The Trilogy of Street Cat Photography (Part I)

The Trilogy of Street Cat Photography (Part I)

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Elegant and mysterious, cats are one creature that is frequently being photographed. Apart from your pet cats, have you ever taken any photo of the street cats?
 

Learn the Differences for Street Cat Photography

 
Unlike other photography genres such as landscape or portrait, we cannot control the facial expressions nor actions of cats as desired in street cat photography, and there is no second chance to get the photo right. Compared to pet photography, street cats are more unpredictable in terms of their actions and reactions. They interact strongly with the surrounding environment and from which a unique form of vitality can be seen. You need to grab a “chance” to photograph them, as the moment is usually fleeting. It is this type of uncertainty that makes street cat photography fun.
 
Different from other photographic topics, the success of street cat photography lies on a number of factors. Before we go deep into the shooting techniques, let’s go over some of the things you need to know about street cat photography in this article.

Have Your Mindset Ready before the Shooting

 
Elegant and mysterious, cats are one creature that is frequently being photographed. Apart from your pet cats, have you ever taken any photo of the street cats? Learn the Differences for Street Cat PhotographyUnlike other photography genres such as landscape or portrait, we cannot control the facial expressions nor actions of cats as desired in street cat photography, and there is no second chance to get the photo right. Compared to pet photography, street cats are more unpredictable in terms of their actions and reactions. They interact strongly with the surrounding environment and from which a unique form of vitality can be seen. You need to grab a “chance” to photograph them, as the moment is usually fleeting. It is this type of uncertainty that makes street cat photography fun. Different from other photographic topics, the success of street cat photography lies on a number of factors. Before we go deep into the shooting techniques, let’s go over some of the things you need to know about street cat photography in this article. Have Your Mindset Ready before the ShootingIt is up to fate whether you can come across any street cat. Chances are you can get nothing even wandering for the whole day, or you may see something unexpected when just passing by. Therefore, you need to understand and accept the fact that nothing is guaranteed. Your effort may not yield a return. Just feel ease and when the chance comes, grab it.

Always remember that you are just an observer (though you may look like an invader to those wary cats), and photography is only a means of “record”. Try not to intervene and refrain from causing any nuisance to them. Most cats are born wary. They escape whenever they sense something wrong. In order to capture the most candid moments, never go beyond the “safe distance” between you two. Of course, cats have different personalities too. If you come across the more affectionate ones, show your friendly gesture by patting them softly.
 
Canon EOS 650D | EF-S 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | f/5.6 1/250s ISO 800
 

Tips for Meeting a Street Cat

 
You have to meet a cat to photograph. Although it is largely up to fate, there are still something we can do to enhance the chance of meeting one.
 

1/ Timing

 
Cats are nocturnal animals. They sleep in the day and become more active when the night comes. Generally speaking, they are most active at sunset or in the early morning. These are also the golden time for photography, as the sunlight appears more natural and soft.

Summer in Hong Kong is hot and humid. Wandering on the street in the middle of a summer day with a bright sun overhead is painful. As cats would be hiding themselves too in the shaded areas to avoid the heat, the chance that you see a cat on the street is relatively low. On the contrary, when the weather is cool, cats may come out in the middle of the day to enjoy sunbathing.
 
Canon EOS 650D | EF-S 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | f/5 1/80s ISO 100
 

2/ Location

 
Cats can be so close and so far away from us - we can see cats both in the city and the countryside. Street cats tend to hide themselves in unobtrusive places in populated city, and live in the alleys of old districts, old buildings and small parks. Sometimes you can also spot a cat or two staying at the old stores or wet markets. On the other hand, cats living in the countryside enjoy more freedom and space. You may see them walking on village lanes or jumping over tin rooftops. Some of them can also be found up on the hill.
 
Canon EOS 650D | EF-S 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | f/5 1/200s ISO 6400
 

3/ Human Factor

 
As cats may show themselves at unpredictable time and place, you need an acute sense of observation to spot them. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially those neglected or unobtrusive corners.

Your ability to capture a decisive moment is key to a good shot. It is thus very important that you carry your camera around at all times and master it well. When the chance comes, all it needs is to take out your camera quickly and have yourself prepared to shoot. Don’t let a chance slip away!
 

Important Things to Remember

 

1/ Be Respectful to Both the People and Cats

 
不Always be respectful to everyone and every cat. This holds more importance than taking a good photo. Make sure that you are not causing any trouble to others when you are shooting, for example blocking the street, affecting business or volunteers feeding the cats. You have to show respect to your photographic subjects too. Avoid causing any nuisance to them, and don’t use food or cat toys to seduce them to be photographed. Never touch, hug or hold them forcefully, as these kinds of acts may get both of you hurt. Safety always come first.
 

2/ No Feeding

 
Most street cats are fed regularly by volunteers. Never feed a cat just for the sake of making a scene to capture. This will also cause hygiene problems without proper cleaning up, leading to bad impression on street cats and eventually causing troubles to the cats and volunteers.
 

3/ Don’t Disclose the Actual Location of Your Shooting

 
We heard about the horrifying news of animal abuse very often. Therefore, when you post a street cat photo, don’t tag the location and make sure the photo doesn’t contain any sign or hint that can indicate the location. If you take this into consideration when framing your shots, you probably can save a lot of work in post-editing.
 

Know the Story and Issue Behind

 
On top of the photo that is captured, the shooting process itself is actually a fun experience too. You can chat with the locals and shop owners to get to know more about the cats’ stories and what they have been through. Or spend some time to observe them, try building a bond with them and explore what makes them special. Besides, by keeping a photo record of their daily activities, you can know what problems street cats are facing, eventually drawing more public attention to the issue. Your photos will show more depth and perspective only if you understand their stories and situations well.
 
Canon EOS 650D | EF-S 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM | f/5 1/200s ISO 6400
 
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