When taking photos for painting portraits, it’s extremely important to get all of the information that you need during the portrait sitting in order to produce the best results possible back in the studio. As I’m taking photos for a portrait commission, I’m constantly looking for the same elements in my subject as I do when I’m at the easel painting. These would include the temperature of the light (warm or cool), the values of the background behind the head, the value relationships within the face, the general pose and design of the subject, determining the amount of light that I want to have on the subject in order to create a softer or more dramatic look, etc.


I didn’t always work this way. In fact, early on in my career, I would often not recognize many of these elements until I got back into the studio after the sitting. I was so focused on just getting a good facial expression of my subject when taking photos,¬†that I would totally miss the bigger picture. I would find myself running into problems because I didn’t have enough information to work from. It’s always best to get too much information and have plenty of reference material to work from later on back in the studio rather than having to rely on your memory to make things up. Arranging the subject and composing the light and values during the photo shoot will not only give you better reference material to work from, but will also save you a lot of unnecessary frustration during the painting process.

I talk more about this subject, along with what to look for when choosing reference photos to work from, how to get the most information out of the photos that you’ve chosen and more in my new Craftsy class,¬†Paint Better Portraits: Realistic Skin Tones. I’ll be posting more about the class before it launches in just a couple of weeks, so be sure to check back for all of the latest updates and images here on my blog, as well my Facebook page. If you haven’t done so yet, but would like to subscribe to the blog, I’ll also be offering an exclusive discount for the class once it goes live.

Here are some photos from Paint Better Portraits: Realistic Skin Tones