What makes the perfect photo for a painting?

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I saw a photo pop up on Facebook the other day, it was from 9 years ago. I remember where it was taken. I remember the day well. M was just 2 years old and had been given a tutu for her birthday from Nanna.

“Do the ‘cute face’, M” I said, and sure enough, she held her hands up to her cheeks and with a click of the button, that moment was captured forever.

I loved that photo, there were several different elements that I thought would look great for a painting.

  1. The ‘Cute Face’ – it represented that moment in time, it was something that M did when she was two years old, seeing her in this pose would always provoke memories of when she was this little.
  2. The composition – aside from the ‘Cute Face’ the composition of the photo was lovely, it felt natural, not too staged. Children have a tendency to put on their smile-for-the-camera face as soon as they see you ready to take a photo. But sometimes capturing them off-guard can result in something which shows how you see them everyday,
  3. The light – photographs taken in daylight will always work much more successfully, the midday sun resulted in lots of lovely highlights and shadows which really emphasised the shapes and characteristics of M’s face.
  4. The colours – The obvious pink of the tutu, I knew would ‘pop’ in the painting, but there were many warm hues in M’s face that worked well with the pink.


Top tips for choosing the right photo

Choose a photo which will always remind you of them

Don’t always go for the posed, ‘smile for the camera!’ photograph. The impromptu, accidental pictures can sometimes tell so many more stories and be more natural. Don’t instantly go for the most recent photo either. You are commissioning a piece of artwork for your wall, and so choose something that you know you will want to look at time and time again, something that makes you laugh or smile, even cry (with happiness). It has to be a photograph that stands out for you.

Get the composition right

A face-on image can sometimes work, but in most cases it might loose some of the characteristics of the face. Taken from a slight angle will probably result in lots of lovely shapes and shadows that will help me to paint a photo that will have a real likeness to the subject.

Don’t worry if you photograph has an unsuitable background, or other elements that you are not sure about, we can use ‘artistic license’ in terms of how it will be placed on the canvas or paper.

Choose a photograph taken in the daytime

Natural light is good, unless the photographer uses strong directional lighting. Steer well away from flash photographs. It will bleach the image and result in there being little definition in the face. I’ll let you into a little secret, it’s the shapes and shadows in the face that help me to paint pictures that are recognisable as the subject. Flash can change the colourings of the subject and can also result in ‘red eye’.

Provide a high resolution digital images

Digital images are great and help no end, I can really consider the photo if in a digital format. I can zoom in and take a closer look at the features. I can also adjust the brightness and contrast on the photo so to emphasise the shapes and shadows.

Provide a selection of photos to choose from

If I have never met the subject before, I am relying on you to tell me about their personality and characteristics. So sending over a selection of photos can help me to understand more about them and how they look.

I will alway choose one photograph to paint from, but will work with you to agree which one is the best.




Get in touch

Enquire about a commissioned portrait, a custom painting or ask about one of the paintings in the ‘To Buy’ section of the website.

07779 271219 | info@maddiepaints.co.uk