As little adorable bundles of mischief, kittens make very appealing photographic subjects, but it is precisely their lively, active nature that makes it hard to get a good photo of them. With powerful autofocus function on the D500, however, you may just be able to capture an amazing photo of your spirited ball of fur. Professional wildlife photographer Akira Uchiyama tells us how to maximize our use of the D500 for these purposes. (Report by Akira Uchiyama)
Nikon D500/ AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II/ FL: 170mm (equivalent to 255mm in FX/35mm format)/ Aperture-priority auto (f/2.8, 1/1600sec)/ ISO 320 / WB: Auto
You don’t need a lot of space to photograph a kitten. Just one corner of a room or backyard and a telephoto lens should be enough to achieve a photo that brings out the kitten’s adorable nature in its full glory. Of course, it also helps to sincerely believe in the cuteness of the kitten!
I took this photo of a kitten in a flower bed with a telephoto zoom lens that was capable of shooting at up to 300mm (in FX/35mm format). If you take photos on a sunny day, the lighting may be too strong and result in harsh shadows, so it is more ideal to carry out your shoot on a cloudy day where the lighting will be flatter. In this case, the main concern would be camera shake and/or subject blur. The D500 boasts improved high ISO sensitivity performance, so there is no issue with using a higher ISO sensitivity setting to achieve a faster shutter speed. This comes in handy for capturing sharp, in-focus images of kittens with their animated eyes and inability to stay still.
The key elements in main image are as follows:
A) Background bokeh: This makes the kitten stand out. I used the telephoto range of a telephoto zoom lens for this.
B) Eyes: They are the key to portraying a subject’s expressions. To capture them properly, I shot from a low position, and also made sure that they were clearly in focus.
C) Note the fine, detailed reproduction of the fur. This is testament to the depictive capabilities of the D500.
The kitten may be surrounded by lovely blooming flowers and lush greenery, but don’t forget what your subject is supposed to be! I used a telephoto lens to keep the rest of the surroundings out of the frame to make it clear what was the central focus of the photo. If you include the surroundings in the frame, such as in the negative example here, the kitten will not stand out but become just another part of the scene.
Use a lens with a bright maximum aperture to create a large bokeh in the background. Take a look at the two images above: In the image taken at f/8, the yellow flowers and bushes in the background are still quite distinct, whereas in the image taken at f/2.8 (the maximum aperture), the bokeh effect is creamier. This not only makes the kitten stand out from the background but also enhances its cuteness many times over.
When taking a close-up shot of the kitten, you will want to establish pinpoint focus on its eyes, which is where Single-servo AF comes in handy. Including the white flower in this frame as well as catchlights in the eyes further increased the aesthetic appeal of this photo.
When shooting from a low camera level, it will probably be more convenient to move the focus point with the sub-selector as you will need both hands to keep the camera steady.
A kitten looking poignantly out of the window. In autofocus mode, the focus will usually fall onto the window instead, so you will need to adjust it with manual focus. It’s even easier if you are using a NIKKOR lens that has an M/A mode—a turn of the focus ring when you are in autofocus mode will switch you to manual focus mode.
Born in 1941, Uchiyama studied under renowned photographer Tokutaro Tanaka with an aim to become a wildlife photographer. In 1969, he had his first overseas assignment in Central and South America, including the Galapagos Islands. After that, he continued to take photos of wild animals and travelled all over the world, including to the North and South Poles. He spends more time overseas, and has also published many books.