Monday , 18 January 2021

Brooke Jacobs Pet Photographer Tells Us How To Take Great Cat Photos!

Duncan Brooke Jacobs Pet Photography

If social media tells us anything, it is that people love photos of cats! And many are sharing their cat and pet photos both on social media & the Internet with family and friends. Who can resist showing off just how adorable and purrfect your favorite feline is?

Good photographs of cats can be important. If you volunteer at a shelter, taking terrific photos of cats can help potential pet owners get a sense of what that cat is like before they meet them, to help them find a “forever home.” Our pet photographs are cherished and treasured, just as our other family member photographs are. You can capture the ages and stages that your cat goes through from kitten hood through a young cat’s life and then becoming a senior cat – and all the fun you have in between!

We are fortunate today to have Brooke Jacobs, a well-known pet and cat photographer at today. Jacobs has taken photos of many pets and has 4 cats herself. Her pet/cat photographs have appeared in publications that include Bowtie Inc., Browntrout Publisher, Modern Dog and Animal Fair. She takes professional photographs of cats, dogs and other animals and understands exactly how to get terrific “shots” to share your pet’s purrsonality!

Jacobs is very committed to animal rescue and adoption. She has been working with cats, doing TNR projects, adoptions and socializing cats in Brooklyn for the last 4 years. So it’s easy to see that she is one really cool cat lady!
It is not a surprise that Jacobs developed a career working with the animals that she loves so much. She grew up with a mother who ran an animal shelter. She studied photography and in 2003, chose to focus on pet photography.

“They are the best subjects to work with!” Jacobs says.

For us, it is hard to disagree. But we are curious about how exactly does one get a terrific photo of a wriggly kitten or a shy cat. Fortunately Jacobs shares some of her helpful tips with us, so you can snap away and show off your favorite furry companion on social media or in a “brag book” that you pass around with friends!

PurrfectCatNames: We’re going to focus on talking about how pet parents can take better casual photos of their cats & pets today. What do you think is one of the biggest challenges they face?

Jacobs: I think people with point and shoot cameras have two main challenges, lighting and speed.

Tabby Cat Max on wood table

I recommend shooting close to windows or where natural light comes into one’s home – it is ok to move a chair closer to a brighter spot even if it isn’t its proper location. Better lighting helps a camera have quicker speed as well. And I would turn off the flash! A lot of pet parents and animal lovers enjoy posting photos to their favorite social media channels, like Facebook. Should you consider taking a different type of photo when you are posting it to FB vs. when you are putting it in a frame on the mantle or showing it to friends in a “brag book”?

Jacobs: Great moments and images should be both shared and put in a frame. Social media and the ease and quickness which we can share images is very interesting for someone who really looks at the image as a whole. I always laugh when the animal is perfect but the dirty pile of laundry or stacks of papers in the background show me a more intimate portrait of the pet parent… one which they might not really be interested in sharing. That said; I still love any image of a cat or dog on my FB news feed! I think one knows when they have a great image and I really encourage people to print images and not just keep them digital. Even if it just goes in a folder. Because we live in a digital world people quickly forget about images that really will make them smile again and again.

PurrfectCatNames: Kittens and some cats are super active. How can you get them to mellow out a bit – to look at the camera for a moment so you can get a photo of their face? Do you offer them a treat after or before the photo for example? Take the photo after they’ve just woken up from a nap?

Jacobs: Kittens are easier than cats in many ways since they are easier to entertain with toys. Having treats and toys (and even better an assistant with the toys and treats to help get a great image – this is a big hint into getting great shots) is the best way to get a cat to look at the camera and steal a moment. I like working with toys on sticks since I have better control of where the cat will look. Get a cat interested in a toy and quickly sneak it back to the camera for a straight on look, or crinkle the bag holding cat treats above a camera. I offer treats and fun during the whole photo session to make sure the pet is happy and will continue to participate in my shoot. There are tons of digital cameras out there – do you have any recommendations on settings or types of cameras when you want to take photos of your pets? For example should you look for a camera with an excellent zoom function? Are there any camera brands you’d especially recommend (note: it is certainly okay if you don’t, just wondering if you have any favorites!)

Jacobs: Being a professional photographer I have a quick camera that is fully controllable. Most people don’t need a pro camera to get great shots of their pets. Purchasing a quicker camera would be key for getting fun moments of ones pets. Every time I work with someone’s point and shoot I am most bothered by how long it takes before the image is actually taken.

