Recently I had the joy of partaking in some photography for a pet rescue organisation. They asked me to take pictures of quite a few kittens and cats on the same day, which was a dream come true for me. Not only am I a pro photographer, but I love cats and kittens, too. The task was fun, but especially difficult.
You may have heard cat photography is challenging. It’s hard to think taking photos of sweet little kittens could be difficult. What is so tricky about this sort of photography?
It’s the same thing that makes other types of photography difficult: quick motion. Let’s discuss tricks and techniques to work with some of these common difficulties.
If you are photographing kittens, you will be photographing an unpredictable subject. It is unlikely for a kitten to just sit down and look at the camera. You must use toys to guide the kitten without intimidation. It is imperative to encourage the kitten to be as relaxed as possible. A playful kitten is very hard to photograph. A relaxed kitten is ideal.
How can you make a kitten feel chilled out? One of the ways that kittens unwind is by burning off as much energy as possible. Once they start to fatigue, you will have a better likelihood of getting the cute photographs you have in mind.
You can ask someone to tinkle a toy or lightly whistle over your shoulder so the kitten looks in the direction of your camera. You may also offer them a little bit of food. The moment the kitten raises its head up after eating, shoot the photo. Strive to get them to look in the direction of your camera. This can be difficult if they are still in play mode. This is why it’s better to take pictures of them when they are beginning to calm down.
If you would like a spontaneous and playful photo, it may be a nice idea to let your kitten have some fun with a ball of string or a toy. You can take some splendidly natural and fun photos this way. You can take a shot of the kitten stretching up and playing with toy. You can also take a shot of the kitten being very interested in something. These natural, fun, and honest pictures work well as alternatives to the average pet portrait.
Understanding Your Camera
What are the correct shooting modes to use for photographing kittens? Many photographers who have not learned to use manual mode choose to shoot in semi-automatic shooting modes. I do not believe you can get the right shot when the camera dictates the settings for you. You are more clever than the digital camera.
Your camera does not recognize how to create a wonderful shot, it merely knows that it needs to expose for lighting and capture depth of field. It does not understand how to get clear photos of moving kittens.
I frequently position myself about a meter away from my kittens. Because the focal point shifts all the time (due to the motion of the kittens), I make use of auto focus. Using manual focus can take too much time, as you’ll have to wait for your kitten to jump into the plane of focus. I chase the kitten around with my finger on the focus button, continually focusing and refocusing. To help me to get sharpness of the kittens eyes, I am careful and particular about what aperture range to shoot with. I am inclined to use an f-stop somewhere between f/5.6 and f/8.
Shutter Speed and Flash
I use a shutter speed of about 1/200 of a second or faster. Your kitten can move very fast and you want to be able to freeze the fast action without blur. If you are using a strobe, you will see that you do not need to be troubled about shutter speed. Flash stops the action at around 1/250 of a second. This is handy to work with because all you have to do then is set your f-stop, knowing the flash will manage the shutter speed, so to speak.
If you set your aperture to a wide setting, like f2.8 or f4, you may find clarity eludes you. This might be because your kitten has jumped out of the focal range and the image is no longer holding sharp focus. However, if you use a slightly smaller aperture you might find you tend not to undergo this predicament. It is important that you get the right f-stop for the distance away from your subject. In other words, the larger the aperture, the closer to your subject you need to be. Contemplate this when you are photographing your kittens.
What Happens if You Don’t Have Flash?
Just prior to one of the photography sessions, my flash decided to stop working. Thankfully, I was using continuous studio lighting. I made the decision to take my flash off the camera. I then produced my photos at 6400 ISO, 1/200 of a second, and f/7.1. I used a very high ISO to compensate for the soft light. I had to get as much light as I possibly could. I also needed to use a high ISO so I could utilize a fast shutter speed. Using an f-stop of 7.1 allowed me to get clear, tack sharp shots.
You need to be flexible and open-minded when you photograph kittens. Always position yourself on the ground, and shoot from an angle that’s near to the ground. This will help you focus on the eyes. Be ready to move about with the kitten.
It is important to provide encouragement along the way. After you photograph a kitten, offer a small treat. Animals know when they are treasured.
Photographing kittens calls for practical skill and good lighting. It also requires the photographer to be calm and relaxed. Some days are better than others. Sometimes your kittens are not afraid of the camera. They will look at the camera with curiosity and even move toward you, sniffing the camera. This is a great shot if you can capture it. If you are photographing scared kittens then be very gentle and very patient.
Photographing kittens is a fun and challenging experience. Always treat your animals with respect and love. Kittens have sensitive little souls and must be treated with respect.
About the Author:
Amy Renfrey writes for DigitalPhotographySuccess.com. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students.
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