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Topper's First Photoshoot: The Struggle of Photographing a Kitten

Updated: Sep 12, 2019

As some of you may already know, we recently adopted a kitten from the SPCA. His name is Topper and he is so adorable. Obviously being a video production company that also does pet photography, a good quality photoshoot was fairly high on the to do list. Kittens grow up so fast I knew that if I kept putting it off that he would be in that awkward looking teen phase and we wouldn't have any good photos of him as a baby.

We of course had plenty of snapchat quality photos with terrible lighting that were all dark and grainy. While there is definitely a place for these spur of the moment, he's-being-so-cute-I-can-hardly-take-it photos, I knew we needed a proper portrait of him that we could blow up and hang on the wall.

We have hundreds of great photos of our cat, Finn. He's such a poser, as soon as you get the camera out he saunters over and flops down, looking straight down the lens. The key with pet photography is often patience and a high shutter speed to capture any movement, but Finn's such a pro you can get an exceptional photo of him in a handful of shots.

The other animal that we photograph all the time is Mum and Dad's dog, Meg. Again she is a poser and very good at giving us exactly what we want. She sits very still and looks straight down the lens, she is so good in fact that we have made a series of ads where we replace her mouth with Book's. Certainly not something we would attempt with most animals. What I'm getting at is that we are used to seasoned models who know what we want and how to give it to us. Calm and professional, who know if they let us take a enough photos, they will get a treat. It's a system that works. Until you try with a kitten.

We have a couple of portable photography screens at work that I thought I would bring home. This would be easier then bringing Topper into work and using the full size screens. When we took the screens home for Finn about a year ago, he flopped down in the middle of it and and gave us some poses worthy of being on a flea treatment poster. I'm not entirely sure why I thought a tiny, energetic kitten would do the same, but I did.

We set up the screens in the kitchen and there was a fair amount of interest from both Finn and Topper. "Great" I thought "I'll probably be able to get a beautiful portrait of both of them for our wall".

Problem One: Our Dark Kitchen

I chose the kitchen because it has the most floor space of all the rooms in the house, however until we can afford to knock the wall between the lounge and the kitchen out, it is a rather dark room. There's indirect sunlight coming through windows on one wall, half of which have a frosted vinyl over them to block out the neighbours. So I set up the camera and have to boost the ISO, but not so much that they go grainy. I set up some lights but unlike Finn who lets you know where he will be planting for the shoot so you can light around him, Topper was all over the place making lighting difficult.

Problem Two: He's a Kitten

Not exactly a problem, kittens are super cute. More of a challenge. The screen was set up and ready to go and this little guy doesn't even really know his name yet. Book placed him on the screen and he ran behind it to play with the light stands. Ok fair enough I guess. So Book got some toys. I pretty much held the shutter down while Book got him to play in front of the screen. Which resulted in maybe three useable photos out of 300. Not exaggerating.

Problem Three: Two Cats Will Distract Each Other

After seeing how much attention Topper was getting, Finn comes over to sit on the screen and be a good model like usual. Topper then hides behind the screen and they start swiping and biting each other through the screen, getting it twisted and creased. It is now that I realise we will not be getting a lovely calm family portrait of the both of them. Topper is wound up from playing with the toys and Finn is wound up from lack of attention and they sit there and kick each other through the screen until my elbows get sore from lying on the ground and I give up.

The next day I decided to give it one more go. No screens this time and in the lounge where the light was streaming through the window. Topper was sleeping on the top of the couch and I got out the camera as he woke up. He was calm and sleepy and I shot it with the sun in the background so I could get some lens flare. Boom. In 30 seconds I had more usable photos than I had got in an hour the day before.

So what did I learn. Firstly that whether we realised we were doing it or not, we have perfectly trained both Finn and Meg to be models and should probably be getting them proper advertising gigs. Secondly, kittens be crazy they have so much energy and it's been a long time since either of us have really been around one. Thirdly, you can't force a moment. I can't make Topper sit and pose on the screen, well not until he calms down a bit and learns a few commands. I can make sure I bring the camera home on the weekends and just capture as much as I can while he grows up into a cat. I will be getting that family portrait at some point and if I have to wait until he's fully grown then I can do that. For now I can stick to the handful of good quality photos I got and the grainy ass snapchat saves of Finn giving him a bath late at night.

I don't care what anyone says that's the cutest thing I've seen in my life even though it's dark and grainy.


Media Melt is a Video Production Company based in Dunedin, New Zealand. If you have any enquires, feel free to contact us here


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