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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Interview: Cat Photographer | Photography - PopPhoto.com Offers Camera Reviews and Exclusive Photo Tips
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Friday, March 19, 2010
"Making Cats Fancy, A portrait shooter to the feline stars"
Photo by Thomas Singer
(who was standing on a stepladder to be able to get all three of us in one shot,
hence the Maine Coon looking so large and Ken being out of focus).
[Photo Caption:] Helmi Flick (www.helmiflick.com ) and her cat wrangler husband, Ken, based in Bedford, TX, travel the world taking portraits of cats. They pose here with SGC Coonificents Sgt. Munch, a red Maine Coon, at the Jersey State Cat Show. See a gallery of Helmi's work at PopPhoto.com/cats.
CAT PORTRAITIST SEEMS LIKE AN UNUSUAL CAREER.
I only know of six or so others who do it full time. Most work alone, yet I cannot get the images I do without my husband, Ken, to wrangle the cats.
HOW DID YOU TURN PRO?
I've always loved cats and loved photographing our own. However, I had more enthusiasm than expertise, wasting way too much film, until Ken gave me a digital camera in 1999. That changed everything. I could instantly see what I was doing wrong and correct it. As my work improved, I got some studio flashes, and Ken built me a shooting stage for formal cat portraiture. I was 55 in 2000 when, on the strength of my amateur portfolio, I was invited to be the Show Photographer at an Oklahoma City cat show. Back then, when all my cat photographer heroes were still shooting film, I was shooting with a 2MP Olympus C-2020. In 2004, when Cat Fancy magazine published their first cover from a digital camera, I was thrilled it was from my 5MP Olympus C-5050.
WHO ARE YOUR CUSTOMERS?
Our business has two revenue streams. First are the cat breeders who need portraits of their cats to promote their catteries and also the pet owners who just want good pictures of their cats. Our secondary market involves licensing our cat images to publishers of books, magazines and websites, and also for advertising and packaging.
WHAT IS A SHOW DAY LIKE?
We spend about four hours setting up our staging and lighting gear the day before the show. On show days, we are typically booked with all the cats we can shoot. We always have the cat owners present during the photo session. I usually shoot for 10-15 minutes, then take another 10 minutes to download the shots to my computer and review them with our customers to ensure they are pleased. Finally, I burn the high res JPEG proof files to a CD for the customer. That's now my basic product, although I still offer retouching and prints as an extra.
WHAT GEAR DO YOU USE?
I'm shooting with a Canon 5D Mk II and a 24-105mm f/4 L lens. Our main flashes are Alien Bees: a B800 and two B400s. We light our backgrounds with a small Quantaray MS-1 slave flash. I make my own backgrounds with materials from fabric stores and prefer solid colors and stretchable fabrics for a clean, wrinkle-free look.
ARE CATS EASY SUBJECTS?
No. That would be flower arrangements. While dogs are innately eager to please, most cats enter the portrait session oblivious to your objectives, so the challenge is to make it fun for them and make cooperation seem like their idea. Ken uses a variety of "teasers," such as a pheasant feather on a long rod, to direct the cat's attention to my lens or to coax it into various poses and actions. He creates the "moments" we are looking for and I capture them. Generally, the large, longhaired breeds such as Maine Coons, are more cooperative posers than others. Active breeds, such as Bengals, love to play and give us great action shots. A few breeds, like the Siamese, are notoriously camera shy or defiantly aloof and really make us earn our money.
Shooting cats -- like "herding" them -- is exhausting work, especially at an age when most people are retired, but I love it. I'm working at the top of my game, seeing the world, and having the time of my life.
- Interview by Kathleen Davis/ Rewrite by Ken Flick
I'll post later the images I sent the magazine for their online mag. If you have any comments, I would love to hear them!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
at the chaos in our house when we have to fly with our gear!
Above is a long shot of the living room, with two of our three new flying cases in view. Zak is in the large one which holds our deck of the photo table plus our lights which fit into foam holes Ken has cut to cushion them. The case in the bottom foreground will hold our camera gear which we'll take as "carry on" luggage. The remaining case (not seen) is actually a gun case but holds our light stands and poles. Plus probably the drill driver which is heavy.
Apparently, we'll have to take our batteries on board with us. Wish we could take Zak . . .