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Loki at Four Weeks: Kitten photos (beginner; critique very welcome)

LexxFalcon

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Okay, I'll be honest: I don't really know what worked and what didn't in these pictures. I think one or two of them are quite good; I can see a few things - detail in the shadows on her face in one, for a start - that are probably 'wrong'. I pretty much played with settings until something seemed to work, so I'm afraid I can't tell you what settings I was using at what point.

Critique is, of course, more than welcome. Seriously.

Subject is Loki, my kitten, progeny of my mum-in-law-to-be's cat Jess. She's about four weeks old (Loki, not Jess), so not ready to move out with me yet. She's cute; I hope I managed to capture that.

Nikon D3200; no post-processing, as I don't have Lightroom or anything on the laptop and I'm currently staying at my mum-in-law's, well away from home where I've got the desktop which does.


Loki, 4 weeks old by LexxFalcon, on Flickr


Loki, 4 weeks old by LexxFalcon, on Flickr


Loki, 4 weeks old by LexxFalcon, on Flickr


Loki, 4 weeks old by LexxFalcon, on Flickr
 
Congratulations on the new kitten! I think what this photo session needed most was some additional light. There is a pool of sunlight near where the kitten was positioned, but perhaps you could move yourself over to where you get the kitten more into the sunlight. You could try a white reflector, such as a sheet of typing paper on the floor near the cat, reflecting the light up into the shadow areas. Alternatively, you could arrange a white paper or pasteboard or even a white piece of cloth in the sunlight, sort of reflecting light onto the cat.
 
Badly needs flash.... too much detail is lost in the shadows, especially with a black kitten! Lovely little furball, though!

Unfortunately, I don't have many black cat photos.. but you can see the difference somewhat:
$lilith-2.jpg
 
You probably want a little more exposure overall. Since the cat is very dark, unless it's filling the frame the camera will expose for "everything else" which will render the kitten a little dark, and you'll lose the detail in the fur. So, if you can dial in "exposure compensation" you might try +0.7 or +1.0 on that setting. If you're shooting manual and "meter matching" (if you don't know what that means, you aren't, so don't worry) then add half a stop to a stop of exposure and see what happens.

The eyes are important for all living things, so the first shot isn't much good. The second is definitely the strongest, since you have a nice reflection in the eyes and the sunlight on the fur. Getting the cat partially into sunlight was a strong plan - you got the fur detail, see?

Generally your shots don't seem to be horizontal - you can fix this in post, almost any application you use to manage your photos will let you "straighten" which may well make you happier. The "sets" are also quite busy, there's a lot of distracting stuff in front of and behind the kitten.

The last one needs better light, even though you can see the fur and the eyes, the light is very flat and dull. The middle two are pretty decent for a beginner, for reasons I have suggested.

Do you see what I see? I don't want to simply list off the photos you should throw out, I want to help you learn to see which ones to throw away yourself.
 
Sheesh, quick replies, guys! Thank you very much for the comments. I'm finding flash a bit hard to make 'work' - sometimes I think I lose too much detail, or things go funny colours - but I do take your points, thank you. :D I'll keep it in mind for future, try out using a white surface to reflect, and also play around with flash more. I can always pop it up or down and try out different things, after all. Cheers!

ETA: Amolitor, you posted while I was posting, so I missed out replying to your thoughts. Thank you so much for all the detail you put into that!

I completely agree the last one is 'flat'; I liked the macro effect and the detail in her whiskers and eyes, but it looks kind of ... grey. Of the four, I think I would throw out the first one, then the fourth, then the third, and if I only had to keep one, keep the second. I'm actually thrilled you like that one best, as it's my favourite too.

Post-processing: I haven't done any on these photos at the moment, as I'm away from the desktop. On said desktop, I do have Adobe Creative Suite and Lightroom 4 (which is a monster of a thing that I'm not at all sure how to use yet - but it's all a learning curve!), and if I'd gone to fix them up at all, straightening would have been one of the first things I did. After that... no idea. Save a copy for safety and then play around and see what worked out, I suppose!

