by Susan McCullough
Linda Formichelli of Concord, N.H., would love to have a photograph that does justice to her 11-year-old cat, Sasha. However, the black-and-tan feline apparently does not share Formichelli's desire.
When Sasha sees the camera, "she won't stay still for even a second," says Formichelli. "It seems that if she's not lying down, she's in motion. We tried to get a photo of her on a bench with my other two cats to create a birthday card for a cat-loving friend, and she kept jumping down."
Plenty of cats share Sasha's dislike of being photographed. Some fear the camera and disappear, while others simply saunter off or otherwise refuse to cooperate. And even if your kitty is willing, your photography skills may be inadequate, resulting in blurry, off-center photos that make your cat look as though red is its natural eye color.
Don't despair, though, since professional photographers face similar challenges. "Some cats are very shy and may want to go and hide," acknowledges Robin Burkett, owner of PawPrints Photography in Annandale, Va. "And most cats are very independent; they only do what they want to do."
That said, you can still try and capture your pet's Cheshire cat smile with these seven tricks:
Let the cat rule
Trying to force your cat to cooperate is a recipe for disaster, according to Shawn Green, co-owner of Animal Images Photography in Michigan City, Ind. "The worst thing you can do with cats is to try to force your agenda on them," she says. "That is when a battle of wills begins. Make them think it was their idea to sit on the velvet chair on the forbidden side of the room and that this time you approve."
Burkett agrees. "The cat runs the session," she says. "If we can't get them to go where we want them to go, we go where they want us to go."
If your cat isn't cooperating, try diverting its attention away from the camera and toward something novel. Burkett coaxes shy cats into coming out of hiding by offering up interesting toys, catnip or food. "We bring lots of interesting-smelling things to a photo shoot, and cats usually like to explore the new stuff," says Burkett. "The key is to use something they don't usually get." Just having another person in the room can provide a welcome distraction, too.
To combat red eyes in cat photos, put away your camera's flash attachment. "Unless you have a professional lighting arrangement, the easiest way to prevent red eye is to rely on natural light," says Green. "Do not use a flash."
Work the angles
Sometimes you may have no choice but to use a flash. According to Green, you can still avoid red eye if you "try to shoot from an angle where the cat is not looking directly at the flash. Have someone distract them so that their gaze is at about a 30-degree angle from the camera."
Keep your cool
If the photography session is not going well, don't give in to frustration. "Animals have their own ideas, issues, fears and agendas," says Green. "The more frustration you show, the worse the situation will get. So stay calm. And if it doesn't happen, tomorrow is another day."
Sometimes a great shot will materialize if you're just willing to wait for it. For a photo of a kitten peeking from behind a curtain, "I just waited until she went behind the curtain, which is her favorite bird-watching post," Green recalls. "It was perfect and the kitten never knew she was being stalked."
Hire a pro
To get a truly artistic or high-quality portrait of your cat, consider hiring a professional photographer -- but not just any photographer. "You want someone who knows, loves and understands cats," says Burkett. "And you want someone who has an incredible amount of patience, is flexible and understands photography so that when the cat moves to a different room, the photographer can adjust and still get great images. And you want someone who brings their own cat toys." Find an animal-loving photographer by looking at local trainer, or other animal expert, Web sites. Note who is credited with the photos on the sites, or if the credit is not available, ask the site owner where he or she obtained the photos.
No one would say that photographing a cat is easy. But if you're patient and flexible -- or willing to pay for a pro with those characteristics -- you'll stand a good chance of getting some pictures that really do justice to your feline friend.
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Cats: Photographing Your Elusive Feline