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When One Photo Isn't Enough

Updated: Mar 5, 2021

Portraits created as a tribute to past pets come with a unique challenge.



If I had to guess, I would estimate at least 50% of my custom pet portraits are created to memorialize past pets. The only reference photos available are those that the client took in the past. Sometimes there is just one photo to work from. Thankfully in the case of Alice (above), I had many photos and this helped immensely.

When I help a client choose the best reference photo to use for their pet portrait, I'm looking for three things, clear eyes, an engaging pose or expression, and accurate color.

The eyes are the most important part of each pet portrait I do. They are the connection to that pet, a link to their soul. I want to make sure I get the placement and color of the eyes correct. Sometimes when my reference photo is especially vague, I will search for a similar photo of the same breed of dog and work from there.


Creating Alice's Portrait


Alice was a very special Spinone Italiano, beloved by her family. The more I chatted with the client, the more I realized how special she was. Alice could be called a heart dog, a dog that holds a very special and lasting place in her owners' hearts. The client began the hunt for the best reference photos she could find. This can be a difficult thing, and sometimes tears are shed remembering and missing their pet.

We found a photo with a sweet pose.

But it didn't show her eyes well. So we went looking for her beautiful eyes and found this gorgeous photo. How can you not just melt into those eyes?

Then the client and I chatted about color. The photos we had of Alice showed her fur color as a light tan or cream color as you can see above. But she had these glorious orange shades to her as well, something very difficult to photograph accurately and not really present in any of the photos we had. I went looking and found another Spinone Italiano that very clearly showed the orange color and found this photo to use as a reference (https://www.petspyjamas.com/uploads/2013/08/Spinone.png). We were set! Something about Alice had really touched me.


When I create a custom pet portrait, I'm trying to do the impossible, capture a living creature onto a 2D surface. While I'll never be able to fully embody all that each pet is or was, I strive hard to get as close as I can. Thank you, Alice, for this special opportunity to chat with your owner and get to learn about you, special girl!

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