PurrfectCatNames: How can pet parents work with accessories in their photos? So if they want their cats to play with cat toys or to scratch on the scratching post, is there a way to encourage it?

Jacobs: If you make something fun for a cat they will do whatever you want them to do. Cat nip on toys and scratching posts is one obviously way to encourage a cat to play with something new. Accessories can definitely make a shot interesting. I love ties and cats don’t seem to be bothered by them. Hats however is a whole other story. I wouldn’t recommend it!

PurrfectCatNames: One of my cats, Steinbeck really didn’t like having his photograph taken. I would pick up the camera and he would close his eyes. My first thought was that it was the flash, that it was uncomfortable for his eyes. But if I took the photo with no flash, it wouldn’t come out well. So how should pet parents deal with pets who don’t like to have their photos taken? The second part of this question is – should we be using the flash when we are taking casual shots?

Jacobs: I use lighting for all of my studio shots. My lights are not directly in their face but still it occasionally upsets a cat. It is best to keep the cat comfortable and not use a flash if it is clearly bothering the cat. In these cases use natural light to keep the cat happy. An unhappy cat will just get moody and hide. Photographing ones pet really should be used as a time to bond and have fun. Once again treats and toys and love to get a cat comfortable and in a good spot should be the key to getting a fun image!

PurrfectCatNames: What is it like bringing your cat to a pet photographer (or rather, having the pet photographer come visit you for an appointment)? What can pet parents expect?

Jacobs: Unless the client has a kitten or a professional cat, the photographer should always go to the cat. I find that cats really don’t like leaving their home environment. A professional pet photographer knows it might take time for a cat to warm up to a stranger with lights and strange equipment. Patience is a major ingredient to being a good pet photographer. That said, since the shoot is all about the cat(s) they tend to really enjoy all the extra special attention and be more than willing to participate.

PurrfectCatNames: What inspired you to take photographs of pets professionally? What do you love about taking photos of pets?

Jacobs: I never get a bad image? Ha ha! Just kidding! I do strive to get an exceptional moment and capture more than the cute factor of a pet, since as we know they are so much more than just cute! I am completely charmed by pets… the good and the ‘bad’ and I’m always up for a challenge. Just like taking portraits of a human, they are all unique and really bring something new to a shoot each and every time.

I love my pets so much and hold onto the memories of all the pets from my past. I love seeing old photographs of the pets I grew up with and understand the power of an image. It is awesome to take an image that I know someone will cherish for the rest of their lives. Tell us one of your favorite stories about a pet photography “shoot”!

Jacobs: All my shoots are great and surprising and sometime really challenging. I really NEVER know what I am walking into when I photograph for a private client. People have different reasons for hiring a professional.

Sometimes it is simply to get great shots that they can admire and enjoy but sometimes it is because an animal is sick and it is more emotional than simply getting great shots. I’m not sure I have a favorite shoot (although I photograph one dog several times a year and he makes me laugh and laugh throughout the shoot because he is naughty and it works up his dad) but I always remember the first photograph I took of my boy cat Duncan.

I was fostering him at the time (another foster fail for me) and I believe he was a bodega basement cat, so he never played with a toy before. I was setting up for a shoot and since he was interested in what was going on I decided I would test on him. I took out a toy and while he didn’t understand to play with it he knew it was fun and exploded with excitement, going crazy in my apartment. I mean WILD INSANITY! When he came back to the set he flopped down and I got the most amazing shot of him on his back. I knew I had a cat that I would photograph over and over again and that he was mine!

PurrfectCatNames: What is a common challenge with photographing cats that pet parents ask you about?

Jacobs: One of the main questions I get a lot is how to photograph a black cat.

People who shoot with cell phones and point and shoot camera’s have a hard time photographing black cats. Sometimes all they see is eyes on a black blob. Again it is all about lighting. Set the cat up in an area with good natural light and also put the cat on a darker background. The hope is that the camera will compensate for the darkness by opening up to let more light through. If you photograph a black cat on something light the camera will take an overall reading and won’t open up.

Thank you Brooke Jacobs for taking the time to visit and for your help in taking terrific photos of our cats!

Visit Jacobs’ site to learn more about her pet photography and cat/pet photo projects:

Sydney, Tabby Cat with ear tip


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