Choosing a good quality reference photo is imperative for a good quality portrait.  Coloured pencils have very fine tips and it is for that reason that I am able to get in a good amount of detail.  The micro details make up the macro portrait.

In order to see and draw details, I zoom into all my photos and this is why a good reference makes a big difference.  At the bottom of the page, you will see the difference that a good photo vs a bad photo makes.

Below are some guidelines for references.  These are all achievable with today's phone cameras. 


... The tricky part is getting your pet to stay still for the photo!



Clear, high definition, details are visible



Be at a distance that focuses on, and ensures the highest clarity of the area being drawn



Evenly distributed lighting. Photos taken during day but not in direct sunlight



Details are not blurred, pixelated or lost when zoomed in

Good References

Bad References


Details are unclear and blurred in this image.  Scroll down below to see how this image looks zoomed in


Minor details are not visible from this distance


An image should not have lighting that is either too low or too bright. This is an example of both in one, the darks are too dark and the lights are too light

Black is an interesting colour to work with and our black furry friends need just a bit of extra attention for a portrait.  Black fur is both the hardest to photograph as well as the hardest to draw, as it can come out looking too matte or flat, so special consideration must be taken.  Please ensure that head structure and details are clearly visible when taking a photo or providing a reference photo


This is taken during the day but not in direct sunlight.  Details, highlights in the fur and bone structure are clearly visible.  Details of the eyes are also clearly visible and so are the details of the nose


Large areas of matte black with no clear distinction of shape, structure or details, particularly along the right side

Black animals

Zooming in is the most important part, because I zoom into all the photos in order to see the fine details.  Photo quality must be retained when zoomed in.  Below you will see the difference between a good reference and a bad reference and why it is so important

Both of these photos are taken from the first photos in the good reference and bad reference sections above

Zooming In