Thanks again for the compliment (i.e. the middle two are pretty decent for a beginner - I'm pretty pleased with that!), and the mildly tough love. I absolutely take your points and I really appreciate you taking the time to write all that. :D
 
Sheesh, quick replies, guys! Thank you very much for the comments. I'm finding flash a bit hard to make 'work' - sometimes I think I lose too much detail, or things go funny colours - but I do take your points, thank you. :D I'll keep it in mind for future, try out using a white surface to reflect, and also play around with flash more. I can always pop it up or down and try out different things, after all. Cheers!

ETA: Amolitor, you posted while I was posting, so I missed out replying to your thoughts. Thank you so much for all the detail you put into that!

I completely agree the last one is 'flat'; I liked the macro effect and the detail in her whiskers and eyes, but it looks kind of ... grey. Of the four, I think I would throw out the first one, then the fourth, then the third, and if I only had to keep one, keep the second. I'm actually thrilled you like that one best, as it's my favourite too.

Post-processing: I haven't done any on these photos at the moment, as I'm away from the desktop. On said desktop, I do have Adobe Creative Suite and Lightroom 4 (which is a monster of a thing that I'm not at all sure how to use yet - but it's all a learning curve!), and if I'd gone to fix them up at all, straightening would have been one of the first things I did. After that... no idea. Save a copy for safety and then play around and see what worked out, I suppose!

Thanks again for the compliment (i.e. the middle two are pretty decent for a beginner - I'm pretty pleased with that!), and the mildly tough love. I absolutely take your points and I really appreciate you taking the time to write all that. :D

Alexis... word of advice! One thing that was not mentioned... is that the two middle shots are very contrasty. It would be impossible to raise the exposure on those much, without turning that pool of sunlight into a bright, eye-hurting blown highlight. Now with the proper software and knowledge, you could do what is called burning and dodging somewhat... (Darken the light area, and lighten the dark areas) and that would help. But with that much of a contrast, and lack of detail in the shadows... it would be difficult to make those "keepers". Flash would have helped to even out the exposures between the bright and the dark... as would reflectors.

You might consider putting the camera in SPOT (Single Point) Focus... and always focus on what you want sharpest (in this case, the kittens eyes)... as these photos are a bit soft in general, and that will give you more precise control. Spot metering can be usual too...once you learn how to use it. I shoot Nikon also... so am pretty familiar with the system if you have any questions!

This is some of the Exif data on #1 from Flickr (so others can see how you shot this!)

Exif data
Camera Nikon D3200
Exposure 0.013 sec (1/80)
Aperture f/5.6
Focal Length 55 mm
Focal Length 55.0 mm
ISO Speed 400
Exposure Bias 0 EV
Flash Off, Did not fire
Orientation Horizontal (normal)
X-Resolution 300 dpi
Y-Resolution 300 dpi
Software Ver.1.00
Date and Time (Modified) 2013:05:25 12:57:12
YCbCr Positioning Co-sited
Exposure Program Auto
Sensitivity Type Recommended Exposure Index
Date and Time (Original) 2013:05:25 12:57:12
Date and Time (Digitized) 2013:05:25 12:57:12
Compressed Bits Per Pixel 4
Max Aperture Value 5.7
Metering Mode Multi-segment
Light Source Unknown
Sub Sec Time 20
Sub Sec Time Original 20
Sub Sec Time Digitized 20
Color Space sRGB
Sensing Method One-chip color area
CFAPattern [Red,Green][Green,Blue]
Custom Rendered Normal
Exposure Mode Auto
White Balance Auto
Digital Zoom Ratio 1
Focal Length (35mm format) 82 mm
Scene Capture Type Standard
Gain Control Low gain up
Contrast Normal
Saturation Normal
Sharpness Normal
Subject Distance Range Unknown
Maker Note Version 2.10
Quality Fine
White Balance Auto
Focus Mode AF-A
White Balance Fine Tune 0 0
WB_ RBLevels 2.11328125 1.2890625 1 1
Program Shift 0
Exposure Difference 0
Flash Exposure Comp 0
ISOSetting 400
 
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