Gary Fong

How to Photograph a Cat

“In a cat’s eye, all things belong to cats.”
– English proverb

Photographing cats can be very tricky. Snapshots are easy, but getting an image that speaks for itself takes intentional effort. My efforts — both professional and as a shelter volunteer — have taught me some fundamental practices. Put them in place, and they’ll go a long way toward ensuring you’ll get shots you’ll be happy with.

When it comes to photographing cats, the first rule of thumb is patience. If you can’t master the first rule, there is no sense whatsoever in proceeding to any subsequent rule. A lack of patience will only result in cat snapshots, not intentional pet portraits. The cat photographer has to be willing to gain the cat’s trust before ever putting the camera to the eye. Depending on the cat’s personality (and your ability to interpret and interact with it), gaining the animal’s trust might take only a moment. More often than not, it will take considerably longer. Be patient and purposeful and the time to put the camera to use will follow. You’re going to have to get very close to get great shots, so it pays to start the process from the start. While you’re practicing being patient, you can also practice watching the cat and learning to interpret its body language. Cats are very demonstrative; from the tail to the eyes, they are trying to tell you something.

The second rule of thumb is to be prepared; the opportunity for that magic shot may only come once and you want to be sure you’ve got the camera to your eye and ready to go when it does. Communicating with the cat’s caregiver and proactively learning something about the cat’s personality before arriving on site is highly beneficial to your preparedness. Experience has also taught me that cats are rarely afraid of diffused fill-flash, and it can be your friend in two different ways. First, it can do what you would expect it to do: fill in the shadows, reveal detail, evenly illuminate your subject, etc. Second, your fill flash will often capture the cat’s attention – however briefly. This may lead to a few seconds of straight-on, eye’s wide open, what-the-heck-is-that? curiosity you can leverage to your advantage. Make sure you use a diffused flash though, as cat’s eyes are highly reflective and you don’t want to blow out one of their most interesting features. I find the Gary Fong collapsible LightSphere to be a fantastic option.

The third rule of thumb is to expect the unexpected. Cats tend to refuse to take direction, so if you want it to look up you can pretty much count on it looking down. You have to get yourself down to the level of the animal and interact with it. Sit or lay on the floor, try to coax it onto a table; do whatever you have to do to gain an interesting perspective for your image. If your goal is to capture a pet portrait, you can’t expect to stand above the cat and shoot down at its back.

These first three rules should help you on your way to better cat photography. If you have a bit of advice on this topic you’d like to share, please leave your comments (or questions) below.

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/125 sec., 50 mm, flash at 1/4 power diffused with Gary Fong Lightsphere

Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/125 sec., 50 mm, flash at 1/4 power diffused with Gary Fong LightSphere flash diffuser


Gatorland’s Rare White Alligators

This rare white alligator was found in 1989 in a swamp in Louisiana. The egg nest contained 14 white and a handful of non-white, normal colored alligators. Gatorland, located in Orlando, Florida, has the world’s largest single assembly of these very rare anomalies of nature. They are not albino – they are leucistic, meaning they have some pigmentation. You can see this in the deep blue eyes and splotches of pigmentation around the mouth.
I was 7 feet away from that mouth with nothing between it and me but George, the guy that works with him routinely. As I clicked off my shots, I kept reminding myself George was a closer and more convenient meal. I also wondered if this monster objected to the use of fill flash. Good thing I was using my Gary Fong collapsible LightSphere to diffuse it. Speaking of the LightSphere, I was very pleased with the continuity of the flash-produced light, despite the shot being taken at a close distance with a camera mounted flash and a highly reflective wall of glass immediately behind my subject.

Nikon D300, ISO 800, f/5.6 at 1/60 sec., 75 mm, TTL Flash (SB-700) with Gary Fong Lightsphere

Nikon D300, ISO 800, f/5.6 at 1/60 sec., 75 mm, TTL Flash (SB-700) with Gary Fong Lightsphere


Get the Gary Fong LightSphere Collapsible Flash Diffuser here, from

Websites for Photographers  

The Gary Fong PowerSnoot®

Gary Fong has produced some of the most versatile and convenient flash modifiers on the market. Using a Gary Fong PowerSnoot® with a hand-held, off-camera Nikon SB-700 flash, I was able to capture the photo below in subdued natural light using no backdrop whatsoever. In fact, the “backdrop” in this photo consisted of lawn and garden equipment and shelves full of tools.


