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Hello from Croatia! + source photo help

Hi everyone, my name is Nikola, I am an art history student but I really want to paint for the rest of my life. Mark's teaching is what influenced me to want to become a painter and I will never be able to express all my gratitude to everyone at Geneva. Also there is a lot of interesting and useful stuff here on the forum.
 I was thinking of doing a painting of my dog Nera and I have some questions about my possible source photo. I know it's not that good for a source probably, I took it with an iphone 4s and changed it here and there just on my laptop. I don't have a camera so I've done the best I could. I was hoping you guys could point out what's wrong with the photo in terms of exposure, contrast and so on, because my goal is to have a photograph that is as close to real life as possible (I usually don't like the photography effects in paintings)
Any help would be more than welcome!!


  • Hello nikola

    Welcome to the Forum.

    in my opinion this is a poor photograph, let alone a photo to paint from.

    From your art history studies you will have formed an appreciation of the qualities that make a good representative and realist image.  How accurate and true to life is this image? 

    The black shapes are an abstraction of a dog, recognisable only from the eye highlight and the lighter value on the nose. However, if this photo says something special to you then paint it.

    I suggest taking another set of shots in brighter light. Ask Google images to show you dog pictures to get a big range of ideas about framing, composition, lighting, action, pose etc.


  • Hi, Nikola. Welcome to the forum.

    Your dog is lovely and the highlight in the eye is great but, as I see it, the dark area in the lower right third of the painting is going to present problems. The dog disappears into it. What would you fill it with? I would take another photo of the dog with something lighter in that lower right area.

    I'm glad you've joined us on the forum.


  • Thank you both for your useful comments.

    I know this is a bad photo to paint from, I am aware of that, but I wanted to hear your comments as to what exactly is wrong with it so that I can judge my other photos in the future, and I got what I wanted, so thank you very much for your help.
    I mainly wanted to say hi to everyone and I just put this photo to see better what was wrong with it. 

    You guys are the best, thanks
  • Mark_CarderMark_Carder admin
    edited June 2016
    I love the photo I think it's great and would make a great painting except for only one thing and that is the foreground is crushed black. Meaning there's no detail at all and that the entire area will just be painted with black paint except for a very few little highlights. Anyway I think the only thing you need to do in the future is not choose subject with so much difference between the highlights and the Shadows. When you're standing there looking at this in real life it will look great to your eye. But when it is converted into a photograph or into a painting the dark areas will be crushed. This is simply because the range in photographs and in paintings is limited by black ink or black paint and white paper or white paint. In real life the range is much much much greater. So it is a matter of learning to look at things and to realize that many of the Shadows may end up being darker than black and becoming sensitive to that before you take the picture so that you don't end up with photos like this one.

    In this case I think the way you would resolve this problem in the very best way would be to throw more light unto the dog before the picture is taken. The overall exposure might be slightly too dark but it's actually very close I think to being perfect.

    I look forward to seeing your painting!
  • Hi Nikola, welcome  :)
  • @Mark_Carder Thank you very much, I'm glad you like the photo. I actually loved the light because it was natural sunlight and just saw my dog and the crumpled sheets and thought it would make a cool painting. I just then noticed my black pants haha and removed them but I didn't like all the other pictures, so I was left with this one (with black pants).

    I know you have talked about setting your exposure from highlights and not from shadows I think, so I actually started going a little too dark just in case. I've read the photo guide and I'll try to get a real camera and take raw pictures and paint things properly.
    Love everything you do, and your beautiful paintings! 

    @Boudicca Thanks  :)

  • Can you retake the photo of the black pants, or with another fabric from the same angle? Then you could combine the dog with lighter surroundings from the new photo..
  • Oh, you can lighten the picture a bit without seeing too much lost detail I think:

  • @Richard_P  Oh yeah I think combining the pants from the photo you've posted and the original would look good, especially if I increase the exposure on mine just a tiny bit.

    Well, now I might even paint it one day, I know I'll paint my dog anyway, you guys have really encouraged me, I was unsure because the subject is so subjective (it is my dog after all) so I didn't know if it looked ok. I'm glad you like it.

    Thank you again for you suggestions, this forum is amazing!!
  • The composition is very strong.  It works as a nice subject and also as an abstract arrangement--one large dark mass and one light, with a nice diagonal, and everything draws your attention to the little highlight of the eye.  I hope that you give it a shot.. 
  • Hi Nicola ,  
    I love your dog. Schnauzers are so beautiful. 
    You have given me the idea of painting my own dog , a King Charles spaniel. 
     I have always thought it would be too difficult but I have watched enough of Mark's videos now to want to give it a try. 
    This is the best photo I have of her. Her name is Lucy. 

  • Hi nikola - love your dog! Very much resembles one of my dogs! <3
  • Hi Hilary, what a lovely dog. I think you may find this photo is a bit blurry to use for a painting- I have roughly sharpened the focus on the (our) right of his/her face to give you an idea of what I mean.

  • Cute dog, Hilary! The photo's a bit blurred.  However, you could paint the face in sharp focus as per Boudicca's adjustment and do the rest of the picture in soft focus which might give a nice effect.
  • Thanks guys ! 
    I'm going to transfer this to the photography thread. 
    I don't want to invade Nikola's thread.  
    But she has given me the idea to paint my dog. 
    Maybe we should all post pictures of our dogs as I'm sure there are many dog lovers among us. 
  • Hi Hilary, Lucy is a lovely dog. My dog is actually a bichon havanese but she always gets confused with many other breeds. And I am a guy haha. Good luck with your painting!
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