Turning Great Photos into Unforgettable Illustrations

Tom by Torri Small

Tom Nelson PhotoPeople sometimes ask us why someone would bother to commission art when they could just take a photo. Rather than give our own answer, we figured we would let Tom Nelson, a professional photographer who recently commissioned a cartoon portrait by our very own Torri, for his take.

Along with his explanation below, you’ll find tips on providing artists with optimal reference photos- the kind that will produce awesome illustrations like the one above! :D

Why Have an Artist Draw an Already-Great Photo?

Many people don’t see the point in turning an already-good photo into an illustration. What inspired you to have Torri do a portrait for you?

First, I like the idea of ArtCorgi and want to support artists. Second, Torri’s style is graphic and iconic, which makes my image distinctive in a world of easy snapshots. This will be for my personal facebook page, so I can be more playful than on a commercial photography site. Third, the support I was on partly obscured my belly and hips. It would have been a chore to retouch it in a realistic photo.

How to Provide Great Reference Photos

You provided us with an incredibly fun reference photo – what is the story behind it?

I like the idea of flying, and it symbolizes the freedom and joy of creativity for me. I want to put the image into various backgrounds, so I wanted a full body image with a blank background that I could cut away.

Our artists tell us again and again that good reference photos make a huge difference in how a commission will turn out. As a professional photographer, what tips can you give to people with regard to providing artists with helpful reference photos to artists?

Good question! You want the image to have a distinct light source, with noticeable shadows, but the shadows should be “open” (you should see detail within them. For a more three-dimensional look, consider adding a “skim light” which comes from behind and off to the shadow side, putting a highlight on the edge of the shadow. For a cartoon look, decide what emotion you want to convey and exaggerate it.

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To see more of Tom’s work, check out his website!