Ballpark Estimate: $100 to $1,000 for a scanned photo; $5,000 to $35,000 for an artist
If you’ve ever wished you could immortalize your family and preserve your images for future generations, then you might want to consider commissioning a family portrait. While this used to be a privilege reserved for the wealthy and famous, today there are many avenues you can take to achieve the final masterpiece while still working within your lifestyle and budget.
You probably have a large collection of family photographs throughout your home that are contained in various places, including scrapbooks, photo albums and small frames. While these can be a great way to capture your family’s memories and create a visual story of each family member and their hobbies and interests, a professional family portrait goes to the next level, transforming your images into a work of art perfect to grace that space special place on your wall.
A traditional family portrait usually requires a large time commitment, since all of the members of your family need to sit for the professional artist so he or she can do the initial sketch from which to work. While this is still the traditional process of undergoing such a project, there are other, easier options that exist today. For instance, many companies that you can find online are now able to forego the sitting step and work directly from a photograph you provide. In some cases, the photo is scanned in digitally and the “painting” is computer generated. This is generally one of the easier, least expensive and quickest options available. If you have your heart set on having your work hand-painted, though, and not digitally created, other artists will be willing to use your photo as the model to guide their artwork.
Putting It All Together
Some companies that specialize in working from photographs also point out that if you have family members scattered in different locations, you can provide separate photos of each person and have the artist combine them all into one family pose. This can be very convenient and can give you results you might not be able to get any other way. If you plan to go this route, some artists may request multiple views of each person in order to get the best angles and to get a feel for each person’s unique look and personality so this can shine through in the final product.
It is also worth noting that if your family members are all local, instead of providing your own photograph of your family, some artists may have you all come together so he or she can pose you for a series of photographs that he or she will take. This ensures that the artist will have the right poses to guide the final portrait results.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
If you are want to commission an artist to hand-craft a painting of your family, the experts say the best place to start is often by deciding on your budget and the style you desire. If you want to keep your costs down to under $500, you may want to consider looking at some of the online companies that connect you with artists who can work from a photo or photos you provide. Many of these types of online venues offer artists that work in oil, acrylic, charcoal and other mediums. Some artists will reproduce the photographic look exactly, while others may add their own unique stylized touch to your piece.
Just keep in mind that the level of detail and expertise each person brings to the task, as well as the materials used, will affect the price you can expect to pay. If you do an Internet search for keywords like family portrait, hand-painted portrait and artists, you will find a range of options to explore. If you find a company or artist you like, just remember to check references and even do a search to see what people online are saying (good or bad) about the company.
If you have more money to invest and are looking for a list of professional artists with whom you can contact with directly, you can also look at websites like A Stroke of Genius, which can connect you to about 150 professional artists, or the American Society of Portrait Artists, which that provide directories with links to artists by state.
Further, if money is no object and you want to work with a very high-caliber professionals, there are brokers who specialize in helping to match people with the finest portrait artists. One such brokerage is called Leonard Commissioned Portraits, where you can browse some of the artists’ impressive portfolios online. (Just keep in mind that working with such talent can come at a very high price.)
How to Prepare
Whether you will be investing in a hand-painted portrait where you will pose for the artist in person or whether you prefer to provide a photograph, you will want to give some thought to what you and your family members will wear and what is in the background. Some artists recommend sticking with clothing in neutral tones and avoiding loud patterns. In addition, you will want to select styles that will be timelines so the photo will retain a class feel for years to come. You will also want to think about the setting for your portrait. You might opt for an outdoor backdrop that incorporates trees, water or other elements of nature, or you might prefer a more formal indoor scene. Where you plan to hang the portrait can help dictate these details, since you can decide on what feel will work best in this spot.
It is also worth noting that if there are portrait samples you particularly like – or particularly don’t like – you may want to provide these to the artist to help him or her get a feel for the style you desire.
What to Consider
When agreeing on a business arrangement with an artist, some of the fine points you will want to arrange include:
- Portrait size
- Mood and feel you desire of finished work
- Who will be included in the portrait
- Medium to be used
- Whether it will include a formal sitting or be done from a photo
- If it’s to be done from a photo, will you provide it or will the artist take it?
- Cost for the portrait
- Expected date of completion
- Delivery method and expense
- Additional expenses to consider
What It Costs
The price to have a family portrait spans quite a wide range. A lot depends on the method you use for the final product and the level of expertise and training the artist brings to your job. On the lowest end of the spectrum is going with a computer generated image. This is usually the quickest and most affordable option. The way it works is that a company typically scans in a photo that you provide and an artist recreates it using an electronic program, so it is “digitally” painted on the screen rather than hand-painted on a canvas. The cost for this process can start at about $100 for a small (11 x 14 inch) computer-generated portrait with only one or two people in it. The larger the size you desire and the more people in the image, the higher the price will rise. Some artists also charge more to include the entire figure of each family member, but headshots may be more reasonable. Be sure to ask lots of questions up front to find out exactly what is included in the price. You can spend up to $1,000 for a large size very detailed digital painting.
If you request the same image but want it hand-painted instead of computer generated, you can expect this to start at about $200 and go on up to about $1,000if you use one of the many online companies that work remotely and don’t require any direct communication between you and the artist. Both digitally-generated and hand-painted portraits that are ordered online can often be completed in a quick timeframe, taking anywhere from a week to a month to get the final product.
If you prefer to work directly with a highly-trained artist, however, the price will be significantly higher and the turnaround time is also greatly increased. A lot depends on how well known the artist is, since the price he or she can command is directly related to his or her status and reputation. In addition, how much time and work will be involved will also need to be factored into the equation. The price can start at about $5,000 or $6,000 on the very low end, but in fact, it is not unusual to spend about $15,000 to have a high-quality family portrait painted. Further, the cost can go up as high as $35,000, however, for a well-respected artist. And for someone whose work is in very high demand from celebrities and dignitaries, the price can be even higher.
You can often expect such a project to take anywhere from several months to a year or more to complete. You should also be aware that if you commission an artist from out of your area to do the job, you will usually need to pay for his or her travel expenses and accommodations. Some artists will build these costs into the quote they give you, while others will add it as a separate fee.
So you can spend anywhere from $100 to $1,000 to order a family portrait from one of the many online services you can find that copy the images from a photograph that you provide, or from $5,000 to $35,000 to hire a professional artist to create a full family portrait from scratch.
If you desire very professional results but can’t swing the high expense of hiring a well-known artist, yet you aren’t willing to settle for ordering your painting via the Internet instead, there is one other option to consider. The experts say you can try to work with a less-established artist or recent art school graduate who might be willing to give you a break on such a project in order to build his or her portfolio. Just be sure that the person’s work is up to the caliber you desire before agreeing to hire him or her. If you can find someone who has a style you like, this can be a great way to get a highly professional original family portrait painted at a very reasonable price.