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Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Taking pictures of funny cats

If I have learned anything about cats through my photography sessions with them, it is that they are only motivated by one thing…food!  I have to admit that even though they are difficult to shoot, they certainly are fun to work with.  Fun, that is, if you aren’t in a hurry!  As with photographing any animals, patience is paramount.  I am always amazed at the number of different expressions I can get from cats if I just exercise a little patience, and the proper treats!
To insure both the success and legality of our shoots we always use a professional trainer.  Our trainer is familiar with the cats, knows which ones don’t mind being handled and which ones may vehemently oppose it!  She knows which treats work best for each animal, which ones are better for certain kinds of poses, and, importantly, when to give our feline friends a rest.  It is also normal procedure to bring a back-up for each cat…one that is similar in appearance and temperament.
When shooting cats I am always amazed at their athleticism.  I have also developed an appreciation for their individual personalities.  I like them all…even the ones that seem determined not to cooperate.  Since we use trained animals it is sometimes interesting to see them revert to the last training that they received before arriving at our studio. We had one cat that kept putting both hands up like he was under arrest…totally cute!  Our trainer knows which cats “talk” a lot, which ones don’t mind being immersed in water (yes, she has a cat that we use for water shots) and which ones don’t mind being held upside down.   For the most part, for us, “trained” means that they are used to being in unusual environments (our studio), have a calm temperament, and are a known quantity to the trainer.

Cute kitten pictures are tough!

Kittens, of course, are really fun to shoot…but talk about difficult!  They never stop moving and never move in the direction you want or expect them to!  I truly think shooting kittens is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  I suppose it wouldn’t be so hard if I was just recording what they were naturally doing…but with our shoots we work from a layout (a drawing illustrating the image we are trying to create).  For example, in one case we needed to create an image of a kitten holding a cupcake.  Trying to get the kitten to hold still while we shot his various parts was a true test of patience…heck, even just getting the kitten to look towards the camera was a major chore. 

Big cat pictures!

On the other end of the spectrum I have photographed lions and tigers.  When we brought the lion to the studio we had a set of rules that we had to follow.  There were several of us, and the trainers (there were 3 trainers for this shoot) urged none of us to “separate from the pack”.  OK….  They were using fist-sized chunks of meat as treats.  Again, they suggested that it would be a bad idea, if the chunk of meat were to fly across the room, to attempt to retrieve it.    I asked the trainer how long we would have with the Lion and she answered “As long as he wants”. Our shoot lasted about 45 minutes…and cost me over $100.00 a minute….  It came to an end when the Lion, named “Safari”, began to get a little too interested in the photographer…me!
Big cats or small funny cats, they are fascinating creatures, and always fun, if not challenging, to photograph


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