Photographs for art commissions

I thought that I would take a look in this post at art commissions and, more specifically, the photographs that underpin commissions.

The majority of my artwork is based on photographs. This is primarily due to the level of detail that goes into my drawings, which take many hours to create, and the subject matter, which largely comprises wildlife or pets. It is the unique way that features such as an individual animal’s fur or feathers lie, or its coloration, that sets that particular animal apart from others, and it is this detail that I try to convey in my portraits – I want to make sure that when you commission a drawing, you end up with a likeness that is unmistakably recognisable in terms of the individual, which is only possible with a detailed reference photo.

A detailed reference photo, taken in optimum light conditions, leads to a better end result

With that in mind, I have put together the top five considerations when taking photographs for art commissions:

  1. Lighting: natural light is the way to go. Taking a photograph indoors under artificial light tends to create harsh shadows and black holes that can be tricky to decipher. You are much more likely to get a decent photograph outdoors in natural light conditions (try to avoid a searingly sunny day though as this can lead to over-exposure and loss of detail).
  2. Eye level: animals tend to appear best in photographs if you get down (or up) to their eye level rather than taking the photograph from above or below.
  3. Angles: I usually base a drawing on one photograph that stands out for whatever reason, but it is often useful to have other photographs of the animal from different angles to refer to for extra detail.
  4. Composition: think about the composition of photographs in terms of how the animal is positioned – a pleasing composition makes for a pleasing piece of art.
  5. Clarity: photographs need to be clear and not blurred. This is aided by good lighting conditions, but also by the equipment used. Don’t, however, think that you need to have a fancy camera in order to take a good photograph, these days, cameras on smartphones are usually up to the job.

The above points should only be used as a guide – I understand that taking photographs isn’t everybody’s forte and I am usually able to work with most of the photographs that I am sent.

You can find out more about commissioning a drawing here.

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