Pet Portrait Photo Guide

In the following guide I’ll show examples of high quality and low quality reference photos and provide tips on how to take better quality photos for your commissioned pet portrait.

Pet Photography Tips:

There are 5 main key photograph qualities that when combined normally result in great reference photos. Try to remember to consider all 5 when taking photographs of your pet.

  • Camera Angle
  • Pose
  • Lighting
  • Detail/Quality
  • Distance

Good Reference Photos

I’m able to make higher quality pet portraits when I can work from good quality pet reference photos. The best reference photos have natural outdoor lighting, have good detail, and are taken from the same level as the pet (this means kneeling down to take the picture rather than standing up and taking the picture from above).

Nice Lighting

The photo has outdoor lighting and was taken on level with the dog.

3/4 Angle

The photo has an interesting 3/4 profile angle and outdoor lighting.

3/4 Angle

The photo has 3/4 angle, shows a lot of the animal, and has nice lighting.


Good Color

The fish photo is well lit and shows the subtle color changes on the body.




By Window

Natural light from window, good 3/4 angle, and interesting reflection effect.

Even Lighting

The photo has nice even outdoor lighting, good angle, and good face details.

At Pet's Level

The photo is down on the same level as the guinea pig.


Nice Shot

Good bust shot that shows all the fur pattern colors.



Good Color

Has good lighting and really shows the accurate color of the cat’s eyes.

Soft Light

This photo has nice soft outdoor light and is on the same level as the dog.

Nice 3/4 Profile

This photo has interesting shadow shapes and a nice angle.


Difficult Reference Photos

Poor quality reference photos can be difficult for me to work from because they distort colors, lighting, and details. Poor reference photos are ones that are blurry, too dark, were taken with flash, taken too far away, have few clear details, and/or are taken from an above angle which distorts the body proportions.

Too Dark

The photo was taken without good lighting. The dog’s fur color is hard to distinguish because it is shadowed.

Too Close

The photo was taken too close to the cat. It blurs the details and distorts the proportions in its face.

Too Blurry

The photo was taken while the pet was moving so details are blurry.

Low Detail

The photo was taken in poor lighting and obscures the dog’s face. Details are hidden.

Bad Angle

The photo was taken from a top angle so the dog’s body is sticking out from its head.

Too Far Away

The pet in this photo is too small. I can’t make out any details.

What If My Pet is No Longer With Us?

So what if you want to commission a portrait of a pet who’s crossed the rainbow bridge already, but the few photos you have aren’t the best?

Please gather up the best photos you have so they’re ready when you contact me– I may still be able to capture their likeness by combining elements of different photos. For example, I might be able to use the good pose of a darker photo, get details about the face from an oddly cropped up-close shot, and find the correct body/face coloring from another pic. I’ll let you know if I think I’ll be able to draw or paint your pet with the photos you have.

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