Ask the Photographer

 Over the past year on Instagram, we’ve had a lot of questions about how we take our photos of Moss, the equipment we use and a lot of general interest. We are always happy to reply to comments and messages but this blog post will be available for everyone to look at as they please! As previously stated, Megan graduated from the University of Gloucestershire in 2019 with a first class degree in Photography: Editorial and Advertising and loves the opportunities she has had throughout her degree and with Moss during the UK’s lock down period. To ensure we cover what you want to know, we asked for questions on our Instagram story and feed. We hope you enjoy this blog post and learn more about us! We would be happy to do this again in the future if you like it and as always, we welcome any feedback.

@missymookitty asked: ‘What camera do you use?’

Megan: ’I take my photographs on a Canon 5D Mark IV with a Sigma f/1.4 50mm lens but I’ve worked with so many different cameras in the past, including film cameras (of which I use a Canon AE-1 with a 50mm lens). A few of our Instagram posts are taken on our phones when Moss is being super adorable and we don’t have my camera around! Beth uses an Iphone X and I have a Samsung Galaxy Note Lite 10.

@boots_and_fosterbabies asked: ‘How do you get such a nice blur? It always seems to be so perfectly around Moss!’  and @meru_miaows asked: ‘We would love to know how you shoot such in focus images’

Megan: ‘Thank you for your question and kind words! The key to background blur is your f/stop (aperture).

For those who don’t know much about the technical side of photography,
the f/stop is the aperture of your lens, how wide the circle mechanism is in order
to let more light in or less light in. Therefore a lower aperture like f/2 means
a wider circle and more light and a blurrier background!

Not everyone will have a DSLR camera or detachable lenses but they always help in taking sharp and high quality images and getting the perfect bokeh blur.
The lens I use (mentioned above) has a lowest f/stop of f/1.4 but to have the sharpest image, it works best at f/2 for still portraits or f/2.8 for moving ones. This low of an aperture (f/stop) means you can increase your shutter speed to capture faster moving creatures like Moss and make sure they’re sharp!
These days, some phones have the technology to take photos on manual mode and you can adjust your aperture and settings on there but it is easier to just use portrait mode!’

@artemis_adventure asked: ISO, exposure and brightness! What are the differences?’

Megan:There are three main settings: shutter speed, aperture (f/stop) and ISO.

To start with I’ll explain ISO! Back in the days of film, ISO, previously known as ASA, used to be the sensitivity of a roll of film and would determine the level of grain in an image. The higher the ISO, the more grain you’ll experience in an image, especially in digital cameras. However, ISO does brighten your images, in dark situations it can be great to use if you do not have a flash on your camera but the more grain you get from a higher ISO, the more likely your image is to be less sharp. I tend to keep my ISO at 100, unless we are taking photos indoors, and my aperture at f/2 and only change my shutter speed.

Exposure will be your shutter speed. The higher the number, e.g 1/1000, the faster the shutter on your camera will open and close. A higher shutter speed works best for moving creatures or people but will make an image darker as you aren’t holding the shutter open for long to let in light. A shorter shutter speed will let more light in but be likely to have blur on a moving subject.

Your brightness will be controlled by all three and as said previously, I find it easiest to keep my f/stop and ISO the same for most images and change my shutter speed to adjust the light in the image. Moss is very good at sitting still so a slower shutter speed isn’t always a hindrance!

@eevee.thechonk asked: ‘Do you take as many pictures as you can or wait for the right moment?’

Megan: ‘I don’t tend to wait for the right moment when we are out and about taking photos as Moss can be so fast and the moment can be over very quick! Sometimes it’s easier to take a lot of photos and edit through the ones that don’t work to find the sharpest and best composed images.’ asked: ‘Can you come to my house and take photos of Merlin please?’

Megan: ‘We absolutely love Merlin and would love to meet him! I take a range of images, landscapes, portraits, etc. and prints are always available on request as well as commissions for photo shoots of you, your pets or your brand!’

