Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wrestling With Cats: Story Of A Funny Cat Picture

Anthropomorphic Animals And Cats Wrestling
It was very early on in my Animal Antics series of anthropomorphized animal pictures for greeting card when I was given the task of shooting Big Time Wrestling…with cats.
At that point I had only done four or five such images. I was doing the compositing work with Live Picture, which at the time had better tools for selecting the hair and fur. But neither Photoshop nor Live Picture was anywhere near the tool that Photoshop is today.

Excitement, Intimidation And Challenge

When I saw the sketch from the art director I was both excited and intimidated. It was easily the most challenging job I had been asked to do yet, but done well, would be a really cool image that would certainly stand out from everything else out there. The original sketch did not show the audience, and for better or worse, I suggested that we make the audience all cats. Boy did that turn into a nightmare!

Blood, Sweat And Funny Animal Photos

To create this funny animal photo my art director, Collette Kulak, had a miniature boxing or wrestling ring built. She also crafted, herself, small plastic cat-sized uniforms. Now photographing cats is not an easy process. Photographing cats, upside down, wearing miniature wrestling uniforms…now that is a challenge! This was way back before we had mastered the process, and we were doing our best to actually get the cats into the necessary poses. Now we just shoot one part at a time and it is one heck of a lot easier!
We did manage to get all the shots I needed, but not without shedding just a little blood, sweat and, well, thankfully, there were no tears.

An Audience Of Cats And 1000 Layers

It took me about two days to assemble the main elements of the picture. Then I set about building the audience of cats. That was my idea, right? Man! Everytime I would drop one cat’s face in I would have to adjust the one next to it, then the one next to it, and so on. Plus, I only had about twelve different cat faces to work with, and I didn’t it to look like I was using the same ones over and over. To help with that I had the background go darker and darker the further back the audience receded. By the time I had completed the image I had over 1000 layers (in Live Picture…Photoshop wouldn’t go over 99 layers back then).

A Poster, Books And Greeting Cards

At nine days of imaging, the cat-wrestling photo takes the record for the longest time I have ever spent digitally manipulating a single composite image. This funny cat photo has been used as a poster, in books, as a greeting card (still being distributed) and in a variety of other uses. It is still one of my favorite images…though I may be influenced by what a challenge it was to create, a phenomena that must of us photographers, ah, wrestle with!

 Research Your Clients, And Get An Advance
When licensing your images it is really important to research your clients thoroughly and to only license the rights for an image that a given client needs and is good at distributing. A company that is great at selling and distributing greeting cards may not be particularly good at distributing calendars. In the long run you will do better by researching your clients and paying close attention to your licensing. If your client does not distribute, and distribute effectively through out the world, then don't give up world rights! I would also recommend getting an advance. Just recently I agreed to let a company distribute my images in a calendar without an advance. The company folded, sold the rights to the calendar to another company who also then folded. I end up with nothing. Research your clients, pay attention to the rights you license, and get an advance.

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