How Does a Custom Portrait Work?

Updated: Jan 15

Here is a journey through the start to finish process of ordering a custom portrait, what to prepare for, and what's exciting about it!

Stage One - Choosing the Portrait Photograph to be Drawn or Painted

You are holding an important position of power right here, planning a portrait artwork of somebody else (or yourself). So who is it you're wanting to have a portrait made of? What do they mean to you?

There are things that make some portraits stand out above others, but what are they exactly?

Portraits are one of the most influential photographs in history - they show the real, bare and honest human beings that have lived and made a contribution to mankind! Photographers and artists have been making portraits since.. ever! They date back to when humans were first living here on Earth - so there is no limit to the amount of diversity that can be achieved now in our contemporary world. In today's technologically advanced world, every other person is a fantastic selfie artist on their smartphone camera, and personally I love that. It's easy to criticise from a sceptic who always inserts into conversations that the 'gen y' are 'the self-absorbed' - I think mastering the selfie is a creative and personal endeavour, like any other skill a human can master. I too, have been called vain for self-portrait artworks that I have produced, which is a much larger-scale effort than a quick camera selfie.

Knowing how your face looks at different angles is all part and parcel in your portrait photo selection. You may take quite a number of shots, then look through them and decide which one you like best! Some portraits make you say "wow!" and some portraits may not have this effect. Go with your own intuition and remember that quirky or unique photos are wonderful!

Are you afraid to take photographs? Some of us are, and that's okay, not everyone understands the dynamic ways of photography. The best way to start is just to head out and give it a go! You don't have to be in a fancy place with a fancy camera, these days smart phones have excellent quality cameras!

Here's a list of criteria that make realistic portraits 'pop':

- Highly detailed and high resolution - avoid blurry reference photos, it doesn't matter if the background is blurred, however the portrait subject is the person or pet in the foreground (who the portrait is about), they need to be crisp, in-focus, and clear.

- Emotion - think clearly about what purpose your portrait is for. Is it a memoir of someone who is no longer with us? Is it a gift to someone for their birthday, Christmas, wedding, or other special occasion? Think about this, and then look at the photograph. Matching the mood of the purpose and the facial and bodily expressions contained in the photograph leads to a more successful portrait.

- Draws attention to the subject - is the subject (person, people or pet/s) really standing out in the photograph? Is there something in the background that really stands out and draws the viewer's eye away from the person? Or does it add to the meaning of the person or pet? Having a background excluded from your portrait is a very straight-forward way to solve this problem if you have any doubtful thoughts, the same photograph can still be used. Alternatively, is there a better background that you'd like? Send through another background if you like that one better and Tam can merge the two together. TPP offers a range of options here.

- Centre of the photo, or off-centre? - Does your photograph show the subject (person, people or pet/s) exceptionally well, only they're not quite in the centre of the whole photograph? The eye tends to lead toward the centre of artworks, this is a natural tendency, although artworks often draw the eye to other areas of the canvas. This is okay, to save taking another photo, just simply ask Tam to place that person or pet in the centre, or off-centre for a creative effect. Thinking about where to pinpoint your subject on the artwork surface is worthwhile.

- Exact people and/or pet/s in the photo - Do you have a photograph which has multiple people, but you'd prefer to crop some people and/or pets out? Not to worry, Tam has painted and drawn a range of portraits which were from photographs which included extra subjects. We can reduce it to the minimum to focus on the exact person, people or pet/s this portrait is about.

- Values, Culture and Lifestyle - I'm talking about our internal values and culture that make us human, as we all have a unique set of these and ways which drive the way that we live. Is your subject a person who loves to be seen smiling, in a suit, doing their fun leisurely activities, in a fancy special-occasion dress-up, naked, what bridges you to that person or pet, how do you know them? This is worthwhile to think about, and ensure you are portraying the subject in a way that they will be proud to be portrayed, as seeing a portrait of yourself is an emotional experience.