@huey.thehunk asked: ‘Do you typically go to areas with a low amount of people or a bit of both?’

Megan: ‘We don’t always choose quiet spots! One of our favourite local walks is Leckhampton Hill and it is a real area of natural beauty with a large traffic of people and dogs. Moss gets to walk for most of way but when we see dogs off the lead, we pick her up and put her on my shoulder. Most dogs don’t even notice her up high! People often ask about her when they see me taking photos.
She’s getting more and more confident around people and is happy to walk past them now (unless they’re a runner). We’ve found a lot of new walks recently that are quiet and Moss walks great on the trails but is more wary of open spaces.’

 @olucerna asked: ‘How do you make sure you’re getting the right shutter speed and exposure on your camera?’

Megan: ‘A lot of it is trial and error in taking images, but I always take a few test shots in the area to judge the light and what setting work best before I get my final image. I only ever change my shutter speed and keep the ISO and f/stop at the same settings for most images. This does make it a bit easier to control the light and I can just alter the shutter speed where I think it is needed. Most digital cameras have an internal light meter when you look through the viewfinder and it’ll move depending on what the camera believes will be the correct exposure’

@robbedcopy asked: ‘What is Moss’ favourite place to be and what is your ideal shoot location?’

Megan: ‘Moss tends to love trail walks best, somewhere that isn’t as open and has a path to follow. We’ve loved exploring National Trust walks as they tend to be quite quiet and are mostly circular routes. My most ideal shoot location when photographing Moss is often places like Sherborne, Gloucestershire as there’s plenty of wild flowers, walls and scenic backdrops to photograph her against. The best time of day is usually either midday when the sun is high and bright or sunset when the skies are beautiful and golden hour has hit!’

@leia.theblackcat asked: ‘What is your number one tip for a good picture?’

Megan: ‘I’d say practise sharpness! I only ever feel great about an image I’ve taken if the eyes are sharp. I practised this a lot at University within my projects and it always makes an image more attractive to look at. Other than this, a lower f/stop creates the most beautiful bokeh!’

@atamas2 asked: ‘Do you try shooting at sunrise, sunset or anytime of day?’

Megan: ‘For us, sunrise is a bit too early! We tend to go around midday or sunset for our walks, depending on the weather!’

@spongecake_thescottishfold asked: ‘Your pictures are amazing! How do you edit them?’

Megan: ‘Thank you so much! I’ve never really retouched my images a lot or used presets, even back in Uni when doing portraiture as I try my best to get the image I want through trial and error. I never use Photoshop these days, I use Lightroom Classic and if I need to, adjust the exposure, shadows and highlights, make sure the colour balance is correct (not too cold or warm), add a small vignette to focus more on Moss and sometimes use the spot tools to make her a bit brighter if the light is behind her! The most I do is add a few extra flowers in the nature images to brighten it up!’

@bagheera_adventure_kitty asked: ‘What are your tactics to get Moss to look at the camera? Momma does everything short of a backflip!’

Megan: ‘We do all sorts of stupid things to get Moss to look at the camera from making weird noises, tapping the camera, throwing stones into rivers, waving twigs and batting flowers, all just to make her look! It can be rather difficult but she is a great meowdel!’

@joy.silverbutton asked: ‘What is something that is part of every photoshoot?’

Megan: ‘Moss always has accessories on in our photoshoots, whether that be a bandana, bowtie or an adorable little flower. As well as this, good light is always key and we try our best to take photos outdoors! My number one tip for a great photo is make sure the light is behind you rather than behind the creature or person you’re photographing! Otherwise they’ll be in shadows and retouching becomes more complicated!’

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post as much as we enjoyed reading and answering your questions!

A big thank you to everyone involved and to all our furriends that continue to show us love and support!

Beth, Megan and Moss x

Instagram: mosstherat
Megan’s Instagram: meganthebendall