Nikon D300, ISO 200, f/22 at 1/250 sec., 50 mm, SB-700 flash, Gary Fong PowerSnoot®

The PowerSnoot quickly and safely attaches to most any standard-size flash unit and allows you to really focus and contain the burst of light emitted by the flash. It can produce some stunning, dramatic effects to spark your creativity and expand how you incorporate flash in your day-to-day photography.

Get the Gary Fong LSU-PS PowerSnoot High Power Focused Beam from


I appreciate your comments and feedback.

Websites for Photographers

Let Them Eat Cakes

Jordan Moran is an enterprising and talented young entrepreneur. Just a few months away from graduating from The Art Institute of Salt Lake City’s culinary school, he has already acquired a storefront for channeling his passion. The cakes Jordan creates at Bayshore Cakes are beautiful and original works of art that taste as amazing as they look. Being customer focused, his commitment to satisfying the visions of his clients accounts for the majority of his business coming from word-of-mouth referrals. And business is growing.

I had the pleasure of spending some time watching and photographing Jordan at work on Friday. Not only was it educational – I had no idea what went into creating an intricate 5-tiered wedding cake – it was inspiring to observe someone less than half my age working with such dedication to realize his dream one satisfied customer at a time.

Nikon D300, ISO 200, 1/60 sec at f/2.5, Nikon SB-700 flash with modified Gary Fong Lightsphere

Nikon D300, ISO 200, 1/60 sec at f/7.1, SB-700 flash with modified Gary Fong Lightsphere

Nikon D300, ISO 200, 1/60 sec at f/7.1, SB-700 flash with modified Gary Fong Lightsphere (Doug is really nuts about his dog, the reason for the bones that were requested to adorn each side of the cake.)

Nikon D300, ISO 200, 1/60 sec at f/11, SB-700 flash with modified Gary Fong Lightsphere


Stop by tomorrow for a look at photos from my visit with bagpiper Louis Bartlett following his performance at the Midvale Senior Center and the last installment in my week of people-focused blog posts.

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A Little Bit Country

Photographing Amber put me once again at Salt Lake City’s Wheeler Farm, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite locales purely from the standpoint of versatility and accessibility. I’ve been to Wheeler Farm at least once every week for the last four weeks! If you’re a local and you’ve not been, it’s a great destination for spending an afternoon relaxing outdoors in the sunshine.

Nikon D300, 1/40 sec at f/4.5, fill-flash using Nikon SB-700 Speedlight with (modified) Gary Fong LightSphere


Your comments and suggestions are appreciated – there’s a place for you to enter them below.

DJ, The English Bulldog

I had the pleasure of photographing DJ yesterday, an English bulldog who is about a year old. DJ has a great face. He was a real trooper for the shoot, putting up with my flash and requests to please perk up his ears; look this way; look that way; look up; look down; stay; sit; ignore the camera; and so forth. (Fortunately, DJ’s upright companion, Logan, has worked out the communication key, which smelled a bit like jerky.)

Logan asked specifically that something fun and different be included among the photos she’d get. She mentioned she liked some of the artistic effects she had seen applied using Photoshop. The image below is among those Logan will receive today. I have to admit that I’m pretty much a purest at this point in my photography; I don’t use a lot of “out of camera” effects or Photoshop filters.

Do you think she will like it? Please let me know your honest thoughts.

[Curious about my Lightsphere hack? Just ask.]

Nikon D300, SB700 fill-flash with hacked Gary Fong Lightsphere, ISO 200, 1/400 sec at f/1.8. Brush stroke obtained using the Adobe Photoshop CS5 Artistic >;;; Dry Brush filter.

Looking for a pet? Please save a life: choose the shelter adoption option.


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