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Portrait Photo Guides

How to Select or Take the best Photo for a Custom Portrait

Ideally photographs for portrait reference are high quality and high resolution. However, a very nice watercolor portrait can still be created from a lower resolution image, as the medium is conducive to imprecision. If you have only one blurry photo and no way to get another, this can be a solution, so please contact me .

Quality and Resolution
A photo taken outside, on an overcast day without a flash is ideal, as this lighting provides the best detail without adding harsh shadows. However, house, boat, car and some garden portraits can actually be enhanced with the contrast of light and shadows that intense sun provides. If you have only one photo and are unsure, please contact me.
No Flash
Photo references with flash are not flattering to any subject – the light and shadows of a flash flatten images and will look like a flash photo after painted or drawn as well. Unless this is a photo using professional-level flash to relieve the dark shadows that strong backlighting creates on a sunny day, it is best to avoid images with flash unless you are perfectly happy for the final portrait to look like a flash photo.
Avoiding Distortion

The angle and distance of the camera from the subject of the photo has a huge impact on the amount of distortion.

  Distortion in photos typically results from three things:


   1) Camera plane not parallel to subject

   2) Subject to close to edges of image

   3) camera too close to subject


  To avoid distortion in people or pet portraits:


   1) Make sure the camera plane is parallel to the person(s) or pet(s)

   2) Center the subjects in the frame

   3) Step back far enough from subject(s) to prevent the “clown-nose” effect. (when the nose looks far bigger than it is because its too close too the camera


For photographs of houses, boats or cars, the same rules apply but can more difficult to follow. For example, it may be that the best frontal view position to take a photo of a house is from across the street, through someone else’s second floor window!  In these instances, contact me to check if your photos are effective.

Angle of Photograph
The angle at which a photo is taken makes a large difference in how the subject of the portrait appears, so it is best to choose or take images with the angle most flattering to the subject when you can. Photos of pets or animals are best taken at eye level, with the head looking straight into the camera or turned slightly to one side. Photos of people are also best taken at eye level, facing straight on or looking slightly to the side. Photos of houses, boats or cars may be taken at a lower vantage point and still be effective.
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