Oil Painted Portraits:

Graphite Pencil Portraits:

Stage Two - Ordering your Custom Portrait

View my gallery on the website to see examples of the following options:

Sizing: * A4 (small) for pencil, or 8" x 10" for oil paint * A3 (medium) for pencil, or 12" x 16" for oil paint * A2 (large) for pencil, or 18" x 24" for oil paint

* A1 (extra large) for pencil, or 24" x 36" for oil paint

The reason I provide these sizes is for ease of framing, it is very easy and cost-effective for you to find frames in these sizes, they are widely available at department stores.

Surface Types:

* Canvas - oil painting portraits

* Paper - best for pencil drawing portraits


* Graphite pencil (monochrome or colour, best in monochrome) * Oil paint (monochrome or colour, best in colour) Background?

* Background Included - excellent if the background is subtle, not overwhelming or distracting

* No Background - best for portraits where you want to solely focus on the subject, it's quite capturing to see a subject drawn or painted with no background


* Landscape: wide

* Portrait: long

* Square: same length and width

It's best to look at your photograph and go with the way it's already oriented

Colour or Monochrome:

* Colour: Best for oil paint and coloured pencil

* Monochrome: Best for graphite pencil

Get a High Quality Photograph:

* High resolution

* Clear

* Crisp

* Portrays the subject nicely

Stage Three - Ordering Your Portrait

On the home page you can view the sizes - small, medium, large and extra large, and then click on the size of portrait you wish to order.

Once you're on the page, select your preferences for the following:

Portrait Options:
Orientation - landscape or portrait
Background  - included or no background
Photographs - One or Multiple photographs overlayed into one portrait
Colour Scheme - Full colour or Monochrome
IMPORTANT: Email your reference photo or multiple reference photos to

Please remember to email your reference photo/s to me!!

Stage Four: Starting your Portrait!

This is the exciting part, I will verify that you've ordered successfully and submitted your photos. Don't worry if you haven't done this yet, I can't start the portrait without the photo/s so I will send you a friendly reminder and when you have time you can send them through :)

If at any stage you have any design-change ideas, flick me an email or message on my Tam's Photorealistic Portraits social media, and I will consider these changes. I am overall very flexible when it comes to creatively constructing a portrait.

If you've given consent to share your portrait on social media, I may post some progress videos or photographs on social media, so stay tuned to see these pop-up!

Instagram: @tams_portraits

Facebook: @tamsportraits

Hashtag: #tamsportraits

Stage Six: Completion of your Portrait!

Once your portrait has been completed, I will photograph it and send you an email to check it. If you have anything you think could be better or different, please let me know in the final review stage, detailed in the email sent to you.

It's important to embrace this open dialogue at the end - I always remind people that I love and value feedback so much. I really do appreciate it when there's a little something that could be improved. It shows me that we can connect on our eye for detail! It also means that you can truly get your value and satisfaction in the portrait that you've ordered. I would feel twice as bad if the portrait was sent to you and you didn't quite love part of it. So please do tell me! I won't be offended, I'm very nice and as my old boss used to say "adaptive". I don't believe this open dialogue should involve any conflict at all, it's your portrait, so I'll do whatever I can to make it the best for you!

Stage Seven: Shipping

Depending on the size of your portrait, this may take up to 10 business days. The Australia Post system has been fairly average, I've had many debates with them over the counter about their service, so I am now often opting for Express to make this more efficient for you (free shipping within Australia).

I have also tried the Officeworks Mailman system, however after they damaged the only portrait I posted with them, so going forward I refuse their service.

Paper portraits are rolled up and sent in a sealed tube.

Canvases are sent in bubble-wrap postal case bags.

Stage Eight: Display your Portrait for the audience to see!!

Audiences range from family, friends, to acquaintances and the world!

Think about who you'd like to show your portrait to, it's quite an emotional experience, and definitely something special to chat about over a nice dinner.

I love to see how you display your portrait, if you could send me a photo I feel EXTREMELY warm and fuzzy and do a little excited happy dance. It's about the little things.


If you have any questions regarding the TPP Portrait Experience, please email me at

Much love,

Tam xx