The other day I did special studio cat photography sessions for two different cats from the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. The cats were quite different in age and temperament, but in the end, getting great photos came down to one thing…figuring out what it is that motivates that particular cat.
Many times when I bring a cat into the studio, the first thing they do is run and hide under the furniture. Rufflet was no different. But she quickly came out and started to explore. Shelter staff had warned me that she could be a bit crazy sometimes and they had asked me to get some photos of her playing. I was able to lure her onto the backdrop with a laser pointer. I got a few shots off, but Rufflet did not like the strobes. Smart girl that she is, she quickly figured out that whenever she was in a certain spot, the lights would go off, so she would not venture into the area for which the lights were set.
I gave up on trying to keep her on the backdrop and decided to try to move the strobe to where she was. This does not usually get the best possible lighting, but I have learned that when photographing a cat, you cannot make them do what you want. You have to be willing to work with whatever they will give you.
Rufflet kept climbing up on the storage shelf in the studio. The first time, she grabbed a rubber band and threw it onto the floor to play with. But something else up there kept drawing her back. I realized that she was after the bag of duck jerky that I keep up there for the dogs. She did not seem to care that they were really dog treats. She wanted that duck jerky! Once I figured that out, I was able to get her to sit nicely in a chair by giving her little pieces of duck jerky between each shot. This fiesty little girl is so full of energy and fun that I think that was the first time in an hour that she even sat still!
When I first let Coji out in the studio, he too wanted to hide, but he soon decided that he would rather be with me. He was a super friendly boy that just wanted to sit in my lap and be pet. But he too was willing to stay nicely in a chair as long as he was getting what he wanted, and for him that was lots of pets in between every shot!
Like Rufflet, Coji was very happy to pose as long as I kept giving him what he wanted. No matter what their personality, the key to getting great cat photos in the studio is to figure out what the cat wants and to let them think it’s their idea!
Coji has been adopted, but Rufflet is still available. For more information on Rufflet or other animals currently available for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, please visit the shelter’s page on Petango.