Pet Reference Photo Guide


Pet Reference Photo Guide

A Guide to Help You Take and Choose the Best Photo for Your Pet Portrait

As a realistic pet portrait artist, I rely heavily on detailed reference photos to accurately draw your pet. The more detail, the better able I am to render a more realistic painting.  Below are some tips in taking and choosing a reference photo for your pet.


You do not need to have a DSLR camera to take a good photograph of your pet! Most iPhones and Androids can take fantastic photos, if taken in the right lighting. Of course, if you do have access to a DSLR or a friend who has one, use it!


Turn off the flash! A flash will make a photo look flat and oftentimes will give the subject red-eye. Instead, use natural light. Take your photos outside on a cloudy day. Indoor pets can be photographed in a well-lit room by a window. This works well for cats that like to bird-watch out a window.


Take photos of your pet at eye level. These will provide the most flattering pet portrait.  Make sure your pet is either looking at you or just past your shoulder.  Ideally you want to be able to see both eyes. Also make sure your pet fills the frame and isn’t cut off or too far away. Bust shots (head and chest) make excellent pet portraits.

Don’t Panic!

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take good photos of your pet. All you need to do is recognize the difference between a good photo and a bad photo and follow my tips above. Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience. A treat goes a long way in getting a pet to cooperate! Have a little patience and you will be rewarded with a good photo! If you are still unsure, you can always email me at

What I Look For In a Good Photograph:

Detail in the Nose and Fur


Reflections in the Eyes


Examples of Good Photographs:

These two photos show good fur detail and there is a reflection in their eyes.  These would make excellent pet portraits.


Common Problems:

These represent common issues that I see with pet portrait references. I would not be able to use any photos with these problems.



Too Far Away

Far Away Dog.jpg

Blurry/Flash Used/Green Eye


Too Much Contrast/Details Lost

Dark Photo.jpg

Bad Angle/Fur Detail Lost


Holding Pet/Bad Angle


Remember: if you have any questions, feel free to Contact me and I can help!