How to take the best reference Photos

The more photos you can send the better. A single photo of an animal running in the distance, a horse wearing rug, or a photo that is very dark or out of focus will not be good to work from – I can produce a painting, using animal reference books that I have but it is very unlikely to capture your particular pet.

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Ideally you need to have at least one good reference photo of the pose you would like the animal portrayed in – don’t worry about the background or if there is someone in the picture holding the animal, I can easily leave out unwanted items.
I can also adapt – if you have one photo which is ALMOST the right pose but the tail is in the wrong position, include another photo of the tail in the right position and I can combine the two.


If the pose you have chosen is in a photograph of your pet taken when they were very young, it will be difficult for me to ‘age’ the pet in that pose – it CAN be done but is unlikely to capture your pet exactly. It is best to choose a pose from the photos you have of your pet at the age you wish portrayed.


Try to take the photo from the same level as the animal – ie do not stand above and take a photo looking down at the animal, this would not make a good painting. Check that the animal in your chosen photograph is in proportion – does the nose look too large, or a leg too long because it is closer to the camera?


It is also important that I have photographic reference of every part that you want portrayed – try not to crop the feet, tail, ears. Some close up photos of details such as face (eyes especially) and particular markings are very helpful, even if taken from a different angle from the pose you have chosen.


Be aware of colours – if you send several different photos at different stages of your pet’s life and at different times of year please indicate which one bears the closest resemblance to the colour you want portayed (especially important with horses). Also, when sending pictures by email, remember that I will be working from the colours that are shown on my monitor and and that my printer produces – try to give me some tangible reference of colour such as “the same colour as Baileys liqueur” – if in doubt, post me a photo for colour reference.


You can take a picture indoors or out, but be aware that flash, artificial light and strong sunlight will produce unnatural colours and sheen. Take several different photos indoors and out and indicate which ones show the pose best, which the colour etc. The more pictures the better.


You can choose a simple colour scheme for a background, or I can include your choice of background if you provide me with the photographs, Have a look at the Gallery to see how I portray landscapes – if I feel a lot of extra work will be needed, I will advise you and will re-quote before I start work. Also, if your pet has a favourite toy, or a special place they sleep or sit, send photos – I will include one extra item in the price and will re-quote for any other items as necessary.


I will assume that you have the copyright to all photographs you provide for me to work from.


Photos can be emailed as JPEG or TIFF, high resolution but try to limit the file size to 2mb. Please email to with your name as the subject. Name each of the photos and indicate which is your first choice of pose, colour etc.

Original photographs should be sent by Special Delivery Post and will be returned with the finished portrait. Please write your name on the back or all photos and indicate which is your first choice of pose, colour etc.

Still not sure if your photos are suitable? Contact me for advice and either email or send a COPY of the pictures (if you want them back, send an SAE).

I can arrange to have a selection of reference photos taken for you if possible (within 50 miles of BN26 6RR) for £30 per animal plus travel expenses. This will be payable in advance along with the 25% deposit of the agreed portrait quote. These photos will be for my reference purposes only – they are NOT taken by a professional photographer!