A new series of essays where I share some tips to help guide you through the pet portrait experience!
All About Photos
When choosing the perfect photos of your pet for me to work from, make sure to pay special attention to your pet's facial expression in the photos. Is the expression in the photo exemplary of how you would like your pet immortalized in the portrait? If not, instead, try finding (or taking) a photo or two that shows your pet's facial expression in his or her best light, and send me those, instead.
Working from high-resolution vs. web-resolution photos
Thanks to the world wide web, it is very easy for me to collect photos of my clients' pets by being directed to their blogs and web sites.But in order to produce the level of detail present in my portraits, I can only actually work directly from high resolution photos. The photos you can supply, whether high or low resolution, are great to use for basic reference material, but the only ones I actually can work from are the 300 dpi ones you supply. Working from 72 dpi photos will not supply the level of detail I need to capture the important details.I need to zoom on the photo reference material quite a bit while drawing and painting very detailed parts of your portrait, such as the facial features, for instance, and high resolution source material is paramount.
Digital photos vs. Traditional photos
Nowadays it seems like everyone has a digital camera, but believe it or not, I get a fair amount of United States Postal Service mailed, traditionally-shot-and-processed photographs to work from. Do I have a preference between traditional vs. digital? Which is better for my purposes? I am happy, always, to work with whatever my clients are able to supply. But, objectively speaking, the clearest, sharpest, best reference material undoubtedly comes from the high resolution digital-source photos as opposed to the traditionally shot-and-processed variety. I love traditional photos just as much as anyone else who was born in the non-digital age - - hey, I was, too! ;) But photography has undergone nothing short of a revolution in the computer age, and I work from photos exclusively... So, as far as my personal preference goes, I unequivocally prefer digital photos.
A note about scanning traditional photographs
Scanning a traditionally-processed photograph does not turn it into a digital photo. It does turn it into a digital file, but it is still the same 'analog' photo, but transferred to a digital format. Scanning a traditional photo does not increase the amount of information or level of detail in the photo.
As an extra tip, I find that even the not-so-high quality (or just plain older) digital cameras often collect better detail than the typical traditional photo offers. I'm not saying that everyone needs to run out and buy a digital camera (thogugh they sure are fun), but, if you can borrow one from a friend for an afternoon to snap some shots of your furbaby, it sure makes a huge difference in the detail of the photos, and, by extension, will also produce better detail in your final portrait. Just remember, the over-reaching rule of thumb is that, the better, higher quality photos you can supply to me, the more high detail and color quality I can produce for you in your portrait! :)
Is it possible to send too many photos?
I usually say "The more, the better!" The only time this is not the case is when I have so many photos to work with, and not enough information from you about which ones are the favorite ones to ultimately use to 'model' the portrait after. This can get confusing for me, and if photos are not labeled I can forget which photo has Fido's perfect expression! In a case like this, I ask that you label the photo accordingly, so the note is on the photo somewhere, easy to see (either as a footnote on the digital photo, or a sticky on the back of a hard copy mailed photo).
In general, having many pictures to choose from really does allow me to be more creative. It allows me to have flexibility with the pet's pose, before the composition is finalized. If I have a lot of photos to choose from, I have some different angles of your pet to take into consideration while mapping out the composition. I can choose which works the best with the background scene or overall theme we've decided on.
In the beginning, nothing is cut and dried - it's all pretty fluid until I have a rough blocked composition to show you. At that point, if you are on board with the composition ideas we've worked out and I feel it's really important to have additional photos to work from, I may ask for a few more. The reason is because, even though I may have thirty-nine photos of your pet, none of them may actually be clear enough of your pet in the particular position we've chosen for the portrait. Or, perhaps the original photo I used for blocking the pose is clear and sharp, but the feet/tail/ears may be missing and, also, it's taken at a funny angle. These are the types of instances which would require extra photos.
I do find though, that, in the end, we always manage to find ways to 'make it work' using whatever limitless (OR limited, as the case may be) tools we have available to us! :)
Next subject: Portrait Timetable