What Makes a Good Reference Photo?


  • Reference photo quality is important! The photo(s) need to be in sharp focus (not blurry) and well lit.

  • The best photos will be taken in natural light outside on an overcast day or in bright shade (not in dappled shade), but not in direct sunlight.

  • Avoid indoor lighting since that often changes the color cast of the photo and subject.

  • Also, avoid using a flash since that tends to flatten the image and misrepresent colors.

  • Try to include head (including the ears!), neck and shoulders for a good portrait.

  • It is best to take the photo with the camera at the subjects eye level - neither looking down upon nor looking up at the subject.

  • With all that being said, I can make some adjustments to the photo in Photoshop to help with the lighting aspects.

  • The photos should show as much detail as possible. It's difficult for me to get an accurate likeness if I can't see the details of the subject!

  • The photo(s) that you send to me should be sent in the largest high resolution quality file possible so that I can zoom in to see details. Please don't try to edit, crop, enlarge, of use a filter on the photo(s).

  • The photos should be sent as attachments to your email, not embedded in the email.

  • I reserve the right to decline working from your reference photo(s) if I feel that the quality is not sufficient to create an excellent portrait for you.

I will decline working from photos taken by a professional photographer, unless I receive written permission from that photographer. I take copyright infringement very seriously! All rights of the reference photos provided by the client for the commissioned portrait must be obtained from the photographer of said reference photos if the images were not taken by the client.


Good pose, lighting OK, image in focus

Photo is way too dark (but I could work to lighten it some). Most importantly, dog is out of focus.

Dog is in focus, colors good, pose OK but could be better. I can improve the lighting.

Dog is too far away and blurred. Lighting good. Would be much better if photo was taken closer to dog's eye level.

Perfect pose, lighting, focus. Great reference photo!

Dog not in focus. Lighting OK, but could be brighter (I can fix that!). Pose is good