Continuing our cat photography interview series, today we have Sarah Sorrentino. Sarah combines her life-long love of animals with her photography skills to create some really spectacular images of pets. She also works with several animal welfare organizations in Atlanta, including Animal Action Rescue and FurKids. I am completely in love with the images above of her adorable kitty, Cat the Cat! Read more about him here.

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

I graduated with my photography degree from Columbia College Chicago in 2002. I began in the wedding photography field, and started my photography business after moving to Atlanta in 2003. Weddings were fantastic to photograph – so much energy, emotion, and humanity all wrapped up in one day – but the passion I had in the beginning just wasn’t quite there as much after I started shooting for a living. So I decided to take my focus in a new direction, and my life-long love for animals quickly led me to pet photography. Spending my time making new furry friends here in Atlanta and a bit in Chicago as well, and capturing their personalities for their moms and dads to cherish has been such a joy and I know I’ll continue to love this job for years to come.

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

My work is completely spontaneous and all about having fun! I don’t like to do any “posing” at all… my goal is to have a great time with the pets and the pets’ people. Out of spending a fun day together, and observing all of the little quirks and unique aspects of each pet’s personality, we can get the most natural and accurate record of who that pet is and what he means to his owner – and that is the whole idea. I also like to make images that might not be “portraits” technically speaking –  maybe a close shot of just whiskers, or an abstracted view of markings on fur — but the overall mood and feel of the photograph captures the spirit of the animal. To me, these are the best pieces to transform into artwork for your home. And for me the shoot is only the beginning of the creative process. I love finding unique ways to bring the images to life, whether it’s the perfect way to frame a classic print, printing on alternative materials like metal, or bringing a whole story together in a coffee table book featuring your pets. Great imagery is just a starting point!

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

The biggest thing I remember for cat shoots is patience! You have to work on the cat’s schedule, not your own. Dogs are much more eager to please their owners, so you can coax them to participate in the shoot far more easily than cats. If a cat isn’t in the mood for having a camera pointed towards him, I’m just going to have to wait awhile! Of course, snacks and toys can always help a bit too.

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

So far I’ve been lucky to work with some relatively easy-going cats, even if it did mean practicing some of the aforementioned patience. One cat I photographed was completely startled by the sight of my camera, and for the first part of our session he just sat straight up and stared at it all wide-eyed and afraid. The best thing I could to was to shoot him as he was — and I ended up getting a hilarious shot out of it that his mom just loved! After awhile he warmed up just fine and we were able to finish the shoot as planned and captured the full range of his expressions…but the deer-in-headlights pic really captured a sweet part of his personality and ended up being one of mom’s favorite shots.

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

Definitely use plenty of natural light — cats do not like flashes! If the cat feels like he’s being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do, he’ll be out of there. So make it fun and interesting for the cat — really just play and interact with him the way you normally would; and remember that the shot of the kitty looking straight into the camera is not the only great shot to go for. Just shoot what the cat loves doing to get the best portrait of what your pet is really all about. Those are the shots you’ll cherish for a lifetime.