Saturday, October 20, 2018

Photographing a kitten.

Hi, This week I've had the pleasure to photograph Gary. Gary is a teeny little kitten that my  neighbor rescued a few weeks ago when he was only about 4 weeks old.  Gary loves to play and loves to cuddle which made the photo session go more smoothly than I had hoped.

So, here is what I did.

I arrived, pet the jealous doggie Zoe for  a bit, and then went up to Gary's room (which is the kids rooms) and shut the door so Gary couldn't run too far.  I had a small assortment of Christmas decorations that I just threw on the floor.  Since nobody has a tree up, I used green garland, some plastic ornaments of various sizes, a chain of red, wooden beads, and some other odds and ends. 

The hardest part about pet photography is the waiting.  You have to wait for the pet to get to know you a little bit. Pets will not be their normal selves if they are frightened or wary.

Gary loves people.  He will jump right into your lap but it's hard to get a good photo of a kitty in your own lap.  He was a bit wary of all the stuff I draped over the floor.  He would walk through it but if I moved, he would scamper away.  So, I let him explore.

Once he realized that the balls moved, then he started to play.

Now, how to get him to look at the camera?  If I would have had an assistant, this part would have been easier, but I was by myself.  I should have remembered to bring a cat toy on a fishing pole, but I didn't, so I used a bit of ribbon on the end of a wire.  Turns out, Gary wanted to play with the wire too so he wasn't always looking at the ribbon. 

My goal was to get a photo of Gary, looking towards the camera, with only Xmas colors around him. 

Then it morphed into, "I want a picture of Gary in the hat."  Getting him into the hat was easy, I picked Gary up, snuggled for a bit, then gently brought the hat up around him like a blanket.  He was fine with that, purring up a storm.  However, the minute I put him down, he was out of there.  So, I had to time it perfectly and when I put him down, I didn't let go until my camera was in my other hand.

After a few nice shots in front of the fireplace, I tried to decorate his little castle. It's cute, but not what I wanted and Gary was very distracted by the stuff I used to decorate instead of looking at the camera.

I realized by this time, I hadn't used the larger of the plastic balls.  So, I moved the garland away from the fireplace, added a few of the balls with that shiny gold/red ribbon and tried to shoot from above. 
That didn't work out as well as I hoped, but then I tried the hat again and it worked. As you can see, he didn't stay there long. 

I took many photos.  But remember, even sometimes the ones that don't come out right can be made into useful photos.  

Look at these before and after photos. For the black and white conversion here is what it did. 
Removed background distractions.
Increase the clarity to make the black and white contrast a bit sharper
Sharpened, increased Exposure and added more contrast to his eyes. 
Decreased highlights
Clicked Black and White in Lightroom and the result is very nice. 

Here is the gear I used.

  • Canon 5D Mark III  
  • Canon ef24-70 f2.8 lens at various apertures.  I shot close but allowed some wiggle room on the sides in case I had to Photoshop some more greenery to cover a baseboard or something. I was sitting on the floor and bent over for many of the shots so I was eye level with Gary.  If I had an assistant and didn't have to get up to rearrange the props, I would have been on my belly. 

  • 1 Canon 600EX II-RT on a stand behind me pointed to the ceiling with a MagSphere from MagMod. Even though the room was full of light from beautifully large windows, I still used the flash to fill in the shadows.  I set my camera for proper exposure without flash and used the flash at about 1/34th power.

What I would change:

  • Bring a background to tape to the wall or other colored material to drape over the bed and use it as a backdrop.  The fireplace was nice, but the plain wall and baseboard was not what I wanted. 
  • Bring an assistant.
  • Next time I'll set up a station on the bed or higher surface so I can get even closer to eye level. 
  • Bring my cat toy fishing pole.
  • Bring a shallow basket 
  • Bring some red and white fake fur to arrange in the basket.  
  • Bring a small fake tree. 

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