petphotography.htm )
  • 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, 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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