How to Choose Photos for your Custom Order

Your photos don't have to be professional; in fact, a few quick smartphone photos will more than likely do the trick. And if you're commissioning a portrait as a gift, you can probably dig up appropriate photos without spoiling the surprise. However, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when gathering photos for your custom order. Remember that I can't see you in person, so I rely on the reference photos you send. For a portrait that you'll love, it's very important that you send good reference photos and clear explanations, per the 10 tips below:

1. I'll need 2-3 good photos of each person (and/or pet). It's helpful for me to have multiple photos to reference. So what is a "good photo"?

2. Photos should be close up. They don't have to be so close that I can count every hair and freckle, but I should be able to see your facial features (eyes/nose/mouth) clearly. Think headshot rather than full-body group photo.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

  • Full-body photos are great for showing the clothing you'd like me to draw. We'll talk about that below.
  • If you have hi-res, professional images, full-body photos are usually okay because I can still see your face clearly when I zoom in. What's really important is that...

3. Photos should be large enough that I can see your face without pixelation.

4. Faces should be turned straight toward the camera. My portraits are frontal, so I need to see what you look like from that view (not in profile, and not at 3/4). Try to find good representations of face shapes and hairstyles.

6. If photos are from different time periods and they show the same person with multiple hairstyles, or different glasses, etc., be sure to clarify which look is current. Also note any particular details I should be sure to include (i.e. her red lipstick, his dimples, their height difference). Send me a message or include the information in file names.

7. Choose an outfit for each person (skip to step #9 if you ordered magnets or a vintage style couple portrait). This is where full-body photos can be very helpful. If you don't have a photo of each person wearing their outfit, that's okay! You can send a photo of the clothing laid out your bed/floor, or find a photo of a similar outfit online (online shops are great for clothing references). Outfits are a fun and important part of the illustrations, so err on the side of too much detail and I'll simplify as needed. 

8. For your pets, I'll need a couple of full-body photos to show their color and markings. Make sure you note any important details (i.e., relative sizes, a spot on the nose, or a tail with a white tip).

9. After placing a custom portrait order, expect a message (in 1-2 business days, via Etsy Conversation) with a link to a private Dropbox folder. Once you've gathered all your photos and information, upload the photos via the link provided.*

10. Do not upload photos that are embedded in a Word Document or a single PDF. Jpegs are the best file format. If you have a large order with a lot of people, it can be helpful to organize the photos in a Zip file (with one subfolder per person), so that I can easily understand who's who. Or, you can include names and important info in the file names (ex. "elizabeth outfit.jpg" or "alex current glasses.jpg").

*You do not need a Dropbox account to upload your photos. However, check your email (the address associated with your Etsy account) for an invitation to join and edit your Dropbox. It’s free to sign up, and you’ll be able to manage the photos you have uploaded. 


Additional Photo FAQs

  • Do you need the whole family in one perfect photo? No. Separate photos for each subject are fine. 
  • Do I need to send photos as soon as I place my order? In order to stay on track for timely completion, please send photos within two weeks of placing an order. Your Dropbox link will have a deadline. You will still be able to upload photos after the deadline, but your order may not be completed within the original estimated time frame. 
  • Do you include custom eye colors and skin tones? I do not include eye color in my minimalist portrait style. For paper dolls and magnets, skin color will be simplified to one of a few basic shades (see examples here and here), so the illustrations will not include subtleties like undertones or suntans. I’ll choose the skin tones and hair colors that I think fit best based on your photos. If you have specific requests, or think the differences in family members' skin tones or hair colors may be hard to discern from photos, I'd love your input.
  • What about other details (jewelry, tattoos, etc.)? Because of the minimalist portrait style (and tiny size!) most details will be simplified. For example, instead of a detailed wedding ring, I can draw a tiny silver or gold mark. Tattoos will be simplified as well, but I’ll need good photos of the tattoos in order to recreate the overall colors and shapes. Paper doll accessories that require more complicated cuts — e.g., a handbag — will cost extra, and will need to be discussed on a case-by-case basis.


Still have questions?

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