Thanks everybody for the suggestions so far. I don't think we've got any definitive solutions yet, so I'm keen to encourage more contributions. And I think it would help enormously if people could post some successful shots. Believe me, I have spent a long time trying to photograph this cat and I think it's harder than you'd expect. Take a look at the 'Nature & Animals' forum and you'd be surprised how few of the cats there are black!
If it helps to know what equipment I'm using, it's a 350D and a Sigma 18-200 zoom lens that opens up to f/3.5 at the wide end.
Joseph Hoetzel wrote:
Try putting the flash over the top of the cat, maybe even slightly behind it to create a bit of a halo around it. Maybe two flashes, or some strong shop lights and a reflector under the front to get some "chin" seperation?
Hmmm. I imagine that might work. Certainly my best experience has been with flash. Can you post a shot to demonstrate it? However I would need to get the cat to sit still for long enough, and even then all I have is a 'posed' photo, which is a problem because...
If you really know cats, then you know the best pose will be on her/his terms.
Shooting it with a darker background will help enormously. Avoid harsh light.
Hmmm. Dark cat, dark background, subdued light. Sounds like I need that f/1.0 lens. Sadly all I can achieve is f/3.5 at the wide end of my zoom. Why exactly does the dark background help? Have you taken any shots like this? Can you post them here? What setup did you use?
Joseph Hoetzel wrote:
Maybe two flashes
Avoid harsh light.
Well, I don't think I can do both of these...
Joseph Hoetzl wrote:
Can you meter more off the cat rather that the whole scene?
spot meter just the cat?
Spot or partial meter the cat, placing it at -1 2/3 or maybe -1 1/3 stops. That way, the details in the cat aren't lost in the shadows, but hopefully the remainder of the picture isn't too over-exposed.
Looks like there's a consensus here. So far my experience has been that, whilst metering off the cat and dialling in some negative exposure compensation sounds reasonably straightforward, in practice it seems to be very difficult indeed to get the exposure right. However I haven't had my D-SLR very long - I've recently gone digital after 20 years with 35mm - so I've got no reason not to blaze away and try different things. It's not going to cost me anything. Meanwhile, do any of you have any successful examples to share?
... try to bracket your exposures
I'm reluctant to do that, because with cats it's often the case that timing is everything. I'm worried that, if I press the shutter button just as the cat lunges at the butterfly, then by the time the camera has taken the 2nd or 3rd bracketed exposure I've missed the moment completely.
Would there be any advantage to shooting RAW instead of JPEG and doing the exposure compensation (to get the same result as bracketing) in post-processing?
throw a bucket of green paint on it
Why didn't I think of that? Cheers!