Written by Marjorie Dawson

The Look #52Assignments No. 12

The Look #52Assignments No. 12

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This week the project is the Look. This ‘look’ refers to the technique of selfies and in particular the self-portraits or portraits that catch the eye of your model, whether it is you for your cat. I am including lots of cat photos this week, they reall capture the look I was aiming for.

You can take portraits that focus on this chapter of the book in any kind of light, although natural light is recommended, and this is the kind of light I use.

How to I Capture The Look?

You need to pay close attention to how the light falls on your cat, especially the eyes. Experiment with different ideas, post in different ways. I good way is to have your cat face the window. This ensures that the pupil closes making them look more relaxed because it removes the wide eyed look that you might see as worry or fear.

You can see the narrow pupil look in Sienna. She looks slight away from the sun but the ambient light is quite intense so her eyes reflect this.

Sienna the tortoiseshell poses for the camera
Sienna – ISO 200 160 mm F 5.6 1/125 © Dash Kitten

Models have a certain way of looking into the lens that works every time. Why? Because we are genetically programmed to look at the eyes first.

52 Assignments Instagram

If you are using a smartphone, your photo app may look for faces. If it doesn’t you can direct your ‘phones focus by touching the screen to show it where to focus. If you haven’t done this before take a few practice shots to see how it works.

Phoebe the long haired cat sends the look right at the camera.
Phoebe – ISO 3200 37 mm F 4.5 1/80 © Dash Kitten

Posing for Model Shots

The chapter of 52 Assignments goes into some detail about posing your model and it is worth a read. Very briefly, things like this matter:

  1. Encourage your model to relax, so they look less stiff
  2. Focus on your cat’s eyes as much as you can.
  3. This focus tip works for humans too.Chin slightly out, head slightly down.
  4. Check where the light is coming from!
Boy sticks out his tongue. Perfect model
A cheeky little human model shows the eye focus.
ISO 6400 542 mm F 5.6 1/40 © Dash Kitten

Look for the Light

The main message I got from this chapter was that your light is very important, regardless of the camera you use. Light coming over your shoulder means the model will have a lovely catch light in their eyes which brings them to life. You can see a detailed catchlight in Toulouse’s eye below. The setting of F 3.5 gives a very shallow depth of field on my DSLR (and lots of soft-focus background).

Bokeh effect gets the look behind an attractive tabby.
Toulouse – ISO 200 50 mm F 3.5 1/400

When I did decorative painting as a hobby, one of the popular projects was animals of all kinds.

Cat, puppies, and birds in various styles were fun to do and the last thing you did as a painter was add a tiny splash of soft white on the eye. This tiny splash was the equivalent of the photographic catchlight and brought the painting to life. Without it the painting was lifeless, with it there was a sense of vibrant life.

Older Cat Photos Get The Look

I wanted to show how an older image could get the model look.

This is a not too sharp image of our beloved Harvey. The soft misty border is from an earlier version of iPhoto and even though he is not looking at the camera, Harvey rocks the ‘senior in thoughtful mood’ vibe. The look comes from the intensity of the photo and the lack of distractions that might draw your attention away from his face.

White senior cat looking proudly to one side
Smartphone Image © Dash Kitten

Tags for The Look

You can label the filter. #Hudson or #Sutro are radial filters that will work. #eyes #killerlook #portraitperfection #catsofinstagram #instaportrait are useful suggestions.

If you want to explore this idea further, try creating a portfolio of shots capturing your cat’s look in different ways. Let me know how you and your model get on! If you need inspiration try our Posing Post for top tips!

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Marjorie Dawson

Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.

She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

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5 thoughts on “The Look #52Assignments No. 12”

  1. Some great tips to consider – I agree with you that light (in paintings and photography) can really bring an image to life. I have to say, I have a special place in my heart from the ‘senior in thoughtful moment’ look.

    Our pets are all getting older and I can’t help but fall for the incredible senior dogs and cats, and all the wisdom, life experience and love that you an see in their sweet faces. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Too bad our kitties are angels now…but the pups sometimes will cooperate, LOL!!

    I do try to get a light point into their eyes, it does make all the difference!

    PS: I had to giggle at the young lad’s cute raspberry!!

  3. Thanks for some great tips. We always have trouble because the light is so crappy in our house we almost always need flash. There are those times though… and you have helped us capture them


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