When working from life is not possible, good photos are important!
Best time and place(s) to take your photographs
If possible, try to photograph your subject without a flash in good natural daylight, avoiding overly bright or backlit situations, which can affect the true color of skin, hair/fur, with the exception of animals with black coats, use a flash. In outdoor settings, the mid morning or early afternoon is usually the best time. Indoor flash photography changes the appearance of colors, risks the 'red-eye' effect, which distorts the color of the eyes and generally "flattens" the appearance of a subject, so it is to be avoided. Using a tripod for some of the photographs will also help to keep your hand steady and avoid blurred photographs.
Getting animal subjects to pose
Photograph them in their most comfortable environment. It is much better if you take photographs on the same level as you, rather than pointing the camera down at your subject. For any animal you are photographing, you may find you will need extra help to keep her attention. It is not a problem if helping hands are in the picture!
Number of photographs required
Since your finished portrait depends on the quality of reference images, more is definitely better! Try to take as many good, clear photographs as possible in a number of different poses; specify the pose that you would like to see as the gesture in the finished portrait. If possible, take several close-up shots with the face filling the frame, showing details of the eyes, complexion, hair (or fur, whiskers, etc).
Send at least one image that depicts true coloration. If you wish to send digital images via e-mail, please make sure they are of the highest resolution so as to produce a good quality print and clear image to work from.
If you would like two or more subjects in your portrait, it is not necessary to capture them in the same photo. Send detailed photos of each separately and one or two of the subjects together for gauging size relationship if possible. (if not possible, you can just provide height and weight information for each).
Working from your existing photographs
You may already have photographs that you are happy with, or only have a few photographs as reminiscence.
Every effort will be made to work with your photos in those situations. Although your photographs will be carefully looked after and returned safely to you with your finished portrait, if they are the only copies you have, please have copies made before you send them!
Some people prefer to have professional photographs taken, in which case you will need to ask the photographer for copyright permission before you send them for use in a commissioned portrait.