Month: September 2006


Taking Better Cat Photography

Story & Photography by Nawfal Nur

© July 2006 Nawfal Nur
All Rights Reserved

Have you ever wanted to take better cat photographs? Do you find that your cat just does not cooperate?

I’ll tell ya’, a photographer must have a lot of persistence to photograph cats, and I do, I really do, and that is the only reason I can handle the ‘pressures’ of photographing cats!

It’s not easy taking pictures of cats. Cats work according to their own schedules. They are lazy. The are insensitive to everyone else’s concerns and time limitations. They don’t care about much else other than eating, sleeping and looking good. However, I love cats and I have three such rascals: two Calicos (Tortie Whites) and one that I call a “Malaysian Hook-Tail”.

There is a strange breed of cat here in Malaysia that has a hooked tail. I’m not sure if it is a genetic defect, or, perhaps it is just a natural attribute of this genealogical line of Malaysian cats.

The bone at the end of my cat’s tail is like the hook of a clothes hanger – it is very strange – it gives me that “Ee’ak!” feeling inside. I have never seen a cat like this in the United States (which is where I’m from).

Believe it or not, the ‘hook-tail’ is actually my best ‘cat-face’ model – she is very pretty; however, she has this skinny body. If you only see her face, she is the most beautiful of my three cats.

If you see her body, you would probably scream at me: “Don’t you feed your cat!?!”

Yes, I do!

They get all the food they want, 24/7! She is just a stick with fur, but she has this very beautiful face with emerald green eyes.

The Torties are pretty too, but they are so lazy and don’t cooperate much when it comes time to be cat models. They expect me to be a good slave-to-cats, and they expect me to wait…and wait…and wait some more.

Eventually, after many frustrating moments, and missed frames, I eventually get some nice portraits of my cats. Never fear, there is hope and virtue in having patience!

So, if you want to take Cat Photography, be long-suffering. If you lack patience, find another subject to photograph.

Cats move to a different beat altogether, and most of the time it’s slow, and definitely it’s totally on their terms. When you least expect it, they race around like a bullet as if a demon is chasing them. In the next moment, they are off to the food bowl and in this house, the food must be fresh, meaning it must have been poured into the bowl within the last 3 or 4 hours. My cats start panicking if they can see the bottom of the bowl; they freak out, so that is viewed by my felines as a MAJOR infraction in cat care etiquette.

Most of the time my cats do four things: Eat, Sleep, Groom, and Play. In fact, I think that’s all that cats do. If they tried to fit in a fifth activity, I’m sorry, but it just wouldn’t fit into their hectic schedules; these activities take up all 24-hours of the day.

As a photographer, you just have to work around your cat’s busy schedule, be aware of photo-op’s, and this is going to take tenacity. There’s no trick in waiting, just try to stay alert, a few cups of coffee and positive self-talk helps. Attempt to visualize a cooperative cat posing for you and being as photogenic as a Cover girl model at a photo shoot. Ah, yeah, right…on second thought, maybe just follow the few general rules below:

1) You can’t force a cat to have her portrait taken; you just have to catch them at the right time.

2) You also can’t count on every cat to be good subjects, so to cut back on your time, locate a cat that seems to want to get your attention, and then focus on that one.

3) When taking close-ups, if you can, cut back the flash by -2 EV, or you will burn out part of the photo. I prefer the tone of the early morning light, or, late afternoon sunlight, these are the best times of day for cat photography outside. In post production, you can adjust the color, brightness and contrast with photo-editing software to suit your taste.

4) A little fill-flash will help with unwanted shadows.

5) Make sure your own shadow is NOT in the picture. You need to move if you notice this issue.

6) When the cat moves, you move, but don’t get them irritated, or they will become fussy little models and not cooperate any more.

I think you get the general ‘picture’: Cats can make wonderful photo-models, but this is entirely on their own terms.



Story & Photography by Nawfal Nur

© August 2006 Nawfal Nur

Do you feel like an ape? Well, you do not have to be a monkey to perform this newfangled behavior, a behavior best defined as the ‘Continuous checking of the LCD screen on a digital camera after every shot – an activity termed “Chimping.”

You can see “Chimping” almost everywhere there are photographers. It is popular with amateur and professional photographers alike. Here is the general perception about “Chimping” between amateur and professional shooters.

Usually, amateur photographers benefit from seeing their photographic results right away by admiring their shots in the LCD screen. For most, it seems to be no big deal to enjoy photos right away; or, to see the results onscreen and then decide if there is a need to improve the shot by doing a retake.

Professionals seem to be a bit embarrassed about “Chimping” because if you are a professional photographer, you should be more concerned with keeping your eye to the eyepiece of the Digital-SLR. Professionals are invariably expected to use their years of training and experience to make sure the composition & exposure are correct before hitting the shutter button. Some professional photographers may view “Chimping” as a kind of weakness in photography skills. Others may see it as an obsession.

Yoda said the following about “Chimping” (Well, he didn’t actually say this, but he could have, OK!):

“Think I will help you young Photo-Jeti, do you? Hmmmmmmm… Look at the LCD screen…. “Chimping”….you cannot. Miss many photography opportunities, you will. On the viewfinder, keep your eye….yes…. At halftime or intermission or at home, review your photos you must….yes….”

If you cannot trust Yoda, then whom can you trust, yes!

Yoda appears to have a definite stand on the subject of “Chimping,” and I agree for the most part. Nevertheless, and I’ll say this very quietly so none of the anti-Chimping camp can hear me…come on, come closer so you can hear….”does it really matter?”

Reviewing photos on the LCD screen can save you a lot of grief. If you don’t “Chimp” now a then, especially when you are questioning a shot you just took, then you may really blow it!

