Just Take the Picture Already

photo of tortoiseshell cat in grass
Cookie in Green

Don’t wait for the “right moment”, just take the photo now, and take lots of them.

At BlogPaws, Steve Mondazzi of Pets We Loved remarked that many of his customers couldn’t provide a clear photo of their pet to be engraved or etched into a memorial item.

I said I had the same issue with photos provided to me for portraits, and that I actually specialize in piecing together multiple views from multiple years and adding a good bit of intuition to make a portrait work.

I remembered this out in my backyard with Cookie yesterday. A sunny spring afternoon and I had carried my lunch out to the picnic table then spent some time photographing the newly blooming forget-me-nots, violets, dandelions and various early wildflowers and ferns and birds.

photo of tortoiseshell cat in grass
Cookie ambling toward me.

Cookie was wandering around the yard at her own pace. Cookie never moved quickly being as well-rounded as she is, but now she is absolutely ambling and I think I see a little unsteadiness in her hind legs I didn’t see last year.

Not that there is anything wrong—except that Cookie is 18 this year. And not that there is anything wrong with that, except that I know our time is, well, more finite than it used to be.

photo of cat in grass and flowers
Cookie with forget-me-nots

So I took lots of photos of her lovely warm tortoiseshell fur in the sun and shade against the brilliant spring hues of jade and apple green, of the shadowed grass perfectly complimenting Cookie’s eyes, of her sitting among forget-me-nots, of her sitting next to our weatherfish, of her on the fallen branch, of her on the picnic table…

I’ve got photos of Cookie from all of her 18 years, more and more as I became more interested and serious about photography as an art instead of simply as a means to a painting.

photo of cardinal in grass
Our silly cardinal

But I’ve taken many of her and all the others just to have them on hand and remember them and the times they were with me.

I haven’t done portraits of all my cats, but when I plan and paint one even I need photos for reference. I discovered my sorry lack of photos when I went to paint my Kublai, the love of my life, the cat who had started it all for me, and I discovered I had about two photos I could use. This was partly his fault—he was always hanging on me, his arms around my neck and his face buried in my hair, or draped around my neck under my hair. He ended up in those positions after running toward me as I was trying to frame a good shot of him; when I looked at him, he ran to me, no photo, too bad for my inexperience.

photo of cat in garden
Cookie with weatherfish

So we come back to the first point. Especially now that we have digital cameras and don’t have to deal with film and developing and storing photos, and digitals are so tiny and easy to use, just take a few basic shots of your best friends to document the moment, then start trying for the artsy shots and posing your pets. You’ll be glad later that you have them, even if they don’t end up in a memorial item or a portrait. And don’t forget your human friends too.

Even now I make the mistake of missing a shot thinking I’ll have a chance again later…I look at the photos I took of Namir last summer and in several I see an image I really wanted to catch but didn’t take the time for some reason and now the chance is gone. Cookie doesn’t stand a chance of a private moment in the face of that.

photo of cat on deck
Cookie on her table on the deck

I also think that many people are discovering a latent talent for photography, or at least a healthy enjoyment of it. I consider myself a photographer now, after about 25 years of experimentation and learning “in the field”, as it were, and lots of photos I finally figured some things out and it all started with photographing my cats—this could be your story too.

photo of cat staring
Cookie sees something

Still, every day, I take a few photographs of my cats and often I use them in design or to illustrate something I’ve written. Often they are compositional warm-ups for a day of creative output where I won’t be working with anything to do with cats or even photography, but they awaken my senses and my work is better for it.

photo of cat from back
Cookie from back in black and white

And like everyone else I hate to face the reality, but unless something serious and unexpected happens to me, I am going to outlive this household of cats, and I want to make sure I remember them. It’s bittersweet in the weeks and months, and even the early years after I’ve lost them to encounter their images on a happy sunny morning in spring, but for all the tears that may fill my eyes I smile with the joy of remembrance as well. So I just keep photographing. And you should too.


From health and welfare to rescue and adoption stories, advocacy and art, factual articles and fictional stories, "The Creative Cat" offers both visual and verbal education and entertainment about cats for people who love cats, pets and animals of all species.

5 thoughts on “Just Take the Picture Already

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  • April 14, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Ingrid, thank you! For as much time as I spend indoors with them all, it’s the outdoor moments that feel so special, perhaps because the outdoors is my love AND theirs, and everything looks more beautiful in natural light. Cookie is an outdoor girl, but only under my supervision–though she thinks she is supervising me!

    And it really is the candid shot that’s most memorable, and they are often my favorite portraits–the cat in the bag, the cat in the sink, the two dogs intently “not barking”. People are often timid about asking if that can be the pose, but I highly encourage it.

    Tamar~Cookie is a goddess! I can’t believe she’s 18, though. She looks really good for that age.

  • April 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Wonderful photos! And I agree, photos are such an important part of remembering our pets. And sometimes, it’s the moments that are not posed, rather than the “iconic images,” that bring the most comfort when our pets are gone.

    Cookie looks like she had a wonderful time in the garden – here’s to many more days like this for you and for her.

  • April 14, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Another lovely post! good points about making sure you have good pictures of our furr babies! Cookie is so good looking!


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