Feels like it is about time to give an update on the kitty studio for anyone wanting to use a similar set up. This has been an evolving set up so let me bring you up to date with a behind the scenes look at how we do it. Here is a typical scene of our set up. This is what works for us, your situation may differ to meet your space and needs.
As our shelter has no dedicated photographing space (most don’t) we typically set up for the cats and kittens just off the cattery, what is normally the feeding room. This is where the food is stored, and the bowls are washed. So it is not uncommon for us to be photographing while the dishes are washing. Staying mobile is the key. We could set this up in several other areas this is just the least likely to interfere with the shelter’s daily operations.
First we have up-sized to a larger (deeper) container. I love the look on a new handler’s face when we pull out the box. Their eyes get a little wide and they usually say something like… “are you going to put the cats in the box?” Well yes that is exactly what we are going to do. 😉 We aren’t going to use the lid (of course) but the “box” (large plastic storage type container) is the vessel that will hold everything and with any luck hold a kitty as well. This newer size is just a bit deeper. Some cats will try to jump out of the box but some soothing strokes and they usually decide it is not so bad and sometimes will even make themselves at home.
The box is placed on a small table that is just the right height for us to still be able to reach in to the cats but also high enough so we limit our back strain. I shoot with a 50mm f1.8 lens, so I like to be up on a small step ladder to get just a bit more height to the shots.
Lights are an important part of the set up. Here we are using 4 inexpensive shop lights from you local hardware store. Nothing fancy, they have served us very well. The two closest light (#1 and #2) are clipped onto the corners of the box. They also have the diffusers on them. The Tuesday Photographer made these out of a shower curtain and Velcroed them on to the light itself. The Velcro connection allows us to make adjustments when unnecessary. the diffusing helps with the harshness of the lights but also cuts down the amount of light. This is a balancing act. We have a large window adding some supplemental light on sunny days just out the scene. To further help out, we turn on the room’s overhead lights and add two more shop lights. Lights #3 and #4 are clipped to the middle shelf of a convenient wall cabinet.
For the bulbs, choose the natural colored CLFs in the highest wattage possible. The CLFs need a minute or two to come to full strength so be sure to turn them on before you are ready to start shooting.
Next the Backdrop is placed into the box and clipped in place. I like to use 3 yards of fleece. I have collected quite the range of colors. These are great for tossing in the washing machine and dryer to remove smells and fur. A roller type lint brush will also help to keep in your storage for in between kitties. Fleece is great because it doesn’t show wrinkles and is very forgiving. We have even started putting a spare piece of fabric down in the bottom under the backdrop to make a soft cushion for the kitties. They knead their spot and plop right down. I have even thought of using a warming pad to make it a bit cozier. To secure the backdrop, binder clips are your friends here. We have large and medium-sized clips. Place the clips on the outside of the box using the lip. This keeps the clip out of the photos.
That is about the extent of the setup. Just add a kitty and maybe some props and snap away. By no means is this a professional set up but it is cheap, mobile and works for us. Here is one of this week’s kitties…. Bear.