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Choosing the right photograph for your painting!

The purpose of this guide is to help you choose the best possible picture for your painting.  Of course if this list looks overwhelming and you prefer to just back-and-forth with me, I am more than happy to help.  In any case, this thorough guide is available for you to use as a checklist that you can come back to at any time.  I've highlighted the most critical things so you can see them at a glance, but in a nutshell, the two things I need are: appropriate facial expressions, and a good enough resolution.

1.  You love the photo:

Whether your portrait will be of a woman, a dog, a child, an elderly person, or a bird... The most important thing to consider is that you need to love the photograph, and here are some things to help you confirm that:

  • The subject has favorable facial expressions.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  There are some things I can do to tweak and improve photographs, but this is non-negotiable.  The subject needs to be making the right face.  If you're not sure, then it will be possible you will not love the painting.

  • There is almost nothing you want to change about the person's face in the photo.  If you are wanting to remove eyeglasses, braces, facial hair, or wrinkles, perhaps this isn't the right photograph for your painting.  If certain things are not your favorite but you can live with them and it might be possible for me to make small adjustments, we can discuss it. 

  • The photo commemorates a special moment.  This is totally optional, but if you're having trouble picking a photo, it can be a good idea to look at photos of moments that meant something to you and/or the subject of the painting.

2.  What I need:

The following is a list of best-case scenario requirements, assuming your expectation is for the painting to depict an exact likeness of your subject.  This process is not as creative as you might think—if I don't see the information I need, it is unlikely I can invent it and get it right.  But if you are having trouble with any of the following points, don't despair.  Talk to me first, all might not be lost, I have been able to bypass some of these problems under certain circumstances.

  • Without getting technical, I require a good enough resolution.  I do not ask that the photo be taken with a professional camera, but I do need to be able to see enough.

    • A picture taken from a distance that makes it possible for me to be able to crop or zoom to the faces and see things such as eyelashes, wrinkles, teeth, fingernails, nostrils.  If the photo is taken with a cellphone and I can see pants or skirts, it's probably not close enough.  If the faces take up at least 25% of the original photo, it's probably usable.

    • Selfies are actually fine.  It's not my favorite form of portraiture, but if you love the photo and I can see enough, I can totally use it.  As long as it was taken in cellphone "modern times" (after 2010), it is likely I can use it.

    • The photo is not a screenshot.  Please remember that a screenshot only looks good on the screen you took it in, without zooming in.  It is NOT the same thing to copy-paste, or save an image, than to take a screenshot of it.  If it is not your photo, just ask for it.

  • The subject is not out of focus, or moved.

  • Permission to use the photograph.  Most photographers will be happy to let us use their work, and I normally credit and tag them on social media.

​3.  Just some suggestions for best results:

  • Lighting/contrast.  There are lots of shadows and bright spots on the subjects' faces, especially when they are happening "sideways."

  • There is a sparkle in the subjects' eyes.  When the eye has a reflection of light on it, it looks more beautiful.

Irrelevant things:

I try to be faithful to the provided photo, but if necessary, can make easy adjustments.  Here are things that will not matter at all, or be very easy to bypass:

  • The surrounding area is busy or showing ugly things.  I usually isolate the subject so the beauty/attractiveness of the place they are in becomes irrelevant.  Of course, unless it is important to you and you indicate otherwise.

  • The subject is wearing untidy or inappropriate clothing.  In most cases, it can be fixed or changed.

  • The hairstyle.  Again, can be fixed or changed.

  • The colors.  I usually ignore them anyway.

I'll be coming back to this with FAQ's...

See some examples below!

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