Commission Reference Photo, Size + Background Guide

Reference photo

Choosing the best reference photo may be the most important part of the commission. Below I have ranked different reference photos from most suitable, less suitable and not suitable.

As a portrait artist, my aim is to present you with a true to life, realistic portrait. Achieving an accurate likeness & creating a drawing with detail and depth is of upmost importance to me. However, I can only draw as well as the reference photo allows me to. I understand that not everyone can get the very best reference photo due to the commission being a surprise for someone, or sadly the pet has passed away. Below is just a guide to help you choose the most suitable from the photos you have.

The more clear your photo, the best representation I’ll be able to put to paper. As long as I can clearly see the direction and the length of fur fur, a slightly blurry or out of focus picture isn’t the end of the world as I can draw detail in for you, but it helps. The pose & positioning is possibly the most important factor when it comes to creating a great portrait. Please also aim to have your subject totally in frame so that any parts of his/her features aren’t out of view. All photo’s below are of my German Shepherd Caesar!

Most Suitable

• In focus • Good lighting (natural outdoor light is best) • Colours are clearly visible • Photo taken at the same level as the pet’s view • Both sides of the face are visible • Lots of clear detail in the fur / collar

Less Suitable

• In focus but body is missing, may have to draw in the background as seen in the photo to make sense of the placement • Photo taken from far away, less quality as a result & may request more photos for confirmation on colours • Photo taken above the pet’s line of view, creating a slight birds-eye perspective which may result in a disorientated portrait • one side of the face is visible

Not Suitable

• Out of focus & lacking detail • Poor lighting (indoor lighting can cause issues) • Colours are not clearly visible • Photo taken at different level to the pet’s view • Part’s of the face is out of frame or out of view

I will always ask for final changes on any portrait before I send it to you to make sure it’s perfect. Nevertheless, for the best possible outcome, it’s always best to send multiple photos. That way we can talk about which photo will make the best portrait artwork and go through them together when you request a commission via email.


Each available portrait size is completed with the up most attention to detail, however the larger sizes 30x40cm+ allow me to capture the most detail possible. Most of my clients in the past have chosen their ideal portrait size based on:

The type of portrait: Full body portraits require larger sizes to fit everything on comfortably while allowing room to add in as much detail as possible.

Wall space: Some clients prefer small intimate portraits that take up little wall space to suit their homes, others want to fill a large space with a grand bespoke portrait artwork that really catches peoples attention.

Background options

I offer either a blank white / grey background or a colour / colour gradient of your choice included in the price. Background colour options are often chosen by the clients personal taste and what complements the portrait. If you would like a detailed background illustrated as seen in your photo reference, I can give you a quote based on how complex it is. We can discuss all options via email when you request a commission and figure out the best outcome together.

You can also find many different background choices my clients have previously chosen in my gallery here on my website for examples / inspiration.

What colour paper will my commission be drawn on?

Pet Portraits: I always draw on grey paper as I find it to be the most suitable, however if you wish to have a blank white background, then I will draw on white paper.

People Portraits: People portraits are always created on white paper for any background option as its most suitable for drawing skin tones.