If you already have a favourite photo of your pet, the hard part is done!  But if haven’t quite captured your pet’s personality and soulful eyes, I have some tips.

The best drawings come from good photos, therefore it’s wise to take some time in selecting a photo of your best friend. It’s not easy!  Take your time and try short sessions over several days. Decide where the shoot is going to take place and get your camera settings and position established before you bring in your model.  Just like a person, they’ll have an expression and pose that best shows off their personality and just like a person, it may take some time to capture it. I cannot overstress how important the photograph is to the success of the portrait, so taking your time and getting a great photo is really key.  

My highly realistic drawings need clear, crisp photo references.  I’m not able to draw your pet in any position other than the photo - I’m not able to change the position and draw from my imagination.  A lot depends on you and your photograph to make the portrait really sing.


Consider where you will have the photo shoot.

Don't Stand Too Close

Distortion tooClose

Standing too close to your subject introduces lens distortion into your image giving it a "fisheye" look.  This is particularly noticeable when one part of the image (for instance a dog's nose) is closer than other parts.  As a rule of thumb, try to stand at least 2 meters or so away from your subject.

Shoot at the level of your pet

Look down on dog

 Try to avoid standing up and shooting down at your pet.  Get on their level and keep the camera horizontal.  Rather than them coming to you, try going to their favourite spot.  Or find a ledge for them to stand on that puts them at your eye level.  A three-quarter view of their face works nicely, as does a straight-on face shot.  Pay attention to their ear position (upright and alert is good) and do your best to get them looking happy, not droopy or sleepy.  Make sure your pet fills the frame, but don’t cut off any paws or tail.


Be sure to get some close-ups of your pet’s face.  Fill the whole viewfinder with your pet’s face and chest, being careful not to crop off tips of ears.  If your pet won’t sit still, a helper to hold the dog might work – I can usually work around the arms and hands of the helper.

About Cameras

To do my realistic portraits, I rely on crisp, clear, high resolution photos.  Try to use the best camera you have for this.  In most cases, that will be a digital camera but for some people, your mobile device may produce crisp, low-noise images.  A camera with an optical zoom lens is preferred because this allows you to stand far enough away to avoid perspective distortion (at least 7 or 8 feet) yet still zoom in for a detailed close-up.  If your camera only has a digital zoom feature then do not use it.  (You can tell the difference easily: an optical zoom lens sticks out from the camera body and spins when you zoom in or out. Phones and pad generally don't have this feature...but some do.)

If your camera does have an optical zoom and if you can get your pet to stay mostly still, you can get a full body shot then use the zoom lens for a close-up of the face (in mostly the same position) so I can get the fine detail.


Sunlight is a great light source and it’s free!  Outdoor shots can be great.  If you’re shooting inside the house, try placing your pet next to a window, so the light comes from the side of your pet’s face.  Try to position your pet so there is a bit of light in your pet’s eyes.  Avoid flashes; they are usually harsh and generally make poor portrait references.

A friend and a few treats can be a big help!

Feel free to send me many photos that you like.  Together we’ll decide which one will make the best portrait. 

For some really great tips on photographing your pet, check out this website: