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Our featured photographer of the month is Cathy Keifer. Cathy, an animal lover at heart will be sharing with us her insights on how to progress from a beginner to a full fledged photographer. Also, do check out her quirky passion for small creatures and her tips on how to capture the best shots of these creatures in action. All these and more only on Hear It. Don't miss out!

Photographer: cathykeifer / Cathy Keifer
Country of Origin: United States

1. Production Equipment: Please list the production equipment that you use on a regular basis (eg. Cameras, lenses, flash & lighting, photo editing software).
Canon 40d SLR camera, Canon 100mm macro lens, Canon 65mm macro (up to five times actual size), alien bees flash units, diffusion panels, Photoshop CS software.

2. What do you think of photography these days?
I love it. Although there is a lot of controversy about digital images and what can be done in the digital darkroom, I consider photography art and embrace digital technology as part of that art.

3. What did you want to be when you were younger?
I wanted to be an artist and I think I have done that through my photography.

4. Tell us about the time when you first got started in photography.
I started in photography about 4 years ago when I bought a digital point and shoot camera and started taking portraits of my grooming customer's dogs. I progressed to shooting nature and then collecting insects and small animals to shoot in a studio setup.

5. In your opinion, what does it take to become successful in this industry?
I think you must have good technical skills and offer something a bit different in your chosen subject matter.

6. What was your biggest challenge coming into this industry?
My biggest challenge was overcoming my fear of the unknown and deciding to jump in and give it a try.

7. What are the best perks as a Photographer?
The best perks of being a photographer are that I get to make some money doing what I love to do.

8. How do you plan for your shooting sessions?
I plan shooting sessions around what insect or small animal I have to shoot at the time. They each require a different setup and background. If I have an insect that will eat when in front of the camera, I plan my sessions when he is hungry and I have the right prey and props to make the shot work.

9. How would you describe your work to first time viewers?
My work is based on my love of animals, even the smallest of them like tiny jumping spiders. I try to capture the essence of the animal by showing it doing something whenever possible. I like to make the personality of the animal show in my photographs. I consider myself a small animal portrait photographer.

10. Do you shoot to what your heart tells you or do you go through a complex check list in your mind when you produce your work? Describe the feeling/check list.
I get inspiration from the animals I work with. They show me what it takes to shoot them successfully. I have learned what environmental setup they need to feel relaxed, and I try to accommodate their needs so I can shoot longer and get better shots. Sometimes I get ideas for what plants or environment to pair with what animal, early in the morning before I get up.

11. From your experience, what subjects gives you the greatest satisfaction? Any examples?
Shooting tiny subjects seems to give me the most satisfaction since they would usually go unseen without the magic of macro photography. My close contact with insects and spiders has reversed my fear of them into a love of them.

12. From your experience, what subjects are the hardest to work with? Any examples?
The hardest subjects I works with are spiders, especially fast moving ones like wolf spiders. Figuring out how to set up an environment that's safe for them, that still allows me to shoot from many angles is quite challenging.

13. What is your philosophy when it comes to your work?
My philosophy is to create technically good photos that reveal the essence of an animal.

14. Describe who/what inspires you, tell us why?
My brother and husband inspire me because they are both good photographers and I value their opinions. Also nature inspires me. Whenever I am outside I get inspiration from the shape and texture of plants around me and from the busy world of insects that often requires a close look to reveal.

15. What do you do when those creative juices just seems to evade you. How do you "get creative"?
When I feel uninspired, I just let an animal do his thing in the studio and I often get ideas from his behavior. Sometimes I have to just take a break from shooting and I will get ideas after a good nights sleep.

16. Tell us about a time when inspiration just hits you, and you felt the insatiable urge to create. What did you do with that energy?
When I really get a good idea I just have to act on it. Sometimes that means shooting at 4 am when the idea is fresh. Other times when I have collected several insects and have many ideas, I can go on a shooting spree that takes all day and half the night. I feel the need to get a lot done so I can release my subjects the same day back to their wild life.

17. What have you discovered about yourself through photography?
I have discovered that photography is my way to release the artist inside. It has also brought me much closer to the world of small animals and cured my fears of that world. I have also learned many fascinating things about animals and their behavior.

18. Whose work do you admire the most? Why?
I admire the work of John Shaw since he has done so much with macro photography. His work with insects has been enlightening.

19. Do you have any advice for those who are just getting in to stock photography?
Learn how to take technically excellent photos first, then jump in and get your feet wet. Shoot what you feel strongly about and it will show in your photos. I want to enjoy the process, so I shoot the subjects I love.

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