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Taking a Great Reference Photo (and what to do if you can't)

My custom home illustration process relies a lot on reference photos. And while yes, it would be so unbelievably charming to post up in front of your house and paint en plain air, it’s just not super practical! So, capturing or finding a good reference photo is very important.

photo by Katie Lamb

check out her adorable DIY playhouse makeover here

But here is the thing...I know getting a good reference photo isn’t always easy! Either you’ve moved states away or the only pic you have is at a bad angle or there is a giant tree in the way…believe me I get it. But here are a few of my tips and tricks to getting the best reference pic possible.

1. There is no need to use any special equipment. A cell phone picture works great, so don’t stress about needing fancy gear for a high resolution photo.

2. Take the photo in good light. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised! Snap a photo in natural daylight, preferably without harsh shadows.

Pro tip: aim to take a photo during “golden hour” aka the last hour of daylight. This gives a nice diffused light and helps represent colors most accurately.

3. Watch your angles. Keep your camera level in all planes. Try to stand as “square on” to the home as possible, even if it means standing in your neighbor-across-the-street’s yard. Try not to tilt your phone either direction. Move your phone vertically (up or down) or step further away if you need to adjust to get the entire home in the shot. I would rather have two photos at a good angle than one photo taken from a wonky perspective.

4. If there are big obstacles, take a few different photos to help give me an idea of what is going on behind the obstruction. If you have extra photos to send, send me a message after you’ve submitted an order form here.

Bonus…if there are special details you want reflected, sending extra close-up photos is encouraged.

If for any reason you aren’t able to snap a photo, don’t lose hope, we’ve got options for that too!

First, if you have an older photo of the house, but it’s not the right color or the landscaping has changed or shutters have been added…don’t fret. Send me the photo you have and we can adjust things. With the reference photo, I am looking primarily for architectural features, so as long as your pic portrays that accurately, we can make it work!

If you don't have a photo available, check Zillow or Google Earth. Creepy, yes. Shockingly helpful, yup. My favorite photos to work with usually come from sale listings.

In the rare occasion that you have no old photos and your house is not on Zillow or Google Earth, I am always up for the challenge of taking what’s in your head and creating from that. Send me an email and we can get the conversation started as far as pricing and process to capture the space.

While having a great reference photo is very important and helpful, I never want lack of a photo to stop you from commissioning your own home illustration. Hopefully these tips provide some guidance to snap a great pic or ways to troubleshoot if you can't.

I love getting to celebrate life's most important spaces with you. If you are interested in learning more about commissioning your own home illustration, check out all the details here. Can't wait to connect with you soon!

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