Getting Emerald's picture is easy. Getting emerald's picture in mid-snarl requires roll after roll, always having the camera available, and the luck of having Merlin (off camera) show up and tick her off while you're shooting. This is a one-of-a-kind photo. It has all of the elements of a good pet photo. The cat is doing something interesting in front of a non-distracting background. Her eyes are visible, adding vibrant color. Her mouth is open, adding more color. She has plenty of light, and the photo is a closeup.
° If you're using film, use a 35 mm camera. APS has too small a negative. If you get something good, you won't be able to do much with it. Ideally you need a 35 mm auto focus, auto exposure camera with detachable lenses. Suitable lenses are 50 mm and zooms within 35-105 mm. I've had good luck with a 35-135 mm zoom. The lens should be able to focus pretty close, and it should be pretty fast. If you're using non-zooms, 85 through 105 work well, too. They keep you from being too close to the cat and (a) distorting his image and (b) pissing him off.
° Use ASA 400 film. Modern film is good enough and fine grained enough that you can use that and still get a good enlargement, even poster size.
Digital Cameras have revolutionized photography, and this is no exception. Despite having two perfectly usable high quality Nikon bodies, I bought a Nikon D-100. The savings in film paid for it the first year.
° No film to buy or process. Download the photos to your computer, and you have them more or less permanently (assuming you periodically make a CD with all of your photos on it and keep it in a safe place.)
° No waiting for processing. A photo taken in the AM can be on the web that afternoon or hard copies can be printed on a $100 printer on photo paper from wallet to 8" x 10".
° No scanning needed.
° Editing is easy. You can edit with the program that comes with the camera or with PhotoShop.
What to Buy:
° Buy the best you can, as above with detachable lenses. All digital cameras are auto focus. You also want as many megapixels as possible, even though when photographing for the internet you won't be using them. All high res cameras have lower res settings that give you more pictures per memory card, but you won't be able to make a poster out of them. The D100 doesn't do enough megapixels to give a "negative" the size of a 35 mm negative. This makes 50 mm lenses equal to 80 or so, and 35 to 50, making all of my telephoto lenses more telephoto. It took some adapting. As things progress higher megapixel cameras appear and this will no longer be a problem in a few years.
° Having a pocket digital camera of lesser megapixels (mine's 3.2 vs 6 for the Big Nikon) additionally is a good idea. Like guns, when you need a camera, it's better to have a small camera than no camera.
Some Digital Images:
This is Arthur Pendragon just after he joined us at about 12 weeks. There's light behind him, highlighting his fur, and theres reflection of the flash in his eyes, but not enough for red eye (or in this case, green eye). Image basically unmanipulated
On a blue background his eyes turn almost blue.
° Use a fill in flash to highlight the subject even when photographing outdoors. ALWAYS!
° Get in close. Fill the frame with the subject:
This might be close enough...
Or you might want to get this close.
One trick is to get the cat's eyes--open--wide. This is easier in bright light because the irises close down letting you see the bright color. Bear (above) has dark, shiny fur. It eats light. I'm not sure you can get enough light on Bear. In most photos he becomes a silhouette with bright eyes. If his eyes aren't open, you just get a silhouette. Emerald, on the other hand, is extremely photogenic, and it's as hard to get a bad photo of her as it is to get a good photo of Bear:
If the silver fur, bright green eyes, and pink nose with black rim weren't enough, she sticks her tongue out a lot, adding both color and "cuteness."
The background was made to go away by setting the shutter speed to the fastest flash synchronization speed, 1/250th of a second, and setting the Through The Lens (TTL) meter to "Spot" (adjustable on high line Nikons), so that her bright silver fur was properly exposed, allowing the darker backgroud to be under exposed and thus dark.
USE TOO MUCH FILM:
° Film is the cheapest thing you have, even with today's prices and developing prices. Use the good stuff, too. While I haven't gone totally digital (Nikon's best digital back is $5 grand--but total up a year's film costs to see how long it would take to pay for itself), I do get a CD with the photos on it so I can manipulate them for online usage and printing on a $199 HP printer that'll do 8-1/2" x 11" or smaller prints of commercial quality on HP Photo paper. To be specific, I use photoworks.com film and their processing. I started using their film because from it you can get both slides and negatives. At that time magazines wanted slides for publication. Now they want JPEGs, so I order JPEGS instead of slides.
°Added 3-24-05--The printers have gone down. The one at the office was circa $100 and is better than the $199 a few years ago. Since it's all digital, the PhotoWorks bill has gone to nothing. I still make CDs periodically.
And certain things apply to cats:
° You need a helper, someone to get the cat to look at the camera or whatever you're trying to get the cat to look at. Sometimes you need a helper to keep the cat from running away. While trying to get the e-card photo of Emerald which graces the December 1999 (and again in 2001) online newsletter, The Redhead was absolutely necessary because none of the cats wanted to stay on the hood of the car. They were outdoors, and they wanted to explore. This resulted in some missed shots:
But, by continuing patiently we got some good ones:
Your helper should be equipped with cat treats, a Kitty Tease, or other cat toys.
° Cats look best when photographed in high ambient light. Their irises close up, showing the color of their eyes better than in dark rooms. Additionally, in dark rooms, blue eyed cats will look like demons with red eye with the usual flash. Remoting the flash helps that, but that's a pain in the neck, making the camera a lot more cumbersome and difficult to use.
This is an indoor shot of Merlin we call "Devil-Possessed" Merlin (sometimes an accurate description). The notorious "Red Eye" has reared its ugly red head.
The cure, digitally, was to change the red eyes to blue using Photo Deluxe. Now days we can make your eyes blue without Country Music.
Merlin was VERY difficult to photograph. He could spend the day at the groomers, and when he got home, we had about 30 seconds before he looked dissheveled and his tearing problem ruined his face for photographs. If he looked into the camera redeye would result (absent a remote flash, usually difficult on fast moving cats).
This is probably the best picture of him. He had just gotten home from the groomers. I managed to avoid redeye.
Sometimes it takes a lot of patience to get a good shot. Here are 6 failures on the way to...
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:
Please go to page 2.