For this installment of our cat photography Q & A series, we talk with photographer Jaime Rowe about her experience photographing animals. She clearly has a passion for what she does and it shows in her work!
How long have you been photographing pets and how did you get started?
I started my pet photography business in Denver, Colorado in 2008. I used to work at a corporate job that I did not have a passion for. When we moved to Colorado in 2008, I knew I wanted to do something that didn’t just make me happy but something that made me excited to wake up and do EVERY DAY. I started going through the “Who am I?” and “What really makes me happy?” questions.
One night, I was reading to my 5 year old (at the time) and I started to cry. He said, “Mommy, why are you crying?” I said, ”Mommy is crying because she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life.” My 5 year old (who is a genius in my book) said, “Well, what do you like to do?” I said, “Photograph pets.” He said, “Okay, then do that.” And I did. It has snowballed from there. I recently published a book with Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center called Survivors – Your Best Friend’s Journey With Cancer. My images have been on the cover of magazines and calendars. It has been a dream come true.
What kind of pet photography do you do? Do you have a specialty?
I specialize in the “experience” of a pet photography session. Whether the session is for a cat or dog, I want to evoke a feeling of genuine emotions from the owners and their pets. I try not to stage any positions (especially with a cat!). I create an environment for the cats to be themselves and then I start to click away. I listen to the clients requests for images and then add a professional and artistic flare that completes the picture. I have many clients send me cards later thanking me for “the special morning that we will never forget”. My sessions are highly customized and I take a great deal of time getting to know each and every one of my clients before I ever press a button on my camera. Each pet has a special personality and “essence” to them that I feel compelled to bring out in my artwork.
Do you do anything special to prepare for a photo shoot with a cat?
Every client fills out a “Getting To Know You” form that includes questions ranging from “What is your name and where did you come from?” to “What is your owner’s favorite thing about you? (i.e. soft ears, little paws, or mischievous look). All questions are directed toward the pet so owners are requested to ask them into the room for their answers. Cat photo experiences require extra attention due to the nature of cats. I have had a cat in my home since the day I was born and I am familiar with cats and how they “march to the beat of their own drum”. I ask the owner beforehand if the cat has a special hiding place (i.e. under mom’s bed) and request that they close off that location. I also call the owner as I pull up to their house so they can greet me outside their home. This reduces the stress of having a loud doorbell or strange person knocking on their door. I spend a lot more time with my cat owners. Cat photo “experiences” range from one hour to two and a half hours so I really get to know my cat clients on a friend level (I guess that they have to get to know someone who lies on their kitchen floor and has a whispering conversation with them for over an hour!)
What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?
One time I photographed three cats in one home. The first two cats (a Siamese and a white cat) were more than obliged to “strut their stuff” in front of my camera. The black cat was not so happy about my visit. She dodged every opportunity I had to capture her image (i.e. hiding behind couches, tables, staircases). After two and a half hours, the owner and I agreed that maybe she was not going to be in the photos that day. Suddenly, the black cat strutted out and plopped herself in front of the fireplace (in the “meatloaf” position as my mother used to call it) and gave me a look that said, ”This is your chance lady. Let’s do this.” I gently positioned myself and clicked away! I felt like she was waiting for us to give up just to prove a point!
Do you have any tips for readers about how to take great photos of their cats?
Take your time. Cat photography is all about PATIENCE. Use as much available light from windows as possible. The morning is a great time to photograph a cat looking at birds or squirrels. Let them be in charge and just enjoy their presence. The rewards are “one in a million” with the right dose of patience!
For the more technically inclined readers, can you please tell us what equipment you use? (camera, lens, lighting, filters, etc.)
I use a Canon 30D and 580EXII Speedlight. I rarely use my flash in a room with cats. If I turn on my 580EXII it is to bounce the light off the ceiling or a wall. I prefer to use fast lenses like a 50mm f/1.8. It is a fantastic lens for low light situations like an indoor sessions with cats. The other lens that you would have to “pry out of my cold, dead hands” is my Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. It is my rock. If you have more questions about my techniques or equipment, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
See more of Jaime’s work at www.JaimeRowePhotography.com.