Photographing Cats: How to Avoid the Glassy Green-Eyed Monster

A Great Trick for Photographing a Cat!

We all have pets we love–pets we love to photograph.  But it’s so difficult getting a well-exposed shot without an ugly glassy-eyed stare.  In addition, pets (especially an I-do-as-I-please-when-I-feel-like-it cat) tend not to cooperate with our picture-taking efforts.  But you can trick them into cooperating.

This is a picture of my cat, Winnie.  Winnie by Sheree ZielkeShe is a contrary old beast who will sit still long enough for me to set up my shot, and then as if responding to some inner psychic voice, she moves off,  just as I snap the picture.  Wretched animal! 

In addition, since she is an indoor cat, I must use additional lighting–like my camera’s flash.  That usually results in an ugly glassy-eyed shot, worse than any red eye.  Because a cat’s pupils are so wide, the flash hi-lights the light receptor cells in the back of the animal’s eyes…and that just isn’t pretty.  Photographing her was a huge challenge, until I discovered this trick.

Cashing in on Winnie’s natural curiosity and cat instincts, here’s how I got this picture.  I lay back on my bed, with a bedside lamp beside me (one of those natural daylight lamps).  I forced my camera’s on-board flash OFF.  I set my ISO to 200, left the white balance on AUTO,  and then waited for her to become interested in what I was doing.  That was the easy part since cats like light, especially light that moves around. 

So, while handholding my compact digital in one hand, I used the other hand to wiggle the lamp.  As a result, Winnie turned her complete attention to the lamp, and since the lamplight was beaming down on her, she was completely lit.  That meant I didn’t have to worry about low light conditions, a slower shutter speed, and resulting camera shake. I easily snapped this pretty picture. 

Another thing that helped was shooting the picture at an angle to her eyes; angles definitely help to avoid a greenish glassy stare. 

More tips:  Use your exposure compensation–especially when photographing an animal that is largely all dark or all light.  Here is a good rule of thumb: 

  1. White cat against a darker background?  The cat will be overexposed so decrease your exposure compensation.  (The problem is that the camera metres the dark background and decides more light is needed in the photograph, thus blowing out the white cat.)
  2. Black cat against a lighter background? The cat will be underexposed so increase your exposure compensation.  (The camera decides less light is needed because of all the light, thus underexposing the dark cat.)
  3. Opt for “spot” metering (as opposed to center, average, or matrix metering) when shooting the above subjects; it will help, but will not entirely correct the situation without an exposure compensation adjustment.

Sheree Zielke

One Response to “Photographing Cats: How to Avoid the Glassy Green-Eyed Monster”

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