How to Choose the Photo You Want As A Custom Portrait Painting

Portrait painting or portraiture is a branch of art representing specific subjects (human or otherwise) in painting. In addition to displaying likeness, personality, and ambiance, portraits often serve as memorabilia, providing the means for immortalizing images and moments on canvas.

Traditionally, the subject, referred to as a “sitter,” would typically sit or pose in front of the artist to get their portrait painted. However, the traditional sitting arrangement is no longer a prerequisite these days because artists now have the option to paint from photographs.

The assignment of painting a portrait without the benefit of studying a live subject is daunting for most artists is daunting. In addition, painting from photographs gives artists less room to interact with the subject than they would with a sitter posing; they’re equipped with only what the picture offers. Therefore, it is imperative to present artists with reference pictures to aid their creative process. Let’s delve deep into how to do just that.

Types Of Custom Portraits

Several kinds of custom portrait paintings are distinguished by their numerous features. However, the most popular feature that sets portraits apart from one another is perhaps the subject in the painting.

Wedding portraits are possibly the most popular types of custom portrait paintings. They artistically capture the day’s essentials by illustrating the passion, romance, and excitement in dreamlike scenes. A wedding portrait that is powerfully executed stirs up strong emotions and recalls vivid memories from the couple’s wedding.

Pet portraits make up another popular type of portraiture. Pet owners with strong attachments to their pets are fond of having personalized art depicting their favorite companions. They are capable of capturing the animals’ personalities and eliciting deep sentiments. They can also serve as commemorative pieces to honor deceased pets.

Additionally, individual and family portraits are also viral portrait trends. The human tendency to record ourselves and those dear to us inspires this portraiture category. It captures the uniqueness of individuals and family units, reflecting the nuances that attribute to the distinctiveness or kindred of persons.

Choosing the Right Reference Photo

With painting custom portraits from photos comes the ability of the artist to incorporate creative ideas. In addition, it creates numerous opportunities for the artist’s skills and creativity to enhance the raw material provided in the photograph instead of the artificial feel photo editing often gives.

Although it is strongly advised to choose a good photo to help the artist create a better painting, skilled artists can transform poor photographs into beautiful works of art. In cases like this, expertise and ingenuity make up for digital flaws.

Additionally noteworthy is that creative liberty allows for alterations that recreate the reference photo into something spectacular and unique. These modifications involve background changes, combining several photos into one image, and merging the photograph with famous paintings.

Although creative liberties are an added advantage of picture paintings, the reference photo serves as the foundation upon which the final product is established; it is the raw material the artist has to work with. Think of it this way, the better the input, the better the output. Accordingly, this makes it essential to select a strong photograph with all the right features to paint a quality portrait from. Here are some tips to aid the selection process:

Photo Composition

This comprises the general content of this photograph, i.e., all things that pertain to the subject like their pose and expression and the background and mood.

Paying attention to photo composition ensures that all points of interest that need to be captured in the portrait are noticeably present in the photo. The photograph must also reflect the desired personality and mood to be aptly captured by the painting.

When the essential features in a picture (background details or specific focal points on the subject’s face) are missing or blurry, it weakens the portrait. At best, artists may use their intuition to fill in the blanks, leading to misrepresentation.

Image Quality

Image resolution is also a vital point when choosing a reference photo. Although it is not mandatory to use a picture with professional quality, it is recommended to use one that is at least of decent quality.

A decent-quality photo usually contains ample details, and the artist can enlarge portions of it by zooming in to see even more information. The more the artist can see, the better quality your portrait will be.

Image quality also involves the lighting and contrast of the photograph. Consider whether the picture is either underexposed or overexposed by checking if there is a good range of tones between its lightest and darkest areas. To achieve good image quality, you may consider using a photograph taken by a camera rather than a mobile phone.

Size And Perspective

When choosing a reference photo, size matters! If it is too small, it obscures all the vital details, and the artist is forced to enlarge it, which only results in an enlarged version of the photograph with substandard quality.

On the topic of perspective, the position and angle of the subject can significantly affect the resulting artwork. Therefore, it is preferable to use photos with close-up subject images. It highlights the focal points of the subject and produces a beautiful portrait painting where the essential details of the issue can be seen.

While poses that involve leaning forward or bending to the side may look good in long shots, they are not suitable for close-up renditions.


Your love for a photograph does not guarantee that it will make a good painting; several other factors to consider. However, the earlier points serve as indicators to note when selecting a good reference photo for an even better painting.

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