If you’re going on vacation to a place you’ve never been, there are several ways to begin. You could ask friends who have been to your desired location or you could go to your most knowledgeable buddy: Google. You’ll find pictures of your desired location, but that won’t quite be enough to give you a feel for what the experience will be like. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could give you a map and a detailed itinerary with a packing list of what you’ll need on your trip? Having an artist create a piece of personalized art is a lot like going on a trip to somewhere you’ve never been.
The first thing you’ll need to do is find an image that inspires you. Look through memory books, digital image storage (iPhone, iCloud, etc.), and old shoe boxes of photos. This can take a while, so you’ll want to get started as soon as possible, especially if you have a date by which you want to have your painting in hand.
4 Things to Ask Yourself When Looking for a Reference Photo
Once you have a pile of photos that make you feel happy, you’ll want to go through them with an eye for what will work for art. Not all photos will be a good reference photo for art. The three rules listed here are in no way a definitive list or the final word on what makes good art, they are simply the methods I use to help my own art collectors make decisions about which photo to have me paint. This list should help you sift through all your photos to find the best images to send to the artist you want to commission. Ask yourself the following:
“Does this photo spark joy?” Have you heard of Marie Kondo and her movement to spark joy? Essentially, Kondo helps people tidy up their spaces by asking themselves if each item they have sparks joy or not. This method is great for photos, too. If the photo doesn’t spark joy, set it aside.
“Are the people in the photo posing or are they acting naturally?” Ancient tribes used to think that having their photo taken would steal their soul. While we know this isn’t correct — and thank goodness (think of any selfie you’ve ever taken!) — in my estimation, it’s partially true. I think that posed photos don’t show the true soul of a person. They show the person pretending who they think people want to see. Unless you’re looking for a strict portrait, look for photos that are candid, unposed, preferably with the eyes of the subject of the photo looking at anything but the camera.
“Is there ‘breathing room’ and good lighting in this photo?” This means that the main focus of the photo has plenty of space around it, whether it’s a child, a group, or an object. Find images with at least two-thirds of background in the photo, unless your background is going to change. Good lighting will properly illustrate shadows and light, an important part of art. Natural lighting is best, of course, but even a well-lit indoor shot could work, too. If you think it might work, include it.
“Do I have rights to this photo?” Did you take the photo? Then, you have the rights. If the photo was taken by professional photographer, you’ll need to talk to them and see whether they would approve having one of their images made into art. Many times photographers will okay the use of their photos as inspiration for a work of art, but not asking could be construed as copyright infringement (a very serious offence). It’s always better to ask than to assume.
There are many other questions your artist will likely ask you about the photos you select, like:
How do you feel about this photo and can you tell me about what’s happening here?
Are there any colors you don’t like in this photo or would like me to change?
How do you feel about the current background in the photo?
Once I have been commissioned by someone, my next step after my collector selects their photos is to review the photos with them, decide, and get started. Getting started means the collector pays in full or half upfront (with the second half due upon delivery). If you have any questions about the commission process with me, contact me. I’m happy to answer any questions you have about commissions.