We have a new installment in our cat photography interview series, this time with Ingrid Nevinger of9 Lives Photography. Ingrid specializes in cat photography, plus she volunteers her time with several cat charity organizations, helping to photograph adoptable cats, definitley putting the cats in their best light. She also put together a Blurb book, Faces of Felines Inc., with a sampling of the photos taken at this Chicago no-kill shelter.

You have to check out Ingrid’s blog Cat Nipped, where she posts portraits of people with their cats along with a little interview about the image and the cat-human relationship.

Ingrid also plays in a string ensemble, Elle Musique, that donates their musical services to Chicago-area animal shelters.

How long have you been photographing pets and how did you get started?
I’ve been photographing animals, especially cats, since I received my first point-and-shoot camera as a child. During high school and early college, I studied darkroom photography and often used my cats as models. After taking a long hiatus from photography, I picked up my first digital camera only a few years ago. Virtually every week for the last year, I’ve visited Felines Inc., a no-kill Chicago cat shelter, to photograph its many residents. Felines Inc. is such a wonderful environment. Since it is cageless the cats know each other and are completely at ease. I capture them engaged in their normal activities of playing, grooming, napping, etc. I then sell their portraits and donate the proceeds back to Felines Inc. Recently, I’ve also started photographing cats from Animal Care League in Oak Park, IL and Cats-Are-Purrsons-Too.

What kind of pet photography do you do? Do you have a specialty?
Feline, definitely feline (hey, I’m a “cat person!”) Although I enjoy photographing humans, dogs and assorted other subjects, my real passion is capturing the character, spirit and extraordinary beauty of cats.

Do you do anything special to prepare for a photo shoot with a cat?
Since every cat possesses a district personality, I first spend time sans camera “making friends” (talking, petting, playing). I wish to gain my subject’s trust, and to make him feel comfortable in my presence. Upon introducing my camera, I always let him check it out. I’ve know many a cat who’s loved to headbutt the lens and chew the strap! To engage a cat’s curiosity and appetite, I frequently bring a variety of toys and treats. I also wear clothes I don’t mind getting dirty, as I follow my subjects everywhere and often end up crawling on the floor or ground.

What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?
A friend of mine has a lovely white cat named Marshmallow. I wanted to photograph them together for my blog, Cat Nipped. My friend warned me that Marshmallow didn’t take well to strangers, but I insisted that we would hit it off. After all, I had Da Bird (a great toy which no cat had ever resisted). Well, after hour upon hour of trying to lure him out (including “ignoring” him) I had to confess that I had met my match. One day, over the course of many, many visits, I will get that shot!

Do you have any tips for readers about how to take great photos of their cats?

  • Cats can be unpredictable, so have your camera ready and seize the moment.
  • Photograph in natural light if possible, as flash can frighten cats and cause red eye.
  • If you have the option to shoot in aperture priority or manual mode, use the widest f-stop setting on your camera (this allows more light to hit the sensor).
  • Capture your cat from every possible angle.
  • Focus on just one body part ~ a fluffy tail, single eye or outstretched paw.
  • Avoid cluttered backgrounds.
  • Focus on expression, not technical perfection.
  • Take lots of pictures (you will never regret having too many, only too few).