How to Create a Beautiful Pet Portrait
I’m a mom to many: (3) kids and (2) dogs and while there are lots of kid photos throughout our home, our (otherwise spoiled) dogs are ignored in the picture department. So…I set out to create a beautiful pet portrait that reflects our dogs’ personality and spirit and looks great.
I love the classic and timeless look of black and white photography and while I have focused on using a pet photo for this project you can apply these instructions to any subject that will work for your space.
My post, 3 Ways to Add Meaningful & Affordable Art to your Home, provides additional ideas for using personalized art to create a memorable living space.
The Steps to Create a Beautiful Pet Portrait
1 – Take a Photo of your Pet
I am lucky to have a digital SLR camera, the Canon Rebel, and although I understand and use only the very basic functions, the longer I use it the more comfortable I am. However, you can certainly use an inexpensive automatic point and shoot or compact camera because we are going to be using photo-editing software to enhance the final photo.
My biggest tip for this step is to use natural light and not the flash.
For my pet portrait, I decided to shoot indoors, since it is a lot easier to “pose” the dogs in a small area, thus I needed to shoot next to a large window. I used the “AV” mode on my camera and set the ISO at 200 and the aperture at f/5.6. The camera will automatically set the shutter speed. Another option is to use the auto mode and turn off the flash.
Here is the before photo of my dogs:
You may be thinking, Wow, those guys are so well behaved, posing like that! Trust me, this shot was only accomplished with lots of treats. That intense stare is due to their obsession with TREATS!
I like this photo but I have a different vision for my pet portrait.
2 – Edit your Photo
To edit my photos, I use PicMonkey, a free photo editor. I use their Royale upgrade which costs about $6.00/month. But, you can certainly do a lot of stuff with the free editor. There are dozens of great tutorials – trust me it is extremely user-friendly.
Simply set up a free account. Upload a photo from a computer and start editing in the Basic Edits tab of the menu.
First of all, I cropped the photo to the size I needed (see below for an explanation for how to determine the size of your enlarged print), enhanced the exposure and then using the Effects tab of the menu, changed it to black and white. It took me less than two minutes.
The after photo:
3 – Find a Frame
OK, here is my secret: I love to search for frames at thrift shops, especially large ones since they are very expensive.
If you are unable to find a suitable second-hand frame, try Michael’s and make sure they are on sale or you have a coupon. Never pay full price at Michael’s for anything is my motto!
The frame I used to create my beautiful pet portrait was only $5 from my local Habitat for Humanity. It is quite solid and well made. The key to finding suitable second-hand frames is to always check the back to make sure it is sturdy and easy to re-frame. Trust me, (and, I speak from experience) you don’t want a frame that will fall apart once you try taking it apart.
This frame has convenient clips that are easy to snap open.
I was not happy with the colour of the photo mat so I painted it – I like a crisp white mat for my frames. And, yes, you can paint photo mats. I simply brushed on two coats of white chalk paint and let it dry thoroughly (overnight is best). I have also used plain old latex wall paint to paint a mat.
Now that you have your frame, figure out what size of print you will need. My frame is 21 inches wide x 17 inches tall. The mat opening for my frame is 14 x 10.5.
4 – Print your Photo
I use Costco’s Photo Centre to print my photos but if you don’t have a Costco account there are other excellent online photo printing sites. For example, Posterjack is a Canadian site that has competitive prices and good reviews.
Since I was using Costco’s Photo Centre to print the photo I decided to use the 12 x 18 enlarged print size.
Costco’s web site is pretty easy to use – you simply upload your photo from your computer and specify the print size. However, I have learned from experience that the pixel size of your uploaded photo is very important for this process. A concise definition of Pixels is found here.
In order to calculate the correct pixel size for your enlarged print simply multiply the number of inches by 300. For example, I multiplied 12 x 300 and 18 x 300. Thus, the correct pixel sizes for my print are: 5400 x 3600. These are the pixel values I used in the “Crop” mode in PicMonkey. If your uploaded photo is not the correct pixel size then a warning will pop up that your photo will not print properly.
The photo was ready to be picked up the next day. I popped it into the frame and for a total of $10.99 plus tax ($5 for the frame and $5.99 for the photo) we have another addition to the meaningful art decorating our home.
A Note about Greyhounds
Our dogs, Murray and Andy are retired racing greyhounds whom we adopted from a local greyhound rescue group, MGAP Maritime Greyhound Adoption Program, a registered charity that is devoted to rescuing retired greyhounds from racing kennels in the U.S.
Greyhounds make absolutely wonderful pets. We have had Murray for three years and Andy for two so we are well-experienced in raising this special breed. Greyhounds possess superior intelligence, they do not smell or shed excessively and are generally quiet dogs who do not need a lot of physical activity – in fact, they are considered ideal dogs for apartments. These are not animals whose spirit has been broken by their training or racing experience. They are anxious to please and can be trained to standard obedience commands with patience and consistency always done with positive methods. They are also extremely affectionate and very grateful for everything you do for them and with them.
If you want to save a dog and are willing to commit and work through any problems, then you may find in the end – the dog saved you!