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What Makes a Great Reference Photo?

I often get asked what makes a good reference photo. Here are some things to keep in mind when selecting yours.

Multiple Photos

In order to capture the best likeness possible, it's a great idea to send more than one reference photo. That will give me a better idea of details and features that one single photo might not be able to provide. Once you decide on the photo that you want me to use as a reference for your portrait, choose a few more that show your subject(s) from different angles. That will  allow me to see more of their facial attributes and characteristics, and help me to create the most interesting and accurate portrait possible!


One of the most important things to consider when selecting your photograph(s) is lighting. Bright, clear, well-lit photos are very important for me to be able to capture the best representation of your subject.

Camera Lens

I often get reference photos that have been shot on a phone. In these cases, obviously, there is no choice in lens selection.

However, if you're having your photo taken with a dedicated camera with interchangeable lenses, you have some interesting options to think about that will effect the final result.

The gif below illustrates the difference between various lenses- wider angle lenses (such as 24mm) make the face look narrower and the nose look bigger. Zoom lenses tend to flatten out the face and make it look wider. Many photographers believe that the lens that captures the most accurate photo relative to what the human eye sees is around 50mm on a full-frame camera or 35mm on an APS-C (non full-frame) camera.

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions about your photos! You can contact me here.

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