A Bichon Frise Portrait and Some Photo Tips

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This is a sketch for a portrait of Chuckie, as cute a little Bichon Frise as you could ever hope to see. I was commissioned to do his portrait as a Mother’s Day gift. I could see my subject was adorable–but his photos were a challenge because they were rather soft and blurred. Luckily this is a breed I am very familiar with–so I know how the fur texture should feel, and how Bichon eyes look. Here are some tips on how to take a good reference photo for a pet portrait.

I think that when I work on gift portraits, photography is often our biggest hurdle because after all, how many people have great photos of someone else’s dog or cat? As a painter, what I look for in a photo is clear details, and fairly neutral lighting. I also look for good body positioning and an inviting facial expression. What’s unimportant is what’s going on in the background.

Tip 1. If possible, take your pet outside–pick a time of day that doesn’t have bright sun like late afternoon, or even better, a slightly overcast day. If weather doesn’t permit, shoot inside in a room with good natural light.

Tip 2. Turn off your flash. Flash kills a lot of visual details, makes ugly lighting and gives your pet “red eye”. A lot of cameras and camera phones compensate quite well for this–although when you are shooting with lower light, you do have a better chance of blurring your photo. Try to keep your hands steady.

Tip 3. Take lots of photos quickly. Very few pets can sit still and pose for any substantial time. So don’t try for one great shot. Just take as many shots as you can, changing your position every few shots. Your pet is going to move around so you need to move around too.

I’ll provide more pet photo tips in my next blog post.