Next up in our Pet Photography Q & A Series, we have Phoenix, Arizona-based pet photographer Barb Del’Ve. Barb takes stunning photos of not just cats, but all kinds of critters. Here she tells us about her experience photographing our furry feline friends.
How long have you been photographing pets and how did you get started?
Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I WASN’T photographing animals! As a kid I used to spend summers on my Godparent’s farm so I had plenty of subject matter to choose from!
Professionally, I’ve been photographing animals for about 3 years now, however, only on a part-time basis. It’s only been recently that I’ve decided to pursue pet photography full-time!
Pets are such an integral part of our lives. I feel it’s so important to document the time we have together. One of the main reasons I started a pet photography business is so no one would ever have to lose an animal without having beautiful portraits to remember them by. My goal is to capture the unique spirit of your pet and to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Currently, I offer pet photography both on-location (at your home or a location of your choice) or in my home-based studio in Phoenix, Arizona. Depending on the type of shots you’re looking for, I have several fun locations I can suggest.
What kind of pet photography do you do? Do you have a specialty?
I really don’t have a specialty! I LOVE all animals! I volunteer at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center so I’ve been so fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph wildlife up close as well as domestic animals. I’m the one that actually gets excited about photographing your snake, tarantula, hamster, rat, or iguana!
Do you do anything special to prepare for a photo shoot with a cat?
Like all animals, each cat is different, but generally cats do best when photographed in familiar surroundings. Most of the cats that I photograph are in-home sessions. I take lots of time just getting to know your kitty and giving him/her a chance to feel comfortable with a new person in the house. Sooner or later, almost all of them relax.
I normally use a longer lens when photographing a cat because they usually aren’t as interactive as a dog would be. They don’t like a stranger with a camera in their face! But I still bring a good supply of kitty treats and toys because some cats really ARE as playful as dogs!
What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?
I wish I had a funny story, but I really don’t! I’ve only had a couple times when we’ve had to re-schedule a shoot because the cat decided that hiding under the bed was way safer than playing with the girl with the camera.
On one occasion when a kitty wouldn’t come out from under the bed and we’d already finished photographing her dog and her other two cats, the owner decided that a couple shots of this cat under the bed would be appropriate since it really did spend a lot of time there. But before I could take pictures she decided she had to get rid of the ‘dust bunnies’ that had also taken up residence there. So she literally, ‘dusted’ around the cat before she would let me shoot!
Do you have any tips for readers about how to take great photos of their cats?
Patience is the key to kitty photography! Wait until they’re relaxed and let them get used to your camera.
Get down on their level and photograph them in a bright room so you don’t have to use flash. Flash usually frightens cats. But another reason to forego flash is the ‘glowing eyes’ you’ll get with a flash reflecting off the back of their eyes. Ideally, you want a bright room, but not direct sunlight. A room with a north-facing window will give you a nice soft quality of light.
To get a real ‘focused/intense’ look in their eyes, wait until they’re looking out a window at birds fluttering around a feeder. Or, if you have another person to help you, ask them to play with a feather toy just above the camera so you can catch the cat looking right at the lens. Sometimes just crinkling a piece of paper can make enough noise to get the kitty to look right at you.
Try to photograph them with the light coming in from the side. Side-lighting will accentuate the texture of their beautiful fur! And make sure to keep your photo sessions short and fun so you don’t stress out your kitty!
Most importantly…take lots of photos of your pets! They are with us for FAR too short of a time. Take photos now while you have the chance! I’ve never heard anyone say they were ever sorry that they had too many pictures of their beloved pets!
For the more technically inclined readers, can you please tell us what equipment you use? (camera, lens, lighting, filters, etc.)
Currently, I’m shooting with a Nikon D300. Lenses include the Nikkor 70-200 mm 2.8; Nikkor 105 mm 2.8 Macro; Nikkor 24-70 mm, 2.8; and a Nikkor 50 mm 1.4. These are primarily the lenses I use for pet photography.
In the studio I use Alien Bees strobes with a combination of softboxes and umbrellas. I also use PocketWizards to wirelessly fire the strobes.
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