How to ensure you get the best possible portrait

Choosing the Right Photo

I can’t overemphasise how important your choice of photo is – the better the input, the better the portrait I can produce, and the more delighted you’ll be. It’s that simple. But don’t worry – I’m here to work with you and my advice is free. Here are some of my top tips…

When commissioning a pencil drawing portrait, whether it’s your horse, dog, or other pet, the most important starting point is to consider what we will base the portrait on. My aim is to produce something that you will be absolutely delighted with for many years to come, and time spent working together to get the input right will be time well spent.

Choosing a photo for your portrait - Meggy's original photoChoosing a photo for your portrait - Meggy's coloured pencil portrait
Pose and Composition

The best pencil portraits are those that capture a moment in time, and faithfully reflect a person or animal’s character. I tend to work from one of your favourite photographs so the first thing to check is that it’s a really good representation of the subject’s personality and mannerisms as well as physical appearance. Remember, you may know the subject intimately, but it can be hard for me to capture the personality of someone I haven’t met. I can only work with what I see in the photo so please feel free to send supplementary images, or even videos, if important features are missing from the main photo.

Eyes are critically important – are they open and catching the light (unless, of course they’re intentionally closed or looking away)?

It almost always pays to photograph subjects at their eye level which means, for pets and small children especially, getting down to their level – kneeling, or even lying down, to take the photo.

Having said that, sometimes you can get away with breaking the rules…>>

Image Quality

The resolution of the image is also vitally important – this is the amount of detail it contains, and the more I can see, the better quality your portrait will be. As a quick guide, check the image file size – the bigger (more Mb) the better – 3Mb upwards is recommended. Also check the following:
– Is it in focus?
– Is it well lit?
– Is there good contrast and a good range of shades between the light and dark areas?

Using a proper camera rather than a mobile phone almost always produces better results, for several reasons:
– The amount of light gathered by a phone’s tiny lens often makes for a darker image with less detail.
– Cameras are easier to hold and usually have faster shutter speeds, again due to their light-gathering ability, resulting in sharper pictures.
– Phone cameras often suffer greater ‘shutter-lag’ (the time between you pressing the button and the picture being taken) – even a fraction of a second can miss that spontaneous expression or moment of action.
– The overall resolution is usually better on a camera – and more resolution = more detail for me to work with.

Other Considerations

You will probably already have clear thoughts on the following, but be sure to consider and talk to me about:
– Are you looking for a formal portrait, or a sketch that captures a moment’s action?
– Would you prefer graphite or coloured pencil?
– Are there distracting backgrounds/foregrounds you want removed  (I find most pencil drawing portraits work better with no background)?
– Do you want to place the subject in a different background?
– Do you need to combine elements of different photos?
– What size does it need to be? See my info page on paper sizes…>>
– Do you already have a picture frame/mount in mind? See my tips on framing…>>
– Where in your home will it hang (pencil sketches will fade in direct sunlight, and wrinkle in humid conditions)?

When discussing a commission with you, I will always talk through the above with you so don’t worry that you have to remember it all. I will always get in touch with you when I have reviewed your images, and again once I have done the preliminary sketches.

If you have any questions at all, please call me, or drop me a line using the contact form – don’t worry, my advice is free and there’s no obligation!