Reference Photos

The reference photos I use for your commissioned artwork are extremely important. The better the photo, the better the drawing I am able to produce for you. Because I want to provide you the best possible artwork product, it is extremely important that the reference photo be clear, detailed, and true color. The eyes are particularly important and must be clearly visible with the eyes showing their colors and reflecting the light (unless the subject has eyes closed or is sleeping, of course).

I much prefer a digital photo to be emailed to me, but I may be able to work from a hard copy photo(s) if the reference photo is a good, detailed, quality photo.

My number 1 goal is to create a drawing that you will treasure for many years to come. I want your portrait to reflect the animal’s personality and character. I may request additional images if the reference photo is not of the best quality, and this is so that I have additional information and can see the most important features and colors. I will consult with you before starting the portrait, and I will provide you with progress updates along the way. I see the process as a partnership, and I want you to be 100% satisfied.

Generally, I do all portraits on a white or pale background as other backgrounds tend to take away from the subject. I prefer reference photos that are taken at eye level, which means you have to get down to their level, depending on the size of the animal, to capture the photo.

The resolution of the image and the amount of visible detail, color, and details are all very important. The better the resolution, the better I can capture detail and the better your finished portrait will be. Image file sizes of 3 Mb or more are recommended. Be sure to choose a reference photo that is very clear, in focus, well lit, the eyes very clear and visible, the color and shading apparent, and there is good contrast between the light and dark areas.

Below are some examples of good reference photos and some not-so-good reference photos.

Sasha GSD

This is a photo of beautiful Sasha German Shepherd dog, a beloved pet who passed over the rainbow bridge. She is in a beautiful pose, the photo is clear and well lit, eyes are bright and shining, colors true, and you are able to see much detail in her fur, with clear contrast between the lights and darks. This is a good reference photo from which to work.


This is Chloe Cocker Spaniel dog. The photo is fairly well lit, you can see much of the detail, shading, and colors in her fur. The eyes are clear and true color with light reflecting in her eyes, you can see the contrasts between light and dark, and much of the detail needed. I would be able to work from this photo for a portrait drawing.


This is Wrigley the handsome Great Dane Dog. The photo is not clearly in focus and is partially well lit, but partially in the shade. As you can see, a shadow is cast across his face and the detail in the darker areas is not as clear and detailed as it could be. This would not be a great reference photo from which to work.

Furggie Bunny

This is little Furggie bunny, a Lionshead rabbit. In this photo, the photo is not well focused, the lettuce is blocking a full picture of her, and the lighting is also not great. It is hard to see the details, particularly in the shadows, which does not provide for a great reference photo for a portrait.

Rozzie BGMB

This is Rozzie parrot, a blue and gold Macaw. This photo is pretty well lit, provides a good amount of detail, the eyes are clear and focused and you can see the color variations in his eye, and the photo also captures his fun, inquisitive spirit. This provide sufficient detail for a commission portrait.


This is a another photo of Wrigley the Great Dane dog. This is not a good reference photo. The subject is not looking into the camera, his eyes are not clear and detailed, and his eyes are picking up the light reflection of the camera. There is not enough detail, the picture is dull, and the pose is simply not a good image to capture his face, personality and charm.

I hope this gives you some good examples of the types of photos I need to do a quality commission portrait. I am happy to review the photo(s) you have and to discuss with you their suitability for a commission portrait.