I all too often receive photo references that leave a lot to be desired, because they are too dark, out of focus and full of shadows. When I start a commission the first thing I do is crop out everything that is distracting.
Reference photo before adjustments
As you can see from the image above very little detail can be seen in the face due to back lighting. So the next step is to see if another photo reference can be used.
Here is cropped the face of another photo and placed it over the old reference photo. As is there are some skewing issues, but I will address these when I paint. Next step is to find a suitable backdrop. Due to the amount of shadows on the dog, I went for an outdoor grass setting. We assume that trees might be close by which might account for the shadows on the dog.
My client wanted to have Chewy hold his favorite ball and have the name added to the painting.
Throughout the entire time I communicated with my client to make sure that every change was to her liking. Even the grass was slightly changed and went from a bright version to a slightly darker one. Only when everything was 100% to the clients liking was the painting called finished and prepped for shipping. No matter how large or small, every painting gets my fullest attention and the result is what you see below.