This is a layman’s how-to book for cat photography, including 1) working with cats, 2) photo photography, 3) dedicated cameras, and 4) editing. Everything is simplified down to non-technical terms for easy understanding even if you’re an amateur photographer. Plus there’s the bonus of many amazing cat photos along the way.
I first checked this book out from the library over a year ago. At the time, I was just starting to learn about photography from a technical point of view, and I’m not sure I even had my camera yet. It was around the same time period as learning about Understanding Exposure and trying to read that book, which is far more technical and less intuitive than this one, but also about a broader range of focus. When I tried to read this the first time, I got to the second chapter – photography 101 – where it began to discuss things I didn’t yet understand because I was very, very new to anything more than just “point my phone at subject and shoot.” I quickly got bogged down trying to understand details – not necessary, but just the way I tend to read nonfiction – then skipped ahead to the phone section. That section was great, I learned what I could, and then I spent some time enjoying all the cat photos before returning the book to the library.
Now, a year-ish later, I’ve had a dedicated camera since Feb 2021 and I’ve learned tons in that year. Some of it was technical learning through books or youtube videos or instructional articles. Much of it was practical learning through trial and error. There were a lot of things I understood intuitively without knowing the “whys,” even after reading something as in-depth as Understanding Exposure. When I saw this book sitting on a display shelf at my local library, I decided to give it a second try with a bit more experience under my belt. That turned out to be a very good decision.
Marttila also describes his entry into photography as a lot of learning-as-you-go, and strives to then turn the knowledge gained over a decade into something approachable by novices like me. Obviously, my experience of “no knowledge whatsoever” didn’t help me much on my first attempt to read this, but I’m the sort of reader that dives very deep into nonfiction and gets held up by anything they don’t understand. Now, with my very young understanding of photography, this was exactly the caliber of explanation that I needed. Some very basic points – that were technical and convoluted in other sources – were explained simply so that I could finally understand what I was just trusting before. Additionally, I learned things that those other sources never discussed (like the difference between prime and zoom lenses, when I didn’t even know there were two different kinds despite owning both), probably because they are so basic that they expect you to already know before coming to their sources. This was a true beginner’s resource, regardless of whether or not you want to take photos of cats, and I loved that.
Ironically, I’ll probably need to check the book out again in the future. There was a whole section about flash that mostly went over my head because I don’t have an external flash and I never use flash at all. It would certainly help, especially when I’m trying to take indoor photos in low light (when I tend to have to use my phone), but it’s an area of photography I have yet to explore. Ditto anything more than very basic editing (mostly cropping). Learning how to edit photos properly is on my list of goals for the year, and this book actually inspired me to do something I had yet to do. I’ve been shooting in RAW format** for most of the last year, but because I don’t have any editing software, I’ve just worked with the jpg files that import into my phone. Only in reading this book did I experiment and discover that I could import and edit RAW files on my phone the same way I do the jpg versions, and holy cats the amount of extra data those files contain is incredible! So yeah, while I’ll need to reread the flash and editing sections one day when I have more experience with them, this was already worth it!
Plus, the cat photos were great even on second read.
PS. I didn’t realize Marttila was married to the Kitten Lady when I first read this book. I didn’t know who the Kitten Lady was this time last year. I discovered her through my favorite kitten rescue on Tiktok, and ended up buying my Vewy Scawy pin for my hiking bag through her site last summer. Ha!
**Technically, I shoot in RAW+jpg, so that the jpg files are quite large and contain the most data as I can get from them. I tried shooting in just RAW, and the files that would upload to my phone in jpg were these horrible low-data versions. But now that I know how to transfer RAW files, I can just shoot in straight RAW. Might save me some room, ha!