The best possible portrait drawing, 
needs the best possible photograph... 

   The best images for me to work from are digital photographs; for the simple reason that I can edit the tones and contrast levels to a certain degree, should it need it. Emailing the digital photos at full resolution is best, to avoid loss of quality. The best format to save images in is TIFF, PNG, and JPEG. If you do have a standard photograph you would like to use, I can easily work from this- so long as it shows enough detail.

   Natural lighting always works best for portraits, it will cast natural shadows and replicate the animals colours accurately. Try to avoid really bright sunshine- especially on white, or lighter coloured pets as this will affect the colours in the photograph. Equally shots taken in darker settings with camera 'flash' will often result in red eyes and distorted shadows. Also remember to have the light source behind you, or to one side- this will avoid any 'glare' making your subject appear too dark. Basically consider photos of yourself, you know that good lighting is more forgiving and offers a more 'flattering' shot than those taken in the dark on a night out!

   The background is also important to a degree. Try to avoid anything that may interfere with the subject making it hard to distinguish; or the same colours as your animal- i.e a black dog, on a black background will not work any better than a white pet on white! Generally the background shouldn't be too much of an issue, as shown in a couple of my example pieces- bars on bird cages etc can be removed for the final drawing, so long as the animal is clear and in focus.

   Angle & Subject focus, this should highlight the important areas- generally this will be around the eyes or nose. If the camera has focused more on say the collar of your pet, you will lose vital details and clarity. 
   I generally prefer doing head & shoulder portraits, this is where the character of the animal is most apparent. Therefore the photo should be as close as you can get (without upsetting the animal!) at the animals eye level. If zoom is needed for birds, or nervous rodents etc try to use a tripod or stand the camera on a flat surface; even the tiniest camera shake on full zoom will cause motion blur. 

   Get the Subject interested & take lots of photos! The beauty of digital images is the ease of deleting any photographs which aren't up to the right standard, without wasting film after film in pursuit of the 'perfect' photo. Alongside choosing a photo which has good composition, it is also important, even essential, that you pick a photo which you feel captures a true likeness of your pet. Whether it's that certain expression they have, a special 'glint' in the eye, or even that particular distinguishing feature- make sure it is a photo you 'LOVE'. If you don't, you won't 'love' my portrait- I don't want you to be disappointed in my work! Simple tricks for photographing dogs in particular- BRIBARY! Be it a favourite treat or a squeaky toy, anything that provokes a 'happy' look will work! Made even easier when you have an assistant 'entertaining' your pet, while you photograph. The pose shown in the photos on this page are courtesy of our dogs favourite object in the entire universe- the humble tennis ball!
Too bright, and over exposed. Blends in with background too much. Colours wrong.

Too dark, under exposed. When this dark, even with editing the colours may not be accurate in finished portrait.

Out of focus, if any blurring at all, the quality of the finished portrait could be 

Good lighting, clear shot, perfect contrast with background around the head and face area.