Tips on choosing the right photo

One of the biggest challenges my customers can have is finding the right photo for me to draw from. Almost everyone now carries a camera with them at all times and take photos daily - sadly not all of these images are going to be suitable to work from.

The better the photo - the better the portrait. Without any doubt, the quality of the portrait you will receive is directly related to the quality of the photo you start off with.

You're investing in a piece of my work which you and your family will hopefully treasure for years. It is worth making sure you start from a great photo - If you're struggling to find a suitable picture you like, I'd suggest taking photos or getting photos taken specifically for me to work from.

Here are my top 5 tips that should help you to take or choose the right photo:

1. Detail, detail, detail. Make sure the photo in focus and detailed enough.

I'm going to try not to bore you with pixels, megapixels and dots per inch... What counts here is - can I see the detail I need to draw the portrait?

One of the things I look for is detail around the eyes - If you're looking at your picture onscreen, zoom in and have a look at the eyes, eyelashes and eyebrows - is it a bit of a blur or can you see sharp detail? I really do draw that level of detail.

Whilst resolution and sharpness are improving, photos taken on phone cameras are usually not good enough for me to work from.

2. Make sure you're near enough.

In a way, this is the same comment as above - for a head and shoulders portrait, your subject probably needs to fill the frame of the photograph.

3. Get down to their level.

When photographing children or pets, drop down to their level. Photographs which are taken at the subject's eye-level will normally work better and look much more natural.

4. Get the lighting right.

As a rule of thumb, photos taken in natural light are normally better than indoor shots taken with flash. Flash can light your subject too harshly which washes out the colours and loses detail.

If you're taking the photo outside, a bright day is obviously best. Overcast rather than full sun is probably even better.

Try not to have your subjects facing directly into the sun - not only will they be squinting but the light and shadows won't tend to be as good as when lit from the side or slightly behind.

5. Take a selection of photos.

Where possible, take more than one photo - subtle differences in expression can have a big effect on the portrait. Take several shots and you can choose the ones your prefer when you're looking at them on your computer.

As mentioned above, you're investing in a portrait that will hang on your wall for years. If you can, it's definitely worth spending some time giving yourself as much choice to choose from.

You could even consider different poses. Do you want them looking at the camera? They'll be looking out at you from the portrait. Or looking to one side? This can feel more relaxed and natural. Think about having them facing at a slight angle to the camera rather than straight on. Have a play!

As featured in Artists and Illustrators As featured in arists and illustrators magazine