Photographing Your Cat

Cat’s are among the cameras most appealing subjects. You can use any type of camera to take good pictures of cats. The best camera for photographing your cat is the one in your pocket. A camera can make sharp pictures only within a limited range of subject distances. To make a good picture, film must get just the right amount of light – what photographers call “correct exposure”. Cats are pretty small: rarely longer than about a foot and a half, plus tail. Films come in three basic forms: color negative film for making color prints; color transparency film, which makes slides for projection; and black–and–white negative film, which produces monochrome prints. With a flash unit on top of your camera, you can photograph a cat almost anywhere – even a black one in a coal cellar! Besides a camera and of course a cat, is there anything else that will help you take good pictures? If you’ve already tried making a portrait of your cat, you know that it doesn’t seem easy at first attempt. Cats are fastidiously clean creatures, and spend a good part of their day washing themselves. Like most other animals, cats show varying characteristics as the seasons change. There are well over 80 breeds of thoroughbred cats, including the associated color variations, but in terms of both character and appearance, this abundance of variety can be broadly arranged into five groups: Persians; American Shorthairs; Oriental Shorthairs; Burmese; and Siamese. A cat’s behavior may to the casual observer seemed completely random and unpredictable, but cats, like people, are creatures of many fixed habits. Cats are such active, inquisitive creatures that you may have difficulty keeping yours in one place for long enough to make a good portrait. Food motivates cats more strongly than almost anything else, and you can use food to keep your cat in front of the lens, or to persuade it to behave. One of the factors that makes the difference between a snapshot of kitty and a real portrait is the background. Engaging a cat to play isn’t usually difficult: in the absence of anything real to toy with, many will amuse themselves with an imaginary companion, or simply chase their own tails. Out of doors, there’s light in abundance – even on a cloudy day the light is much brighter outdoors than inside. In the home, you have a choice of three different light sources when photographing your cat: daylight; electronic flash and bulb flash (flash cubes or flip-flash); and regular household lights such as table lamps or fluorescent tubes. Keeping one frisky cat in front of the camera sometimes seems like an impossible task, and two cats can mean double the trouble. Like most small mammals, kittens are wonderfully amusing little creatures, and their tricks and games are particularly photogenic – if you are quick enough to catch them. Portraits of families always make attractive pictures and never more so than when the family is a furry feline one. Like posed photos of people, feline portraits show subjects on their best behavior, groomed and neat for the camera. Many cat owners have little idea what their pet gets into when the kitchen door closes or the cat–flap slam shut. Being a small creature, your cat sees things were much lower viewpoint than you , and if you want pictures that show the world from the feline point of view, you’ll have to get down to the cat’s level. If you have an SLR, you’ll find that fitting a telephoto lens enables you to get good pictures of your cat from a greater distance. In the city and suburbs there’s hardly a patch of grass, or a square foot of tarmac that isn’t staked out as the territory of one or another. What do cats do indoors? Cats are highly intelligent creatures, and each has a unique character of its own. “Smile please”…”Watch the birdy”…”Look a little more serious”…these phrases are the stock-in-trade of the portrait photographer. A healthy cat is an active creature, always on the go. Cats are born hunters and will show amazing dexterity and speed when they track down and pounce on their prey. Cats are probably the most curious of all creatures: they want to check out anything and everything. If you’ve watched your cat off on its own, you’ll probably have glimpsed a few with the rites and rituals that occupy its time. The cat is a sensible, almost serious creature, and however crazy its actions may appear, you can be sure that everything it does serve some important feline purpose. Cats form lasting bonds with their owners – and people are often as attached to their cats as they are to their human friends. If you are interested in breeding, or have been to a cat show, you’ll know that pictures of pedigree cats are rather special.


an exercise in what Kenny Goldsmith calls “uncreative writing.” The above is the first sentence in each chapter of the book “Kodak: Pocket Guide to Photographing Your Cat”, published in 1985. Someone had left it in the spot for free books in our break-room at work last week and I snagged it.

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