You’ve made the decision to get the process started on a custom, one-of-a-kind painting for yourself or someone you love. Custom paintings are a great way to celebrate a special occasion because they’re created specifically for you, and will last a lifetime (and sometimes even beyond). For some of us, the photo makes the decision. The sparkle in her eye or devious look on his face is the reason you chose to get a custom portrait in the first place. For others, choosing the inspiration photo can feel a bit overwhelming. Read through these expert tips to help you choose an inspiration photo that will help your artist create the project of your dreams.
Whether you are commissioning a custom portrait for yourself or for someone you love, the most important consideration is finding a photo that truly exemplifies the subject’s personality. You are more likely to find the perfect inspiration photo when you squeal, “oh that is just so Annie”, more so than “wow, Annie looks beautiful in this photo”. The best portraits are the ones where we are able to celebrate the rawness of a person, the little moments that occur between the big ones. The photos that catch us when we are simply, purely, and truly, us.
Even though we are all absolutely perfect just the way we are, there are sometimes aspects about ourselves we do not like. It is important to understand what can and cannot be altered by a portrait artist. Simple changes such as removing braces or beauty marks, or thinning arms and thighs is no issue. However, changing facial expressions or more large-scale aspects of a person’s look are a little more difficult. Remember that your artist doesn’t know your loved ones they way that you do. They don’t realize the difference between your daughter smirking or almost giggling the way that you do, so asking her to change from one expression to another may not lead to the results you seek. The best way to avoid disappointment is to work with an artist who you can speak with directly, so he or she can understand exactly what you are looking for.
It is best practice to provide your portrait artist with the highest quality photo you have available. For many of us, we find our inspiration photos while browsing Facebook or Instagram. This is a great way to search, however, social media sites dramatically reduce the quality of images once they are uploaded to their platforms. If possible, it is best to reach out to the subject to obtain the original image. Especially for large-scale projects, the higher quality image you can provide to your artist, the better.
If you are considering using an image from a professional photo shoot, it is important to understand the copyright of the photos. Most of the time, the photographer maintains copyright over the images after a shoot. Because of this, we need to ask their permission to use their art (the photos) as inspiration, even if the artist makes considerable changes. In terms of copyright law, this is a little bit of a grey area and is not practiced as commonly as it should be, but I still believe it is important. Most photographers are very honored and are especially grateful if the artist gives them credit for providing the original photo. If you or someone you love snapped the photo, there is no need to worry about copyright or permissions.
When painting or drawing, highlights and shadows are what makes the subject come to life on canvas. When choosing an inspiration photo, make sure you like the way the light hits her nose, your eyes or his cheeks. A great way to see lights and shadows is to revert the photo to black and white. Once the colors are removed, you can more easily decipher where the lights and shadows exist. If you still love the photo in black and white, it is probably a good choice.
Bottom line, a custom portrait that is a painting is going to be a different piece of art from the photo. It will be in the artist’s distinct style, and may include requested and/or artistic changes decided by you or the artist. Don’t worry too much about choosing the correct inspiration photo. Some of my happiest clients have been the ones that have given me multiple photos and had me use my judgement to create a work based off of a combination of them. You know your loved one or yourself better than anyone else. Listen to your heart and let it guide you to the perfect inspiration. If you need help choosing an inspiration photo or a portrait artist for your next project, reach out to me. I look forward to answering any questions you have to help you create your incredible treasure.