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Reference Photo Guide

The finished artwork turns out better when the reference photo is of higher quality. Shots taken by photographers are always preferable, but not everyone has access to professional photos. Therefore, here is a comprehensive guide on how to create the perfect reference photo, for example, of your dog.

Use the Right Camera

Bad Quality

Bad resolution.

Good Quality

Perfect resolution.


Use the best camera available to you. A modern digital camera or a high-quality smartphone are both suitable for capturing reference photos. If available, switch to portrait mode. Avoid using the selfie mode, as it can distort proportions. Set the focus on the eyes of the person or animal, as they are crucial later on. If the eyes are sharp and reflect vitality, it's usually a good photo.


Zoom into the photo; it should not be blurry. Save the photos as originals on your computer. For data transfer, I recommend services like as they do not reduce the data, and you can transfer up to 2 GB for free to an email address.

Lighting: Play with Light and Shadows

Too Dark

Too dark and backlight.

Good Shadow

Perfect light and shadow.


Especially in black and white drawings, playing with light and shadows is crucial. Pay attention to a well-lit environment, but avoid direct sunlight, as it can cast unflattering shadows. Ideally, a bright yet cloudy or rainy day and twilight are suitable for taking photos.


Good photos can also be taken with artificial light, but it's essential that light doesn't only come from above and the room is well-lit. The eyes should sparkle, and there should be no unnatural shadows on the body; then, it's usually a good reference.

Strike a Pose:
The Right Angle

Bad Angle

Very bad angle for a drawing.

Good Pose

Good, unique pose for a full body portrait.


I understand how challenging it can be to photograph an active pet successfully. However, there are a few tricks to get your furry friend excited about the photoshoot. The atmosphere should be playful, and the animal must be willing; a tense mood is reflected in the facial expression.


  • Take your pet's favorite food or toy and play for a while.

  • Take the photo at eye level and not too close to the face; this means shooting from the floor for cats and small dogs.

  • Avoid overhead shots as they distort proportions.

  • Take as many photos as possible, and if you're unsure, feel free to send me all of them, and we can choose together.

Less is more

bad background

It may be a good photo, but it's partially cropped and the grass gets in the way, avoid that.

If you only want a portrait of the face, the background is usually less critical. Nonetheless, it should be a calm background, making it easier to separate the person/animal from the surroundings.


Also, the person/animal should preferably not be cut off (e.g., ears or hairstyle) if it's meant to be a facial portrait. Sometimes, incorporating elements from the background that contribute to realism, such as a dog blanket, a cat toy, or a house in the background, can add valuable elements to consider.

Create One from Multiple Photos


This drawing is a good example of a composition, both dogs were photographed separately.


Have several good photos of people and animals and want to immortalize them in a group portrait? No problem, send me the photos, and I'll do my best to combine them into one.


Pay attention to similar lighting if possible; they should resemble each other. I'll create a composition for you using Photoshop so you can see how your finished portrait will look.

Last but not least:
You can no longer take a photo.

I often receive requests for portraits of deceased individuals or pets, which families would like to commemorate in artwork. It's easier to look at a drawing than a photo of a beloved deceased person or pet.


In these cases, it's not possible to create new reference photos. Please send me all the photos that could work, so I can get the best possible image. This often involves artistic creation, and I combine multiple references into a portrait that captures the character, despite poor source material.

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