For this interview in our cat photography Q & A series, I’d like to introduce Michelle Brodsky from Phoenix, Arizona. Michelle is a photographer for one of my favorite local no-kill shelters, the Arizona Animal Welfare League. She also donates 10% of all her photography fees to AAWL — such generosity and incredible talent! What more could you ask for?

How long have you been photographing pets and how did you get started?

I actually took the scenic route to animal photography by way of an attempt at Zoology, a degree from graphic design school, then finally graduating from photography school. My passion in life has always been animals. Being a Phoenix native it started out with scaly creatures that you find in our desert and it just went from there. I have also always been creative, so once I found that I could do a pretty good job with a camera I realized how I could follow my passion. I’ve been photographing animals since I was in photography school. I would sneak all kinds of things into the studio. Officially it has been my full time job for a little over a year now. Even though I am located in Phoenix I do not get much call for photographing desert dwelling creatures.

What kind of pet photography do you do? Do you have a specialty?

My husband calls what I do “plain air” photography. I’m not really sure what that means. I call it “on location.” I like to keep animals as comfortable as possible by photographing in their environments with natural light — that is what animals are used to. I like to capture the expressions animals make. My favorite part is that brief moment when they are interacting with their owners and everyone forgets that I’m there. I aim to capture the emotion between the two. Since I am an animal lover first there is no animal I will not photograph. (I have to admit, though, there is something about me that birds don’t really seem to care for.)

Do you do anything special to prepare for a photo shoot with a cat?

Twice a week I photograph for the Arizona Animal Welfare League which is a local no-kill shelter. I get a LOT of practice photographing cats. I have found they are usually easier than the dogs. Cats are a much more curious creature than dogs so my biggest issue is trying to keep them from getting too close or climbing on me. I’ve learned that you can usually get a dog to cooperate, but after a while a cat just will not do what it does not want to do. I guess for me the preparation is all mental, including a lot of wishful thinking. It always helps to have the mindset that I might not get the shot I came for because the cat might not want to be in the spot light that day.

What was the most challenging cat photo shoot you have done? Any funny stories?

I have to say I haven’t had any challenging cat photo shoots. I’ve photographed both challenging and funny looking cats, but the shoots weren’t challenging. The most challenging part about photographing cats is their ability to blink when the flash goes off or to not blink, yet give you the kitty cat evil eye. Where dogs usually look depressed or sad, cats usually look like they are secretly clawing your eyes out in their minds.

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

The best thing I can tell readers is do not be afraid to get dirty. These are animals, not people. They won’t judge you for lying on the floor with them or crawling under a bed to capture how they are sleeping. They don’t care if you have to kneel in the mud to get that perfect shot and your pants get dirty. People are always apologizing to me when I get dirty during photo shoots and I always say, “hey, it’s part of the job.” Cats also see things from different perspectives. Don’t be afraid to climb up on something and shoot down or lie down and shoot up. The final thing is that photography is the art of patience. Don’t think you are going to get a great shot in 5 minutes. The more you rush, the more frustrated you will get. Always remember to breathe. You are dealing with cats after all.

See more of Michelle’s photography on her web site