Pet Portraits by Sheila Foster

Photography Tips

Showing CharacterI work from photographs, mostly of head and shoulders, preferably taken with a telephoto lens, by you or a professional photographer. If you prefer a painting of the whole animal I need a photo that shows character, getting as close as possible to fill the whole frame in either case. The more detail I can see the better. To help you with your picture taking I have a few hints:

First - I recommend using a telephoto lens. You will get a better photograph by being further away and zooming in on your subject. This gives your pet a chance to look at their surroundings and relax instead of concentrating on what you are doing. I find I achieve a more natural pose this way. Next think of the pose you want, study your subject. Most animals look best either from the side or straight on, although others look best at a slight 3/4 angle. Take a few from both sides.

NOT GOOD!Second - and most importantly, you want your animal to look alert. Some animals hold their ears up or are more relaxed with ears down. There are lots of ways to get their attention, use a cookie or say, "Where is that squirrel?" Cats on the other hand look best from the front and don't respond to "cookie" unless they feel like it. (one of my favorite cat portraits was of the cat lounging over its mothers shoulder). Do whatever you think will get their attention and make them look perky.

Third - and also very important for dogs do you want their mouth open or closed?

The Eyes Have ItIn every case I need the color of the eyes, it's very necessary, so get in close, please. One good close up of your pets eyes is always helpful. If your pet will not close their mouth, touch their tongue with your finger.

A horse needs a different approach. You will need a second person to help you get animation, ears forward head slightly turned. If you are commissioning a full portrait be sure that your horse is standing squarely on all four legs.

Take at least 24 to 36 exposures, outside in the morning light or early afternoon. Late afternoon sun produces difficult shadows. Outdoor light gives a much more realistic color. Days without too much sun are best with the sun not in the animals eyes, or they might squint.

When you get your prints back choose the pose that you like and mark the back of the print "POSE". Then find the one or two that give the most accurate color and mark the back "COLOR". Please send all prints and negatives. They will be returned with your portrait. Usually paintings take from three to six weeks depending on how busy I am. If it looks as though it will take longer I will let you know.

49 Maple Street #122
Manchester Center VT 05255

© M. Sheila Foster All Rights Reserved

Commissioned Pet Portraits