Monday, March 2, 2009

How to take pictures of cats & kittens




Camera: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Exposure: 0.002 sec (1/640)
Aperture: f/4.5
Focal Length: 48 mm
ISO Speed: 800
Exposure Bias:-2/3 EV

Lens: Canon 24-70 F2.8 L


Lighting Setup: 1 Medium sized collasable soft box with a Navy Blue replacement backdrop inserted. 1 500watt hot light about 3 feet from the soft box on the left slightly above pointing down. Be conscious of the background you choose. Shooting a white cat on a white background will be much more diffucult then a black background. It's not impossible but you will have to be aware of this and use a diff rent lighting method unless you are going for a high key shot.


Keep your shutter speeds as fast as possible, sacrifice ISO first, nose will be less obvious in a lighting situation like this. Noise can always be reduced in post processing. Keeping the shutter fast allows you to freeze the movement of the cat. The cat will likely be moving around a lot, you probably won't find yourself using a tripod for work like this. Recomposing is required almost frame by frame and lots of camera movements are needed.


Shoot wide open or a few stops from wide open this will help blur the background and reduce any annoying crinkles in the background fabric. It will make it much easier to clone out mistakes and defects if the background is soft and fuzzy. I find F2.8 - F 4 to be a good range to work in.


Your mileage will vary depending on the temperament of the cat you are working with. Treats work well for holding the cats attention for that split second. An assistant is very useful, they can keep the cat from escaping the softbox, lunging at the camera or clawing at the soft box.


If you chose to use a strobe for lighting be careful. Some animals do not like strobes and find them annoying especially after being placed in a box with a big lens in front of them. I find hot lights work well and allow for easy focusing which is critical. Only work with the cat for a few minutes at a time and reward them often. Don't over heat your cat or stress them out, they will be less likely to cooperate in the future.


Try setting up your lights and softbox and let your cat walk in under it's own power to explore the box. If your cat is really hesitant about getting in the softbox try placing the cats food dish inside the softbox and feed them there for a few days.


I like to shoot in continuous mode for brief bursts. Many times you will catch the cat with the tongue or cross eyed after eating or looking at a treat. This can give the photograph of your cat more excitement and playfulness.


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