Continuing our cat photography interview series, today we have Julianna Koh of Two Guinea Pigs Pet Photography Studio in Sydney, Australia. Julianna has a wonderful sensitivity for capturing the quirky characteristics of animals. I’m completely in love with the shots of these gorgeous black kitties!
How long have you been photographing pets and how did you get started?
I got my first digital point-and-shoot, a Sony Cyberspace, as a birthday present. When I adopted two guinea pigs in 2003, I was so fascinated by their characters and personalities that I ‘documented’ their habitat, diet, mischievousness, adventures, and expressions. I’ve also photographed pets of friends. The satisfaction and joy of seeing their pet portraits, and my passion and interests in animals made me decide to start up a pet photography business based in Sydney, Australia.
What kind of pet photography do you do? Do you have a specialty?
I don’t specialise in a particular breed or animal. I photograph pets in a non-conventional way (some say quirky) in that I prefer to capture their movements and expressions in the environment they are most comfortable with. It’s like spying on them through the camera lens and seizing every opportunity I can get to frame an image. I would say about 80% of my shoots are candid, where I let them be themselves, sit or play wherever. The other 20% are posed shots where I usually get the pets to move to nearer to where the light is.
Do you do anything special to prepare for a photo shoot with a cat?
I pray. No, just kidding. I don’t think you can specially prepare for a photo shoot except the usual, like check and clean your gear, have plenty of rest before the photo shoot takes place, pack your gear, bring treats and toys, and turn up on time! What helps is I keep practising when I’m not on a photo shoot and I photograph almost anything and everything I fancy.
What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?
A friend of mine has 7 cats. Not all cats get along well. I wanted to photograph them together but he could only bring the ones that got along into the same room. There was one particular long-haired cat that just couldn’t wait to get out!
Do you have any tips for readers about how to take great photos of their cats?
Be patient and have respect. Treats, sounds, noises can help but they normally work on cats only once, especially the shy or aloof ones. Try and anticipate their moves, get in position to shoot so you don’t miss the moment. If your camera has the continuous shooting mode learn to shoot with it – this feature lets you capture a few frames per second where you can catch unpredictable actions like yawning, licking, etc. Know your camera well — even a point-and-shoot can get surprisingly good results if you learn how to use it. Keep looking through the viewfinder and keep composing and framing. Be sensitive towards the cats’ moods, don’t push if they appear bored, stressed, nervous or tired — if you don’t enjoy the shoot, most likely the cats aren’t enjoying it either.
For the more technically inclined readers, can you please tell us what equipment you use? (camera, lens, lighting, filters, etc.)
For photographing pets, I shoot in manual mode with my Canon 450D and 85mm f/1.2L EF lens. I will bring my Speedlite 580EX but will reserve using it unless I absolutely need to — and when I need to, I’ll bounce it off the ceiling or a white wall. I prefer natural light.