Commission a Painting from a Photo

Commission a Painting from a Photo

Is it ok to commission a painting from a photo?

Would you like to commission a painting from a photo?  Your first and most important consideration is the quality of your photo that will be used as a reference.  There are very few good artists who are willing to struggle through working from a poor quality photo with the goal of producing an amazing painting.  You may be able to find an artist who is hungry enough to bite that one off, but you will likely have a substandard painting when the process is over.  Most seasoned artists will have experienced the struggle, frustration, and disappointment of working from a photo that doesn’t give them enough visual information to create anything worth viewing.  More times than not, they will pass the opportunity on to a more desperate artist.

So how does one tell if a photo is worthy?

Commission a painting from a photo

Out of Focus

Firstly, to commission a painting from a photo the photo needs to be in clear focus.  Often there will be a photo that has a crystal clear background and the main subject matter is softened. Your painting will not turn out well if the main subject matter is a blur in your photo.

Secondly, The photo needs to have enough quality and clarity so that it can be enlarged and remain relatively clear.  Most artist who work from photos have an enlargement made to make it easier to work from.

Commission a painting from a photo

Don’t use a flash

Thirdly,  Photos taken indoors with an on-camera flash are very flat looking and will result in a flat looking portrait.  Most artists will not add shadows to a painting that aren’t there in the photo, and it is the shadows that allow an artist to create the illusion of depth.  Ideally, what you are looking for is a photo that has one source of indirect light providing a strong shadow on one side of the face.  Below is a short tutorial on lighting that might give you a better idea of what kind of lighting works best for a great looking portrait. 

Fourthly, There is a lot that an artist can do to change and arrange different elements in your photo.  I have often managed to put a face from one photo on the body of another photo.  It is risky to ask an artist to make these changes, though, because sometimes it just comes out looking not quite right.  If you want the best painting you can get, and you have the means to produce a photo that is pretty close to what you want the painting to look like, then don’t give up and settle for a cut and paste job.  Keep taking pictures until you get what you want.  In this day and age of digital photography you don’t have to worry about wasting film anymore, and it will be worth the extra time and effort to have a painting that you can enjoy to the fullest for years to come.

Commission a Painting from a PhotoFinally, if you want to commission a painting from a photo that is really old, cannot be retaken and is not the best according to the above criteria,  but you think there might be a chance it could be used to make a special, meaningful painting of someone you want to remember, then go ahead and ask me if it is possible.  I have made a few really awesome paintings out of old black and white photos and I have even enjoyed the process!  The photo to the left is a watercolor portrait of my own grandfather that I painted from an old black and white photo.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below and if you have any questions you would prefer not to post publicly feel free to use the contact form and I will personally get back to you.


Commission a Painting from a Photo
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Commission a Painting from a Photo
If you'd like commission a painting from a photo check out Karen Barton's guide on what makes a good reference photo to use to commission a painting.
Karen Barton