Cat is a UK-based photographer who set up her own business photographing people's pets. We talked to her about the quirks of shooting with animals and using the Petzval 58 to capture these moments.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm Cat of CatsDog, the rainbow-haired, crazy-dog-lady Chihuahua Mum who is never too far from a camera! I got into photography properly as a teenager, after following my parents around as a kid with my toy plastic camera. I dabbled in the darkroom at college but found real excitement in the relatively newly developing digital darkroom, aka Photoshop. Photography has always been a passion, but I never envisaged it being more than that. It wasn’t a ‘real’ job, or so I thought. I tootled off to university at 19 to study Web & Multimedia. After two years I took a year out to assist a fashion photographer and was blown away by the prospect that photography WAS a real job and wow, could I feel the fire in my belly urging me to pursue it!
I focused the final year of my degree on image manipulation and after graduating I finally landed a job at Venture, an international family portrait photography studio. It was around this time I got my first house and what was the first thing I did the month I moved in? Got a dog! My beautiful little fur-baby Poppy. I was already bagging all the dog sessions at the studio I worked at and becoming a dog parent drew my attention to how much more dogs could express themselves and let the individual little quirks of their personality shine through. This is where the idea for CatsDog Photography was born – called so because Poppy is our mascot and she is Cat’s Dog. I went part-time at work and within three months I’d gained enough momentum to go it full time – the best decision I ever made.
Two years into CatsDog’s launch I met my other half and business partner Michael, who like me has a huge passion for all things canine. He spent most of his teenage years working in a kennel and when we met, he was working as a graphic designer – I snapped him up quickly! After months of helping me behind the scenes, he quit his job to run CatsDog alongside me. Together we are continually developing and honing a style that speaks to us both artistically - our work is a team effort. During sessions, we often collaborate on different ideas, usually with him directing the light and me behind the camera. In fact, it was Michael who first put me on to the Petzval.
How do you find shooting with the Petzval Lens?
While my workhorse L-series lens’ are a camera bag staple, I would also not be without the Petzval 58. There is something very special about the images it produces, we are sticklers for glass that produces sharp, clear, good quality images and the Petzval happily holds its own. Michael discovered this gorgeously made tool when we were doing some research into different styles of photography - looking for ways to stand out in the dog photography market. I just love the historic look and feel of it, every time I bring it out of my camera bag Michael and I tell our clients how it is a remake of an original 1800’s lens and demonstrate the unique focusing ring. I usually squeal at how much I love the process of selecting and inserting the aperture plates.
We have previously tried creating heart-shaped bokeh for a Valentine's themed shoot, by cutting heart shapes out of circular pieces of card and attaching them to the end of the lens. The new Petzval multi-shaped aperture plates make this process so much easier – I used the heart-shaped one with a GORGEOUS tiny little Chihuahua cross called Elsie. She was so small and adorable that I felt she deserved little flecks of heart-shaped bokeh around.
What did you choose to shoot?
Dogs! 99 percent of the subjects we point our lens at are of the canine variety. Their un-altering happiness and curiosity make them a joy to photograph, although every dog has its own quirks. Some are food orientated and the sniff of a biscuit above the lens will get them staring lovingly down the camera, for others, it’s a toy or ball above the camera that makes them nearly burst with excitement. If neither of those motives our chosen four-legged subject then we have an array of noise-makers and whistles to make them stare quizzically down the camera in no time. We choose to shoot outdoors because this is where dogs can truly be themselves. Most dog owners will tell you their dog's face lights up at the hint of ‘walkies,’ bringing their waggy tail to life! Admittedly dogs are one of the trickier subjects to photograph using manual focus. It can be a challenge to hold their gaze long enough to get the focus spot on, particularly on wider apertures. It's usually a two-person job, with one of us keeping the dog looking where we want it to and the other tweaking the focus. I prefer to look through the viewfinder to focus while Michael likes to use live view so he can zoom in on the focus point and make sure it's pin sharp. It takes a bit of practice but it’s worth persevering for such a unique result.
What’s coming up in 2017?
Our main goal at the moment is the development of the CatsDog family. We currently have a modest team of seven, which we are actively expanding so we have more time to shoot creatively for personal projects - an integral part of keeping our brand fresh and authentic. We are itching to update our website and grow the CatsDog brand. I feel that we have laid some solid foundations over the past few years and now is our time to build on them. Earlier this year we joined the British Institute of Professional Photographers as a means to push ourselves further both technically and creatively. We are currently working towards our first qualification, which we hope to achieve by the end of 2017. There is nothing more exciting than being able to put your heart and soul into something you love, CatsDog really is our baby and we can’t wait to see where its growth takes us.
To see more photos and info, please visit catsdog.co.uk.