Photography Guidelines

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Taking Photographs for Drawing

You are probably here because you are considering sending me some photographs to draw. In which case, I encourage to to read this post and consider the principles set out below when choosing/taking your photos. However, we all lead busy lives and I understand many customers don’t have time to read and digest all the information, so if you are just about to click away from the page, then I’d like to draw your attention to just the two MOST IMPORTANT principles. (On the other hand, if you’d just got yourself a cup of tea and put your feet up, then please continue to the end – you’ll be glad you did!):

Daylight and Focus

  • Take your photograph outside, out of direct sunlight. Even at midday on a summer’s day it is very hard for a phone camera (or average DSLR lens) to pick up enough light to provide any level of detail whilst indoors.
  • To gain enough detail for a striking likeness the image must be focussed. Most modern phones make this easy by allowing you simply to touch the area on screen you wish to focus (generally the eye). It is not necessary to create any fancy depth of field or even know what ‘depth of field’ means!
  • Backlit photograph for artist commission
  • When drawing portraits, there are a few things I need from a photograph that are not necessarily the same things you would want from a portrait photograph. Most modern smartphones are perfectly suitable for photographing portraits and as long as you bear in mind a few simple principles, you will have no problem creating some wonderful images.

    Resolution: Most smartphones have great resolution and as long as you take care to focus correctly then it should render enough detail. However, remember that although your phone may take a picture in dim light without flashing, this doesn’t mean it has enough light for a well-rendered picture. Good quality, diffused, daylight is always best (see ‘Light’ section below). To check the level of detail, take a close look at the image. Can you see individual eyelashes and lines on the lips?

    Light: I prefer to photograph in natural light – outdoors or close to a window on a bright overcast day. I find this kind of light preferable for all photography and drawing. The diffused nature of the light means the facial features cast soft shadows. Stand the subject so they are facing in the general direction of the light, or up to 45 degrees away, rather than with their back to it.

Professional studio photographers will often use diffused flash. This is great if using a single flash placed to the side, or even a single flash and reflector. Too many flashes will remove all shadow, which is great for fashion photography, but not so great for drawing, where some shadow is needed in order to create a three dimensional illusion.

Expression: In my drawings, I like to think I capture a personality rather than a moment in time. So, I encourage you to supply expressions of a pensive nature or a hint of a smile. This also helps with the illusion that the picture was drawn from life.

  • Permission: If you supply any photographs that you didn’t take yourself then please make sure you have permission of the photographer.

    Background: For my pastel portraits, I am drawing the subject’s head. I don’t care what the background looks like!

    Finally: I am not judging your skills as a photographer. Just send me a few images and we’ll take it from there.

  • Backlit photograph

2 Comments on “Photography Guidelines”

  1. Pingback: 4 Sources of Light When Drawing in Winter - Wendy Booth: Portrait Artist

  2. Pingback: Photography Checklist - Wendy Booth: Portrait Artist

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