How to Photograph Cats

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 22, 2018
How to Photograph Cats

See files for Cats

Like anyone with a cat in their family, you are completely besotted with your feline friend. So much so, you think they are the most beautiful cat in the world. They spend their time performing all day, even when just going about their usual business. Even when at rest they are adorable/funny/handsome, making for unlimited great photo opportunities. The only limitation is the amount of film in your camera or space left on your phone.

What's the point of taking a picture if you can't share it when anyone? Whether it's direct to friends and family or shared on social media, you want everyone to know just how special and unique your kitty is. However, as amazing as your cat is to look at, this is no guarantee your photography skills are correspondingly great.

This is why AnimalWised has these tips on how to photograph cats. With this quick guide, you'll end up being the next Henri CATier-Bresson or FELIne Arbus and you can show your photos off with pride.

You may also be interested in: Tips to Photograph Birds

Catch their attention

You may be a conceptual master and have some great ideas to stage cat pictures. Your cat, however, might not be willing to share the same artistic vision. Forcing them to make certain poses or stay in one place is not only a difficult task, it can result in making the feline stressed and aggressive. Treating them with respect and using their natural curiosity to your advantage will give you a greater likelihood of getting the snap you're hoping for.

Catching their attention with treats or toys will be a better way to get them to face the camera. You can direct their gaze or even help them to take up certain positions. Although not as trainable as dogs, it is a myth that cats can't be taught some types of obedience such as paw holding. Incorporate these techniques to help get a pic if you need it.

Another good tip for photographing your cat is to choose your time wisely. If you see your cat is taking a nap, wait for them to wake up naturally and then try to take your picture. When cats just wake up they are less restless and more likely in a good state to pose.

How to Photograph Cats - Catch their attention

Get down to their level

Trying to get your cat up to your level can prove tricky in these notoriously strong willed creatures. Getting down to their level is often a much better recipe for success. One reason is that taking pictures from our human height will often result in poor perspective, resulting in a bad angle or our cat not being the focus of the picture. If we bend or lie down and bring ourselves to their height, we are meeting them on their home turf where they may be more comfortable. This can often result in the most beautiful portraits, often due to their candid nature.

If you want a more striking picture of your cat, then the focus must always be on their eyes. When the lens and the cat's eyes lock into each other, you create a positive tension which is so much more emotive than when we can't see their eyes. Not that there aren't interesting picture of cats where you can't see their eye. It's just that often this is because we can't see them and are interested in some other element of the photo.

How to Photograph Cats - Get down to their level

The right moment

If you want to take spectacular photos of your cat, then you should have a camera ready at all times. The most spontaneous moments often make for the most beautiful and arresting photographs. Be patient. Although it may take a while, paying attention will mean that ‘elusive moment’ will arrive eventually. Your cat won't be sitting around waiting for you to get just the right pose or do the same thing twice, so you need to be the one who has perseverance. Stay tuned, but don't obsess over a specific idea as it may never come.

What will make it much easier is to learn and pay attention to the personality and behavior of your cat. Try to capture them being themselves. The photograph will be more personal and often the best portraits are those which capture the essence of their subject. Catching them in the perfect position, whether standing, lying or jumping, also means always being ready to shoot.

One of the best times to photograph a cat is at dusk. The light is softer at this time and the shadows on their face and body will be reduced. Natural light is almost always the best option, especially when your cat is out on the grass or hanging around in a tree.

How to Photograph Cats - The right moment

They are not a cartoon character

Remember that your cat is not an animated cartoon character. Cats are elegant and graceful creatures, so avoid dressing them up in ridiculous ways or forcing them into situational poses which make them uncomfortable. This doesn't mean you can't do fun and quirky things with your cat. It means don't push them out of their comfort zone and try to enhance their own attitude and qualities. There are some professionals who are good at creating poses for cats, but they usually have particular skill and resources to do so.

Another factor to consider when taking pictures of cats is to avoid red eyes, something sometimes known as ‘demon eyes’. The flash of your camera bounces off the cat's eye and often reflects off the back of their retina. The best way to avoid it is to avoid using the flash in the first place. Instead try to use advantage of the natural light or use another artificial light source to illuminate them.

How to Photograph Cats - They are not a cartoon character

Other tips for taking photos of cats

  1. Experiment using different angles, but take notes of those which look good and those which do not. If they look at little bloated and puffy when sitting, then try and capture them when they are standing or stretching out. Test their profiles and see what works. Of course, if being fat and fluffy is part of their charm, then this is good too.
  2. Ensure to capture the contrast between the cat and their background. For example, black cats look particularly good behind all white backgrounds. It is also a good opportunity to experiment with black and white photography.
  3. Whatever is the scenario, don't forget you can use it to your advantage. Finding beautiful and expressive backgrounds can help provide more depth to the photograph.
  4. If you want to catch your cat in motion, such as running or jumping, don't feed it beforehand. Just like us, they won't have much energy after eating and you can make them ill if you're trying to chase them around.
  5. One of the most beautiful times to capture your cat in a photo is nap time. They may be at their most vulnerable and tender, the stuff great photos are made of. Also, you won't need to worry too much about them moving around and losing their pose as it's likely they'll be in it sleeping for a while.
How to Photograph Cats - Other tips for taking photos of cats

If you want some more ideas on how to capture the animal kingdom in all it's splendor, you can take a look at our article on how to photograph birds to see what unique considerations this species requires.

Also, as a way to catch your cat's attention, here is some information on how to make DIY cat toys as well as some homemade food for cats.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Photograph Cats, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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