Commissions - I want a portrait of a family member, what is the process?
An original painting is always the artist's impression or interpretation of the subject.
The artist will attempt to "capture" a reasonable or realistic likeness, and the personality
of the subject. I paint relatively realistically, so my likenesses are quite good.
However, no original artist's painting will be the equivalent of a photograph.
Private sitting, photographs:
Why do you want to take the photographs?
It is always preferable for me to meet the subject, and spend some time with them.
That will give me the opportunity to get to know a little of their personality, and for me
to take the photographs that I will use to complete the painting. I usually prefer to take
the photographs myself.
The painting is a surprise, or the subject is out of town. Can I just provide photos?
Yes, you can. I do a lot of portraits from photographs. However, no painting can be more
accurate than the source photographs. The more accurate and detailed the photograph, the
better the likeness that can be achieved.
See my FAQ (below) on how to take good photos for portraits.
The pricing will of course be dependant on factors including the size, complexity,
framing options, deadline, number of subjects (head and shoulders only, or full body).
A simple muted background can be quick and easy. A complicated background with detailed
items takes much more time. The complexity of furniture or clothing can be another factor.
The "almost" completed painting will be shown. An agreed number of alterations will be accepted
prior to the final version. The painting will remain the sole property of the artist until
accepted by the client, the final payment is received, and the painting is delivered.
Taking Good Portrait Photos for Commissions - Some quick hints
First let me say that I am not a professional photographer. I just hope that these
hints may be helpful for any photo you may take.
The shape of any object is defined by its shadows and highlights. Without seeing a shadow or
a highlight, you really can't tell what shape something is. Look at a reflective surface and
the reflection of a window in it. The reflection of a window in a rounded glass vase will not
look rectangular like the real shape of the window. The edges of the reflection will wrap
around the vase in a curve. You can actually determine the shape of the vase by studying the
shape of the window reflected in it. The shape of a shadow does the same. The shapes of images
are defined by the shapes of the highlights and shadows on them. This leads to the first rule:
try to avoid taking an indoor photo where the flash is straight on the subject, and is the
strongest (or only) light source on the subject.
NO FLASH -
Photos of people taken straight on, and with a flash, make the face look flat.
That's because (you guessed it), the flash illuminates the entire front of the face evenly,
eliminating all the shadows and highlights.
A flash can be used outside to fill in some of the dark shadow if a person is standing under a
tree on a sunny day. Otherwise the face is sometimes too dark. If the camera is picking
up some of the brightness of the day it would otherwise make the entire faced too dark. A flash
can fill in some of this without completely "flattening" all the facial features.
HARSH SHADOWS -
Watch for harsh shadows across someone's face in the sun (from something like a tree branch).
The old adage applies here: don't have a tree growing out of the subject's head.
SQUINTING, REFLECTIONS -
Shooting you subject under a tree can be a good choice on a very bright day. Be aware of dark
sunglasses, reflections in eyeglasses (change your camera angle to eliminate these), squinting
in the sun, or a backlit face with the sun behind it (that will turn the face into a silhouette).
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA (OR NOT) -
Contrary to popular belief, a smile does not always make for a better photo. Take a look at
most fashion photography: you will not always see a smile. Sometimes smiles can look "forced" or
unnatural. Try taking many photos without the subject smiling. You may find that you like those
If the person wears eyeglasses, attempt to get an angle for the photo that shows the eyes and
their shape. If the frames of the glasses cover half an iris or half the upper eylid,
it can be hard to identify the exact shape of the eyes.
BACKGROUND - WHAT'S BEHIND THEM? -
Consider the background, and how much clutter is behind the subject.
IDEAL PHOTO -
The ideal photo of a person will have:
Highlights and shadows (that are not too harsh). They need to be subtle enough to see the
shape of the person's face, and identify the shape of the cheekbones, chin, eyebrows,
and locks of hair.
- A clear view of the eyes, their shape, hopefully their colour, and the irises.
- No reflections on eyeglasses. Eyes that can be seen clearly through the glasses.
- A simple uncluttered background.