Selecting Photo References for a Portrait

Portrait of young boy with curly hair on a red-orange background.
Portrait of young boy with curly hair on a red-orange background.

For Example, Let’s say you want a portrait of a young guy in your family so that you can keep him forever at this age while also not setting the stage for a life of expensive therapy. How do you get started working with an artist?

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6 of 100 Faces ~ Oliver Walton

For centuries portraits were serious and staid because the models had to sit still for hours and couldn’t maintain a smile or expression that long. Now artists have the luxury of photography that can be used in place of, or in combination with, sitting sessions. This means Kellie can capture a variety engaging facial expressions that were either impossible in the past, or that would have looked sad as the sitter got exhausted from a long day staring into space with a stranger staring back at them.

But to everyone’s delight, these days most people carry a decent camera with them everywhere they go. Phone cameras are better than the Instamatic ones that used to be our good cameras. SO much better! In fact they’re so much better that a lot of people decide they don’t need anything else for recording their memories. Unfortunately, lots of digital photos fade into oblivion. Either they get lost on your old phone, or you transfer them to your computer without labelling them. Seriously, how many of us label each and every phone pic we take of our dog sleeping? So, there’s a big mass of unlabelled pics in your computer now, and eventually you’ll need a new computer. They get lost even more easily than old fashioned snap shot photos.

When you find you have accidentally taken an amazing shot of someone you love (and you love yourself, don’t you?) save that sucker where you can find it. When you have a few shots of your 6 year old grandson making that one face he makes that warms your heart, or selfies of yourself doing something you love to do, send them to me to start working on a commissioned portrait.

How we can work with your photos:

  1. Scroll through your photos looking for ones that reflect a characteristic mood of the person who will be the subject of the portrait. Does he often have that half smile? Does she tend to make goofy faces? Was there that one time where they burst into surprised laughter and you never want to forget it? Be on the lookout for shots that have interesting lighting.
  2. Consider the occasion for which the portrait is being created. If it is for personal use, we can do a mood piece that really shows off the person. If we’re doing a business portrait, we might want to stick closer to a mood that reflects what the company is about.
  3. Grab those pics and put them in a file titled: Kellie Snider Portrait References.
  4. Open a new email and attach the file.
  5. In the body of the email mention the things you like best about each photo. Does his personality really show through in this one? Does she just look especially happy in that one?
  6. Send an email containing those photos to Kellie at
  7. Kellie will look at all the photos and suggest ones that are likely to work best. Some pictures you like may not be usable due to color fading or blurriness, but that’s okay, because each snap helps her learn about the person. Make sure some really clear photos are included. If it turns out none of the photos will work, such as in the case of a memorial portrait which cannot be retaken, we will discuss options and alternatives.

 How to schedule a photography session with the artist:

  1. If you would like to schedule a photo session with the artist for photos that will be used to create the original portrait, email me at .
  2. Sitting fees cost $100 for up to an hour, with $30 added for each additional quarter hour.
  3. Kellie will drive to your location or an agreed-upon location within Pittsburgh. Additional mileage to travel beyond Pittsburgh will be charged based on the current federal mileage (in 2023 it is $.65 per mile).
  4. For more distant travel, travel expenses, lodging, and meals will charged in addition to the sitting fee.

How to prepare for a photo session:

  1. Dress for how you want to be depicted. Eccentric is my favorite! Formal, casual, fancy, simple, anything goes.
  2. Select a location that reflects the mood as well. It doesn’t need to be elaborate because increasingly I make backgrounds abstract. I will be looking for a place where we can achieve interesting lighting on the face.

Onward and Upward,