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Why I Flash: Shooting Cats with Flash

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a Twitter chat about pet photography and people seemed to be of the consensus that flash pet photography is a bad thing. Of course there was one person in this discussion who holds the opposite opinion and that would be yours truly. Many photographers seem to be of the opinion that natural light is the way to go because it is natural.

Little Kitten using bounce flash

Little Kitten using bounce flash

The problem with the whole natural light vs flash debate is camera flashes are daylight balanced so done correctly it is very difficult to determine if a light source is flash or daylight. I will admit that proper flash photography comes with a very steep learning curve and many of the people who advocate against it are those who tried it, failed at it and decided it was a bad idea.

Given that most professional portrait and wedding flash photographers are using flash I decided a long time ago they obviously knew something I did not so I committed myself to learning flash photography. Knowing what I do now I feel I too have mastered enough basic flash photography to realize how little I really know about the subject. Mastering the basics introduces you to the advanced topics which puts you back where you started except at a higher level.

In a nutshell here is why flash is good

Flash Balances Colours

Why do we love cats visually? It is their beautiful colourful fur coats therefore the photos must capture the colours. How we capture colours depends slightly differently if the light sources are sunlight, incandescent or florescent light and what happens if we mix light sources? No biggie when you use a flash. A known colour temperature light source solves your white balance issues.

Flash allows us to capture a realistic version of this kitten's orange tabby coat

Flash allows us to capture a realistic version of this kitten’s orange tabby coat

Flash Reduces Digital Noise

Fast shutter speeds freeze action just as well as flash. Only problem is most of our cats are indoors where shooting with a fast shutter speed means high ISO creating noisy photos. Using a flash allows us to shoot slower ISOs resulting in less noisy photos

Flash Freezes Action

Cats have this annoying habit of moving which means you have to think more as a sports photographer and less as feline portrait photographer. Using a flash allows us to freeze the action eliminating unwanted bluriness.

Freezing the kittens in midair would of been impossible without flash

Freezing the kittens in midair would of been impossible without flash

Flash Adds Life

Flash adds a twinkle to the eyes giving the cat the appearance of being alive as opposed to the opposite of being alive.

Flash Allows You to Capture More Details

When used properly flash will create little shadows in the fur coat of the cat allowing you to add texture to the fur. As well flash fills in a lot of the shadows allowing you to capture more details. You are only allowed to capture a small amount of detail in digital photography and flash will help you capture the details that are most important.


This adoption portrait of kitten Nermal uses a flash to capture the front and natural light to form her outline


Yes flash is a lot of work to get right and it takes a lot of time to master the basics of flash photography but once you get comfortable with it you are going to take some of the best photos.


1 Comment

  1. tearspun says:

    I definitely need to learn how to use flash properly. So hard to get amazing pictures and I so want to learn how to get the twinkle in their eyes!

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