How to Take a Portrait Photo for an Artist

Disclaimer:: We have partnered with Jim Sasse Art and a portrait was given in the writing of this post. 

Recently, I had the great pleasure of having a portrait illustration done of my 3 year old son, Joshua. My husband’s uncle, Jim Sasse, is an amazing artist and so we were beyond thrilled that he offered to do this for us. Take a look at his handywork…

Y’all. Those eyes!!! To say I am completely enamored with the outcome is an understatement. I can’t wait to have it framed so I can hang it in our living room. 

But before I could send him a photo of Joshua to draw from, I had to take a photo of my 3 year old fidgety precious boy. How in the world was I going to get the correct photo (mind you, I’m no photographer!!) with the correct light and get my crazy energetic boy to sit still for 5 seconds?? Well, Jim sent me some helpful tips to getting the perfect photo for an artist to use for drawings or paintings (his tips are in quotes below)…

Outdoor Light

“I always request that the session be outdoors for better light and the light is best in the early morning or late afternoon. There also needs to be several options nearby in the setting – such as steps or a spot in the garden, with a pleasing background they want in the painting.” 

Don’t Stress

“The best sessions have been with moms who are calm and not over-stressing over their child behaving well. I think that is biggest worry of any parent. Moms can be very helpful in calming the child and having the child relax and be at ease for the camera. I like to have something in the child’s hand to occupy them. It can be a simple toy or a flower.”

Slight Angle

“The object is not to get a great photo, although that helps, but to get a photo that is good to paint from. It is best for a painting if the child is not grinning from ear to ear. The best paintings are usually not a straight-on look but a slight angle from the camera, perhaps looking at the parent. I usually tell the child funny stories while I am photographing! The window of opportunity to get the look you want is very small for a young child, so I snap many shots in quick succession in order to have THE one that the mom loves.”

Simple Clothing

“The outfit the child is wearing is also a big factor. You don’t want to use something trendy because in ten years you may regret it. A classic look and not one with lots of floral prints. Stripes are difficult to paint, solid colors or simple smocking works well. You don’t want the fabric to call attention away from the child’s face.”

Word to the wise–take lots of photos and if your child won’t cooperate, stop and try another day (or after a nap, like us!). I probably took 50 photos and narrowed it down to about 3-4 that would actually work. Also, borrow a ‘real’ camera. I-phone photos are great for social media, but not for artists. Now is the time for Christmas orders! After my mom saw this, she was already planning when she could get an illustration of the grandkids for herself! For more information on getting a portrait done, check out Jim Sasse Art