Painter Jeff Scher bases his charming, graceful portraits on naturally lit photos. His advice is to shoot outside on a bright but overcast day, keep the mood casual, and never stop clicking—the best moments are those between poses. (If you live in the New York City area, Scher will shoot the photo himself.) Pet portraits also available. Typical lead time: two weeks.
A classic silhouette made modern and vibrant. (Gouache is an opaque watercolor.) Send Brooklyn artist Carter Kustera the caption you would like (at least three words) and a profile shot; take the photo against a white wall and don't use a flash. Typical lead time: two weeks.
To buy: $160 (12 by 9 inches, framed), a special price for Real Simple readers, carterkustera.com.
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Acrylic and Photo on Canvas
Portland, Oregon–based Lisa Golightly incorporates a photo of the subject's face into a dreamlike mixed-media scene. Choose from her existing designs or work with her to create a new one. Typical lead time: one month.
Gregg Deal, in Washington, D.C., turns a digital photo into abstract shapes, creates a stencil of the composition, then paints it onto thick wood. Candids shot in natural light (no flash) work best. Typical lead time: one month.
Painter Leigh Jackson, in Vancouver, likes clients to pick a favorite photo for her to reproduce. Choose a high-resolution close-up head shot so she can clearly see the animal's eyes. Typical lead time: three weeks.
Valerie Leonard of the team Dutch Touch will work with you to choose the perfect old-world portrait in which to set your pet. (She'll send a digital rendering before oil touches canvas.) Personal effects, such as favorite toys, can be included. Close-up, straight-on digital head shots in outdoor lighting work best. Typical lead time: three months.
Jane Oriel, based in San Francisco, places pets against a pretty, patterned backdrop—your favorite rug or wallpaper, perhaps (you'll send shots). Oriel will talk to you to get a sense of your pet's personality. Typical lead time: two months.
Stella Poore's silhouettes (she does humans, too) are sleek and affordable. The best way to get a profile shot of a cat or a dog? Have a friend hold a treat a bit higher than eye level, then snap from the side. Typical lead time: a few days.
To create his super-realistic Pop Art paintings, New York City-based Scott Lifshutz likes to reference a few photos. Shoot outside in the shade or inside with your back to the window. Typical lead time: two months.