How to photograph your pet for a painting
If you do not already have a favourite photograph for me to work from here are some tips to get some good shots of your horse dog or cat for me to paint from.
Phone cameras are so good these days you should be able to get some great shots yourself. When I first started painting pet portraits we didn't have phone cameras. So locally I would go out with my camera and take pictures of client's horses, dogs and cats and get the films developed, it was a long winded process! It was made a bit easier with the advent of digital cameras, I still have mine – a Canon EOS with long zoom lens which was great because I could stand well back and zoom in on the subject and get a great blurred background.
These days most clients have a phone with a fabulous camera - probably better than that digital camera of mine! I don't really use it anymore, and take most of my photos with my iPhone, in fact these days most clients take their own photos to sent me. Videos are another way of getting good stills, so when you take your photos, do take a few videos as well, especially if you want a painting of you horse trotting, cantering or being ridden, there will more than likely be some very good stills in there.
Bright sun will give a more dramatic effect, longer shadows late in the day, and overhead at midday. Ideally you want the sun behind you as it also stops the sun from being direct on your lens. I personally love dramatic shadows because the subject becomes more 3D and literally pops out from the painting in a blaze of contrast and colour, but the choice is yours.
If you prefer a more subtle portrait then wait for a cloudy but bright day. Don't try and take pictures in the rain because your subject will be bedraggled and the light will be dull.
If you photograph indoors, the phone cameras are usually quite good at sorting out the light for you, but don't use flash because it will wash your subject out (no depth of dark and light) and he/she will have red-eye.
To photograph horses you may need a helper (or a couple!), a bucket with pony nuts or or some mints in it – anything that rattles that will get your horse to perk his ears up and pose. If he/she will photograph outside in the field or manège that's great, but you want a clear headshot ideally three quarters sideways on, rather than head on or side on.
If he/she wont pose in the field, or you want a bridle or leather head collar in the portrait, then you will need someone holding him/her for you. If you don't want a bridle in your portrait and need to photograph in a head collar but you don't want that in the painting, I can leave the headcollar off - but it will be artistic licence on my part for what's underneath – it usually works out okay though. Again take lots of shots from both sides.
Dogs and Cats
Again if you can get someone to help you if he/she won't pose/runs off etc, to hold him/her on a lead or get his/her attention while you hold him/her, again take shots from many different angles some head on ones might be good if you particularly like a particular picture. Take videos too and we can always hopefully find some good stills, and you may get some good action shots which you would prefer me to paint from.
With dogs and cats you need to be on their eye level unless you particularly want me to paint looking down at your dog if you have a great quirky clear shot of him that you really like.
The great thing about phone cameras is we usually have them with us so take lots of shots on different days in different lights and see what you come up with.