So you want a lasting memory of your beloved kittens before they transform into little tigers? Or maybe your prized feline is hinting at you for that elusive photographic moment? You reach for the trusty compact camera, flash on, and snap….
Oh dear, those green eyes (the red eye equivalent in cats), those sudden movements, or a great backside shot. Not quite the final result you were expecting, and certainly not worthy of a place in a frame upon the wall. Well, with a little extra effort, some advanced planning, and a willing to crawl around on the floor, you, too, can achieve superb catty pictures that will stand out as you see illustrated here.
Get ready to take cat photos
Preparation is always the key to good picture taking, and any camera will do a fine job for you. Make sure your lens are clean and that the batteries are working, especially if your camera has been stored away for some time.
And here is the first trick. Cats eyes are great reflectors, as we all know from night time driving, but unfortunately this is a big obstacle when using electronic camera flash. To get around this, nip down to your local stationers and purchase a sheet or two of thick, quality tracing paper. Then, cut a piece big enough to cover the lens of your flash, or the built-in flash if using a compact camera, leaving enough room to tape it down around all the edges with tape. This has the effect of diffusing the light fired by the flash, preventing it from being too harsh on the subject, eliminating both reflections from the eyes, and harsh shadows too, even in daylight.
In the mood
Okay, so we’ve got the camera ready, all we need now are our little friends and a good location. Still not cut and dry is it? Firstly, be sure that your cat is in the right frame of mind, ideally in a playful or inquisitive mood, as this will create more opportunities for varied poses, rather than if your cat is curled up in a ball fast asleep. In fact, they’re at their best having recently woken from a nap. Be prepared to follow them around, but most importantly, be patient, as there will be a moment when that pose is just right, and don’t be afraid to use up a whole roll of film if the moment is right.
Getting down to it
Let’s start with composition. Get down to their eye level, laying on the ground if need be.
In itself, this will probably have your cat staring at you in amazement resulting in a great picture.
Or alternatively, stand directly over them so that they look up into the lens. Whatever you do, try to ensure that they’re looking at you, as then you are half way to a good result.
To choice the right lens is important, and unless you possess a zoom on your compact, you’ll find it hard to get a frame filling shot. Hopefully, you’ll have in your possession a lens that is equivalent to 100mm in focal length, a telephoto lens, but 7Omm will suffice. The reason for this resides in the ability to fill the frame with your cat, hiding those distracting background objects, and adding impact to your final image. It also allows you to focus close in on your subject whilst remaining a suitable distance away, ideally about 3-5 ft, unless the inquisitive one is not fussy about the sight of a camera face to face, in which instance, stunning facial portraits are the order of the day, allowing you to concentrate on the eyes. If you have an SLR camera, open the lens aperture to around f4-5.6, this will then throw the background out of focus, making the main focused area stand out without distraction.
The right spot
Location is also all important, depending on whether your cat is the outdoor type or more of a couch potato. Outdoor shots, with the sun streaming down onto your cat’s face do, without doubt, make for great portraits; however, even here there are easy traps to fall into.
Avoid taking pictures around the middle part of the day as this is when the sun light is at it’s strongest, causing harsh shadows behind your subject and often fooling your camera into making false exposures, resulting in either a dark overexposed picture, or a washed-out underexposed one. Do some homework first and observe an area outside where either more suitable morning or evening light is falling, as this light is softer, tending to add warmth and atmosphere to a picture; then introduce your feline to this area. They’ll often like such a spot due to the extra warmth it offers, and should remain still. Don’t be afraid to take pictures in a shaded area either, but do use a flash as previously described to help eliminate any shadows falling across the subject as well as illuminating details that have been lost due to the lower light levels.
Choosing the right background is of great importance. For instance, photographing a white cat on a very light coloured cushion is not the best scenario and a recipe for a poor picture. Find an area that contrasts well with the colour of your cat, like a window or a suitably coloured carpet or chair. Outdoors, a suitable wall, background foliage, or even the sky is good, if you get down low while they’re sat on a fence or tree branch. This will compliment your cat and show off its finest features, which inevitably include its coat. .
So, there’s no excuse now, for disappointing catty pictures, although it may take a little practice. Practice makes perfect, so don’t lose heart as it will all be worthwhile when you have that stunning image displayed on your wall.