These pictorial features are designed to help you better appreciate how working photographers deal with subjects and situations, including some helpful tricks of the trade. In this issue, freelance professional photographer provides some tips about shooting portraits with an extra element of surprise.
TV presenter and comedian Wil Anderson photographed at his home in Sydney with his pet cats for an article in the RSPCA’s magazine, ANIMALS. We’ve included the flying cat out-take just for the fun of it and to show that it can often take quite a few ‘misses’ to get the desired ‘hit’.
After a long career as a corporate and advertising photographer, Bruce Usher now works as a freelancer primarily concentrating on editorial assignments for a wide variety of magazines as well as shooting for annual reports and brochures. He is also a regular contributor to sister publication ProPhoto, profiling the life and work of other professional photographers.
Nikon D2X pro D-SLR with AF Nikkor 20-35mm f2.8 wide-angle
zoom used at 20mm to give the necessary angle-of-view and at f11 for better depth-of-field. Bowens studio flash monobloc.
Bruce says that the room was hard to light because of its size and the angles involved, so he ended up using just one flash monobloc fitted with a large softbox to give a softer, more diffused quality of lighting. Because the cats interacting with Wil was the most important aspect of the image, Bruce tried to keep everything else as simple as possible, including the background.
How It Was Done
‘Never work with children or animals’ is an old showbiz saying, but fortunately two of Wil’s cats were reasonably co-operative (the third was very shy and didn’t appear at all), coaxed into position by the provision of food. However, the “secret weapon” says Bruce was Wil’s ex-girlfriend who knew the cats well and was able to attract their attention when needed. She was positioned so, on cue, the cats would look into the frame. Post-production involved cloning out some cat food and a cat toy, lightening the blacks and toning the couch’s tan colour a fraction to make it less intrusive.
Tricks Of The Trade
When there are unpredictable elements involved (i.e. two cats), the best approach is to go with the flow and be flexible, but also be ready when everything finally comes together. However, try to minimise the unpredictability which, when working with animals, means having somebody they know and will respond to.
Degree Of Difficulty (Out of 10)
Cats are notoriously un-cooperative if they decide to be, so they can be quite a challenge if you have a particular pose or arrangement in mind. You’ll need lots of patience and some creative wrangling to achieve any sort of a result. Wil Anderson, apparently, was quite easy to work with here, but we still think this assignment is definitely worth a ten.
Can You Try This At Home?
Photographing people is more fun than you might imagine, especially when you starting exploring the things that interest them and are a big part of their lives such as pets, hobbies, sports or artistic abilities. Including these elements in the image adds interest and context… and, yes, you can get started in your own home with family members or friends (plus the pets!).