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pet portrait

pet portrait
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JDLifeshots September 09, 2014
Adorable capture! Awarded.
BRIN October 09, 2014
Wonderful shot!
adovgan December 14, 2015
What a shot!!! You made me laugh...
adavies PRO+
adavies May 03, 2016
So cute! If you haven't done so already, please consider joining my Animal Antics challenge:)
marilenavaccarini PRO
marilenavaccarini September 20, 2020
So cute
manh PRO+
manh April 12, 2023
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Behind The Lens


This shot was taken in studio, with the muslin backdrop draped over a table so that the kitty was at a comfortable shooting height.


It was taken in the evening, simply because it was when the cat's caretaker was able to bring the little guy in.


I set up two studio lights (White Lightning 1200) in softboxes. One on either side. The lighting set up for these was pretty flat because a kitten moves around so much. If I had set up more dramatic lighting it might have been an improvement, but I might not have captured the shot I wanted. When photographing pets that are constantly moving, compromises have to be made sometimes. This is especially true when it is for a client, as this one was. A client does not like to hear "we have some shots with amazing moody lighting, but none with the pose we were going for".


The camera was the Nikon D300S. My lens was the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 VRII which is because I was shooting a small subject. Yes I could have gotten in closer with a smaller lens, but then I would be running the risk of perspective distortion. Lighting was from two Paul C Buff White Lightning 1200 studio flash units. They are old and heavy, but they are workhorses and have never let me down. They were each softened by a large softbox, which you can see in the catchlights in the eyes of the kitten. Shutter speed was actually a mistake at 1/125th which is lower than I should have been at. For a moving subject like this, I should be at 1/250th sec which is the D300S's flash sync speed, to stop as much motion blur as possible. I find that in the heat of the action I sometimes accidentally move the shutter speed dial. In studio with flash the exposure does not really depend on the shutter speed so small changes can go unnoticed. Aperture was 6.3 which was a compromise between having decent depth of field in focus for the subject, and wanting the muslin background to be blurred so it is not distracting.


I am a big supporter of animal rescue and animal welfare. In my many years of photography I have always wanted to photograph a young kitten, but never had. The giant tea cup had been purchased months earlier with a shot just like this in mind. The concept of the tea cup and kitten came from a photograph I had seen on the internet and fell in love with.


I do 90% of my editing in Photoshop. With a moving subject like this kitten, a photograph is rarely perfect right out of the camera. In this case I had to straighten the photo slightly. Then cloned out a bit of stray feather parts which had fallen on the muslin.(from amusing the subject) The muslin background was darkened to my taste and a bit of blur added because it was not quite as soft as I wanted it to be. The final touch is to use a bit of Topaz Detail on the fur to make the individual pieces of fur really pop. I sharpen my photographs when I am outputting the file for use, because it depends on the usage how much I sharpen.

In my camera bag

Generally I will have a Nikon camera body, which is current a D700, with a couple of lenses, usually the 70-200mm F2.8 VRII and my Tamron 28-75 f2.8. If I am going to shoot nature and wildlife I will add in my Nikon TC-20EIII and my old Vivitar macro lens. I have a few different speedlights which I use at various times, and my SC 28 cord which allows me to take the flash off camera and still use TTL metering. If I am shooting in studio the speedlights will be substituted with my wireless flash triggering system which is also made by Paul C Buff Inc.


I think I have covered the technical details pretty well in the previous questions. When photographing pets I always try to have a handler available to do most of the placement of the pet and to do the inevitable chasing that will occur. In this case it was the cat's caretaker that was waving the feather toy around and trying to keep the little guy out of mischief. I generally have a rubber chicken or some kind of squeaky toy to get their attention towards the camera for the shot. I also suggest for small dogs and for cats to use a table to put them on. It saves my back a lot of work, and keeps me from having to lie on the floor. At the same time it keeps them from running off all over the place. Remember to only use the table when you have a handler that can protect them from falling or jumping off the edge of the table and hurting themselves. When photographing animals in a studio it is best to have the studio quite warm, almost as you would for an newborn. It helps to make them sleepy and easier to control. With most of my subjects I will tend to move around them to slightly change lighting and angles as I go, without it taking a bunch of time to move subjects or lighting around. (just be sure not to block your own light source with your body) Be ready to shoot at all times and react quickly because pets have expressions too. Capturing that is what will make your work get noticed in the huge glut of pet photographs out there. Finally, have fun yourself, and make sure the pet has fun too. It shows in the final product.

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