In my opinion photographers that have pets have something special. I’m not just writing about the companionship, or the devotion one receives. That relationship is special and important, however, what I am referring to is that pets are perfect models for our portrait photography.
Photographers point their cameras at just about everything in their lives. Spouses and children patiently put up with constantly having their picture being taken, but eventually even they need to go on about their lives without being constantly photographed, and when that happens, if you are like me, you go looking for the family pet.
Got a new camera or lens? Want to try out that studio lighting technique? Or just bored and want someone ever ready and able to pose for a photograph? Call the dog, or coax the cat. I can’t even begin to count the pictures I have taken of the horses, dogs, cats, parakeets, hamsters, chickens, fish, and frogs I have taken in my life.
Those pets never complained when the pictures didn’t work out and even waited for another blast of the flash without blinking. I admit the goldfish aren’t very good posers, and Chuck, the rooster that guards the hens, doesn’t seem too interested in standing still for his portrait, but Peaches, the cat, seems more than ok with posing for long periods of time.
Peaches became a resident years ago in the barn, as cats do from time to time. I have no idea her origin, or how old she is, but after a bad run-in with either a wandering coyote or the neighbor’s dog and the follow up convalescence in our home, she somehow moved from the barn to sleeping on my wife’s lap.
The name Peaches came from when I was feeding three strays one winter. My wife asked me what their names were, but, heck, I just didn’t want them starving in the cold weather and hadn’t bonded enough to exchange names. I explained, “ the black one is named Furry, the spotted one is Furry, and the yellow one is called Furry”. Linda named them Furry, Trixie, and Peaches, respectively. So after Furry got old and died, and Trixie was adopted by a neighbor down the road, Peaches came inside for first aid, a warm place to live, and has become a constant object of my photography.
I will admit that cats are great posers. They will sit without moving for long periods of time, giving photographers lots of time to test out lenses, learn flash techniques, and get creative with a camera. Peaches ignores me most of the time, except when she wants food. So I can take all the pictures I want pretty much any time without any interference. She just sits and waits.
I have never been one of those picture takers that take cute or silly pictures of the animals with which I share my home. I like portraits, so my pet photographs are usually planned and not much different than a formal portraiture of a person. Actually, that cat is a lot easier than most people because she just sits motionless staring at some spot in space for long periods of time. Other than sleeping and eating, Peaches the cat doesn’t seem to think much else matters, thus she is the perfect poser.
“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don’t know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn’t matter.” That quote from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll reminds me of my cat, Peaches.
I am not suggesting that photographers should rush out and adopt a cat or any other pet only because they need a model, but if one already inhabits the home then put them to work as an artist’s model. And if any of the pictures are good, then add some words like Merry Christmas or Happy Birthday in PhotoShop and make some cards for your friends and relatives.
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