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The 3 Questions You Should Ask for the Perfect Portrait Gift (Hint: It's all about the photo)

Perfect Portrait Gift

I love giving gifts. I particularly love giving portraits as gifts (surprise surprise), which is one of the reasons I started Grace Portraits in the first place.

I’ve been giving portraits as gifts to my friends and family since high school and even though I love the drawing process, the emotional response to a meaningful gift is my hands down favorite part.

There are three main ingredients for the perfect portrait gift: a talented portrait artist, good materials, and a great photo. Beautiful photos make beautiful portraits, and choosing a good photo and the right subject matter is the essential ingredient for creating a meaningful and memorable portrait gift.

We know that it can be overwhelming with the proliferation of photos and devices, in this digital age, to choose a photo, particularly for a gift. But don’t worry, you already have all the answers to the 3 most important questions you should ask for the perfect portrait photo and gift.

#1 Pick with the recipient and occasion in mind

#1: Who is the portrait for and why?

Whether it's for your best friend's wedding, your five-year wedding anniversary, or your dad's 60th birthday, you already know the answer to the most important question for selecting a photo: who is this artwork for and why?

Chances are, if you are considering ordering a hand-drawn custom portrait rather than linens from the wedding registry, or another tie for dad, it's because you want to do something meaningful and unique to show your love and celebrate an important milestone or person in your life.

Chances are, you also know what is most important to your loved ones at this moment in their life - whether that's a relationship, your family, a pet, or their upcoming nuptials. After you've determined who you're giving the portrait to and why, it becomes much easier to determine what subject matter would be the most meaningful.

#2 Choosing the right subject matter

#2: What matters most to the portrait's recipient?

You know what your friend, dad or spouse loves (and maybe obsesses) about, which along with the occasion you have in mind, will help you to determine what the subject matter of the photo should be.

For example, your best friend's wedding is easy - you want to give a gift that speaks to the couple and commemorates this huge life event. Hmm, what photos would work best? A photo of the happy couple, of course! Preferably from their engagement photo shoot or wedding photos, depending on the timing of the gift.

I’m also guessing you know what matters most to your parents, or dad, but we will give you a hint of one thing that should rank high: your family. When you think of the portrait's recipient and the occasion or milestone you are celebrating, hopefully the appropriate subject matter should come to you easily.

#3: What photo captures a special memory or event?

Let’s stay with the parent’s example for a moment. It’s a pretty safe bet that your parents love you, so a portrait of you and/or your siblings at any age would make a special portrait gift for any occasion.

That said, If you want to make a portrait incredibly special, you can add another level of depth by using a particularly meaningful or sentimental photo. To me, that means using a photo associated with a meaningful memory or time - if it sparks a good story, or if the photo brings a smile to your face, that's generally a good sign.

A meaningful photo can capture a recent memory or milestone, like your favorite wedding photo, your nephew's adorable newborn photo shoot, or the first time your daughter squeezed your hand at the hospital.

It can also mean an old photo from the past that sparks a sense of nostalgia and history, like the first (documented) fish you ever caught with your dad, a photo from your parents' wedding, or those epic family photos that are still framed in your childhood home.


Meaningful photos make portraits more special for everyone involved, from the portrait artist, to the recipient, to the next generation of people who see it on the wall.

The examples we referenced are actually real examples of some of my favorite photos we’ve ever drawn. For added inspiration, Noelle has compiled a list of 5 of her favorite portraits, which features a number of the examples we’ve used in this post.

In many ways you and an artist work together to create the perfect portrait for your loved one. If you ask the three questions above and keep the recipient and occasion in mind you can make a meaningful, personalized piece of art that will be treasured for years to come.

We’d love to hear who or what came to mind for you as you read this post. We know that choosing a photo can sometimes be the hardest part. We want to help, and we love seeing your photos, so for a limited time we are offering a free photo consultation without any portrait commitment. Grab your spot below and don’t be shy about sharing your reactions in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.

Your turn! Who would you give a meaningful gift, or portrait to? Why? What would you want drawn? Tell us who and what came to mind for you as you read this post in the comments below!

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