Whether he is taking pictures of dogs, horses or cats, photographer Elke Vogelsang will be the first to tell you that taking photographs of pets isn’t really work for her. Well known for her portrait series of dogs, the German photographer recently focused her lens on cats and their range of expressions.
“I love working with cats as much as I love working with dogs,” Vogelsang tells Reshareworthy.com. “Well, ‘work’ might not be the right word. I turned my hobby into a profession and try to make sure it’s fun for everybody involved and myself.”
Vogelsang recently talked with Reshareworthy.com about how she achieved her humorous and striking cat portraits (in her series “wieselcats”), and that she doesn’t have a preference as to whether she works with dogs or cats because both are fun. But she admits cats are more challenging to work with.
“Cats are definitely more difficult to photograph than dogs, which makes taking portraits of them even more interesting and enjoyable,” Vogelsang says, before adding, “But I love a good challenge. Usually, I visit them in their home to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible.”
For this series of photos, Vogelsang reveals that she didn’t have any issues with the cats she took pictures of.
“None of the cats were actually annoyed with me. Had they been, they wouldn’t have cooperated. But since, from a humanized point of view, a cat’s facial expression can look quite grumpy from time to time,” she writes. “I love to try to capture the different expressions pets can show.”
When she’s in the studio with the cats she makes sure the cats enjoy the experience.
“I don’t use many props,” she says. “But to make sure the cats have fun and love to interact with me, I have a few tricks/utilities.”
Vogelsang reveals, “Playful cats can be engaged in a play with a long feather or a little plush toy or even only some strings of wool. I make sure the cats have a great time chasing the ‘prey’ and try to capture images of them trying to catch the them.”
Then it’s all timing. “For this, I make sure to press the trigger during that fraction of the second the toy is out of sight for the camera, but the cat is still trying to catch it.”
For other cats the motivation is food.
“Some cats also love treats. Here you can use paté or malt paste from tubes or tiny pieces of treats to direct the cat. I change the treats frequently to make sure the selection is still interesting,” Vogelsang tells Reshareworthy.com.
Treat-giving does bring some dangers with it, however.
“Make sure to protect your fingers,” the photographer advises. “Cat claws can be really hurtful little daggers. In between I might again start a little play to keep it exciting and entertaining for the cat. Little cushions with catnip can be real ‘moodlifters’.”
One thing she doesn’t do during a photo session is make a lot of sounds.
“Cats usually don’t react too well to noises, contrary to dogs, [although they] might give you a cute head tilt if you squeak or meow or meep. But using small leather strings attached to a stick, I try to produce the sound of flapping bird wings. This is something cats find super intriguing and might awaken the predator.”
She summarizes that lots of practice and plentiful rewards are key to making the experience worthwhile.
“Overall the key is patience, trust, repetition and lots and lots of bribery. Motivation is key in pet photography,” Vogelsang explains.
“Make sure you adapt your choice for motivation to the individual character of your pet,” Vogelsang says. “Especially for cats you need to make sure your choice and frequency of rewards and entertainment is adapted to your individual model.”
She concludes, “Every cat teaches me a new trick, every cat is different. If you lose their interest, the session is over. It has to be fun and rewarding for the animal.”