How to choose a good photo for your portrait

My earliest memory of a portrait was one that included my cousin when she was a young girl.  I recall thinking that it did remind me of her, as I’d known her then and as I knew her currently (albeit with less cute baby roundness).  The color scheme was soothing and deep, and I really liked the composition as a whole.  If I’m not mistaken, there were plants edging two sides.  The effect of that portrait on anyone viewing it in their home was touching, and it made the family seem a little more culturally aware of art through time.

The reason for any portrait’s success is that the artist (often commissioned for choosing how to do the work) is talented or, that someone chose a good picture and asked a talented artist to paint it.  The portrait-interested person, then, should definitely be aware of guidelines for choosing a good picture.  Good lighting, a large enough size to view details, and a high enough resolution for fine details are 3 basic attributes of a good photograph in general.  But in addition to that, photographs that translate well into oil portrait form must be considered from the perspective of people who have never met the subject(s).

It is important to ensure that the picture, when viewed through the eyes of both the painter and the future viewers, will reflect and communicate what you want it to.  Expressions on faces – are they appropriately positive, open, flattering?  Who is placed where within the photo?  Is the relationship between the people (if there is more than one pictured) made clear by their postures, direction of gaze, actions?  Is clothing important?  Other items that appear – is it okay if they take on symbolism, or dictate aspects of the subjects’ personality to the viewer?

If there is a “flaw” or a thing that you want changed or removed, the artist will likely be able to change or omit it, as long as you describe the change adequately.  Doing this may make the choice of reference pictures doubly important.  See my other posts for more about background and clothing choice, and what to do if the perfect picture for your portrait has a flaw, like eyes that aren’t open or poor lighting.

Author: Julie Ann

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