If you are not sure if you got the right exposure, proper focus, acceptable tones, appropriate DOP [depth-of-field], the right expression on a model’s face, or whatever, then, you had better review your shots after taking them.

In sports and other action photography, such as stage photography, “Chimping” may not be such a good idea. The more time you have your eye away from the viewfinder focusing on the action, the more missed opportunities you will experience. If you are using an advanced or simple point-and-shoot digital, it is very easy to “Chimp” each frame, as the LCD screen is typically more effective than the viewfinder to compose your shots.

There’s no need to be embarrassed if you are a “Chimpaholic.” You decide on how serious you are about photography and how much dependence you need to have on reviewing your images after taking them. This statement is more intended for those of you using DSLR cameras.

There is probably a complicated formula that can calculate photography skill in direct proportion to the amount of time spent “Chimping”; however, I would not worry about your reliance too much.

There is one thing I must strongly advise you about, try not to participant in “Group Chimping”…that can look a little silly. “Group Chimping” is especially prevalent at sports and political events. After important shots, you may see a ridiculously big group of photographers looking at their LCD monitors and admiring their shots, and that is “Group Chimping.”

Good Luck and Happy Shooting!

Two General Rules of Thumb for Taking Photos: ‘Privacy’ Issues…

Story by Nawfal Nur
Copyright Nawfal Nur 2006
All Rights Reserved

Two General Rules of Thumb for Taking Photos: ‘Privacy’ Issues…

This question comes up sometimes…”When & Where can I take Photos without ‘privacy’ issues messing up the works?

There are two easy answers. However, by no means is this a cut-and-dry legal question and you should, for the obvious reasons, seek legal advice if you have specific and exact questions regarding your work and how it can be used.

The only reason I’m covering this topic is that it is a concern nowadays more than ever, especially when you have things like the indiscriminate incarceration of Photo Journalists for alleged connections with insurgents, as is the case for AP Photographer, Bilal Hussein:


(CPJ/IFEX) – The following is a 17 September 2006 CPJ press release:

AP photographer held by U.S. military for months without charge

New York, September 17, 2006 – The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news that a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance photojournalist working for The Associated Press in Iraq has been held by U.S. military forces for five months without charge.

“U.S. authorities who have detained Bilal Hussein in Iraq must either charge him or release him from custody,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “This is not an isolated incident. In the last 18 months alone, seven Iraqi journalists were detained for periods of many weeks or months before being released. No charges were substantiated in any of these cases. The long-term detention of Hussein is especially troublesome given explicit commitments made by U.S. officials that journalist detentions would be promptly reviewed.”

In another report, AP Photo Editors said they have gone through all of Bilal’s photos and only a small fraction show insurgents in them. They said what good does it do to show only one side of the dispute! What…photographers in war can only show the goings on of one side, hummmmm., that doesn’t quite sound like unbiased journalism to me.

Anyway, here are a few General Considerations to keep in the back of your mind when taking photos:

1) If it can be seen, then it can be photographed…Period!

*Some people have fits if you photograph them, or if you photograph their homes, or if you photograph a power plant, or factory or whatever. Sure, you may seem suspicious pointing a camera at people and places, but if you are on public property and you want to photograph something, and your intentions are in the right place…Then, no one can bitch and moan that you are taking photos. Just be on high-alert if you see any axe-wielding lunatics coming at you…Then run really fast!

Of course, another thing is be courteous if people ask you what you are doing.

If you are ‘on the job‘ then show the inquisitive person some tearsheets of your work, or explain to them the ‘look’ you are attempting to create. Then, they may be more cooperative and not give you a hard time.

Having Photography Credentials, Press Pass, or a Photography Membership Card of a Nationally or Internationally recognized organization is also a plus, just in case you have to prove that you are a freelance/pro shooter, and that you have an actual purpose for being where you are and taking photos.

2) If you can be there legally, you can shoot there legally!

As long as you are on public property, you can photograph almost anything you want.

There are at Least Three Exceptions to these Two General Rules regarding ‘Privacy Issues’ and Taking Photographs. Meaning, you could be held liable for trying to publish photographs you took if the photos meet any of the following criteria:

1) If your photo reveals any ‘private facts’ about anyone.
2) If your photo were to show a person in ‘false light’ – being misleading or defaming someone in any way.
3) If you use someone’s ‘likeness’ for personal gain – publishing someone’s photo in a magazine or for advertisement for personal gain without them signing a release form is a pretty big NO-NO! This, I suspect, goes for use of photos showing someone else’s personal property as well. The owner would most probably need to sign a ‘Property Release’ form.

The only real exception to any of these rules or exceptions after 9/11, is that you wouldn’t want to be pointing your camera in the general direction of any military establishment…That one can get you into a boat-load of trouble.

Every person with a camera seems to be suspect any more with the ‘rage on terror’ out of control around the world. And whomever said, “violence begets violence” was a very wise person indeed.

And here is the DISCLAIMER!
I’m not a law expert, but ONLY a photographer concerned with the Rights of Photographers and their ability to do their job, or, to just have fun taking photos without being harassed.

If you wish to have a more exact idea of ‘Privacy Laws and Photography’ within your State or Country, then please go see a Law Expert.

Thanks, Happy Shooting and ‘Watch Your Six!’

Purchase my "Alien Water" Series of Photographic-Art

Print & frame my art at Imagekind...

Hi All!

Now you can see and purchase photo-art from my “Alien Water” Series.

My store has four images in it so far, but all good things take time, right. More to come soon.

One thing nice you can do as a customer at Imagekind is that you can purchase only prints; however, if you want, you can create your own gallery quality combo of mattes and frames to go along with my photographs.

Here are the images I have up on my store gallery so far!