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Reference Photo Guide

Finding the perfect photos to provide is a really important part of the commission process - a great reference photo will make for an even better painting. Here I have provided a guide on how to choose, and how to take the best photos for your painting or drawing.

Choosing a Great Photo

In essence, a good reference photo is clear, well lit and is not taken too close to the subject to cause distortion.


Please know that this is only a guide on how best to capture photos for a painting.

While these suggestions are the best case scenario, I often work from photos which do not meet all of these guidelines, and can even use multiple photo references and compose them together in a single painting.


I understand that it is not always possible to get suitable photos, especially in the case that the painting is a memorial piece. I can more often than not work from any provided photos, however if you are unsure, please feel free to contact me, and I will advise you if it is possible to paint from the photos you have. 

Capturing the Perfect Reference Photo for Pets and People:

1. Lighting and Background:

  •  Natural light is crucial for well-lit photos. Avoid using flash, as it can create harsh shadows and will distort colors.

  • Outdoor settings during the golden hour (early morning or late afternoon) provide soft, warm lighting, enhancing the details.

  • Opt for a clean and uncluttered background to keep the focus on the subject if possible.​

2. Focus and Clarity:

  • Ensure that the photo is in focus, highlighting the details of the subjects features.

  • Use the camera's autofocus feature or manually adjust the focus to make the subject sharp and clear.

  • Avoid blurry or pixelated images as they may hinder the artist's ability to accurately capture the features.

3. Get Eye-Level:

  • Get down to the pet's eye level to capture a more intimate and engaging perspective. Don't take the photo from an angle where the pet is craning their neck to the camera from above, as this has a tenancy to appear distorted and awkward in the context of a painting.

  • Eye contact adds a personal touch, conveying the subjects unique personality and connection with the viewer.

4. Use Treats and Toys:

  • Employ treats or favourite toys to grab the subject's attention, helping to capture an alert and focused expression. 

  • Squeaky toys or toys that emit sounds can help to capture the pet or baby's curious or intrigued expressions.

5. Communication with the Artist

  • Provide all the reference photos for discussion and selection. The commissions form allows you to upload 4 photos, however if you have more you'd like to share, you may send them to me directly via email at

  • Openly communicate your preferences, highlighting any unique features or characteristics that you want to be emphasized in the painting. You can share this in the 'additional info' field within your commission enquiry form.

Examples of Suitable Reference:


- In focus

- Eye Level

- Well lit


- In focus, shows details of features

- Eye Level and Eye Contact

- Natural Light

- Correct Distance 


- Natural, warm and directional afternoon light

- In focus and detailed image

- Eye Level, eye contact

Examples of Unsuitable Reference:


- Too far away

- There is not enough focus or detail to capture the pet's features


- The photo is not on eye level, and the painting will look slightly awkward

- The photo is in focus and is workable, although and eye-level photo is always preferred


- The pet is moving and the photo has motion blur, so there is not enough focus on the features

- The photo is taken too close to the pet

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