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I'm drawing a cat. Cats have lots of hair going everywhere.
Here's the photo I'm using:

isn't he cute?

My problem is his body, it's too white, and I won't be able to do anything there, because there's no variation of colors.

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The problem is that your reference photograph suffers from overexposure.

However, this image apparently contains sufficient information to tweak it to reasonable levels in Photoshop using the 'Curves' tool:

The tweaked version of the image with the Curves tool menu next to it

Nevertheless, I still suggest you pick a better photograph as reference: this one has a very small depth of field (i.e. the amount of spatial depth in the photo that is reasonably focused), and the level of detail on the cat's visible flank is very low (due to the high illumination of the photo and the DOF).

Here is the tweaked version of the photograph, if you insist on using it.


This question seems related to How to draw human body in chest/collarbone area?, where drawing proper shapes was problematic due to the reference image being underlit (or because the subject had insufficient lighting).

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  • I'll use this for that one part, but apparently, that image u gave me gives the cat a very dark "lense", which will modify shadows and won't help draw how the cat is exactly, however, u did a very good job doing the body, now I can fill out that big white space. thanks Joachim!
    – Isaac750
    Jan 29 at 16:07
  • @Isaac750 Remember that you are not restricted from using more than one photograph to draw your picture. Think of how brilliant HDR pictures are since they are made from photographs of multiple exposures.
    – agarza
    Jan 29 at 20:22
  • ok, so you're telling me to find another perspective with less light or something?
    – Isaac750
    Jan 29 at 21:07
  • @Isaac750 I think agarza is both implying you can use photos from different angles of the same subject to draw it (allowing you to create a kind of imaginary 3D model from which you can work), and that for the highest visibility of details of the subject an HDR photograph can be used. Mind however that HDR photographs don't allow you to have consolidated relative lighting.
    – Joachim
    Jan 29 at 22:26
  • ok, ill take more pictures, thanks!
    – Isaac750
    Jan 30 at 0:40
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You have the right to add and remove tonality (shading) anywhere you please as the artist, there should be no "I won't be able to do anything there". Do not let the photograph be the master!

On the other hand, if you want a photo-real drawing by copying a photo then the "overexposure" in the photograph would be part of image. So if you like the overall exposure of the cat in the original photograph and want to capture that then you would leave that area lighter with less detail, just like in the photo.

The idea of using multiple photographs as others suggested would not necessarily be to form a more "three dimensional" version, as if you were drawing from life, it would be to give you different levels of exposure, thus revealing different details that you could put together in your drawing.

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  • You're right about the amount of light (over- or underexposure) being an artistic choice, but the question seems more to do with visibility ("I won't be able to do anything" [where] "it's too white") than expression.
    – Joachim
    Mar 4 at 4:02
  • @Joachim - which is the problem with depending on a photograph to make a drawing. This question and the idea that one needs to adjust the source material instead of the drawing suggests that the photograph is the "truth' that the artist is obligated to reproduce. IF you want to make a drawing of a photo of a cat, then ok... if you want to really draw a cat, not so much.
    – rebusB
    Mar 8 at 13:43

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