How to Choose a Good Photo for Custom Artwork

(Original Blog Post December 19, 2017)

Choosing a good reference photo is essential when I don't have access to a live model.  When I don't have a good photo reference, it makes it difficult to achieve the desired results as the photo does not give me the needed information such as fine details, edges and definition.  Below I will give you tips to what makes a good reference photo and go over what I look for in the ideal image to work from.

Overexposed or Underexposed Images

Overexposed images happen when the camera lets in too much light causing the photo to be too light and loses the detail in the flat white of the image.  Underexposed images are when the camera doesn't let in enough light causing the photo to be too dark.  Photos that are either underexposed or overexposed are difficult to work from as the detail is lost and requires me to "invent" the information in the blown out areas.

Size Matters

Ideally, a high resolution image is best for me to work from. Small resolution or photos of photos makes it difficult for me to zoom in to see the finer details needed to create the best possible artwork for my clients. When the resolution of a photo is too small, simply blowing it up does not work as the detail is lost.  If wanting to use a physical photograph for the reference, please ensure these are scanned in at the highest resolution available on your scanner.  Taking a digital photo of a physical photograph does not work.

Blurry Photos

Blurry photos make it difficult to see edges and finer details properly.  Edges are important to show depth and volume in the layers of paper.  When a photo is too blurry, the edges appear soft and require more "invention" to create the edges.  

Tips for Taking Good Reference Photos

  • Have your subject central, forward facing and clos-up for detail
  • Outdoor natural light works best
  • If taking the photo indoors, take the photo near a window with the light behind you
  • Avoid low light / too bright lighting
  • Make sure your subject is in a natural pose and avoid awkward positions
  • Avoid backlight subjects or too much flash

If you are unsure whether a particular photograph is suitable for use as a reference photo, please contact me and I will work with you to let you know if your desired artwork is feasible.  Likewise, if you are unsure which photo would work best, let me know and I can advise you.