Tips On How To Photograph Your Cat

So you want to take cat photos. Well, why not? You probably already have photos of your other loved ones. Our cats give us many, many memorable times while they're with us so, if we don't keep a pictorial record of them, they're going to be lost, forever.

A good way to photograph your cat is to get in close, down at its level. All-black cats can be difficult to shoot and a little playing around with the camera's exposure settings might be needed to get the best results.

Now that you've made the decision to take cat photos, there can can be problems. What you want to do is capture the essence and character of your cat. With some cats, that's easy, with others, not so. If you don't fancy yourself as much of a photographer or, if you don't even own a camera, you can always hire a professional photographer. While this may be the solution for some people, all you really need (besides a camera) is a little preparation and some (or maybe a lot of) patience and you will get photos you'll love and treasure for the rest of your life.

Don't be too serious about your approach. Remember that your cat has no idea what you're trying to do, so don't try to rush things. Have fun with it - you may be surprised at the photos you get when your cat does something unexpected, just as you fire the shutter.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while attempting to photograph your cat's exploits:

Kids And Cats

Kids and animals always make great photos so while you photograph your cat, have one of your kids (if you have any, of course) pose with the cat; maybe cradling the cat in their arms or sitting behind the cat and so on. Have fun trying different poses with your "subjects".

When your kids grow up, these pictures will be treasured reminders of childhood and good times with the animal.

Where To Shoot?

You should try to photograph your cat anywhere it feels comfortable. But strive for good lighting. The best time and place is in broad daylight outside. Now, if yours is an indoor cat, that won't be possible. In that case, try taking photos when your cat is near a window or in a well-lit room so you can make the most od the natural light.

For outdoor shots, it's best to steer clear of direct sunlight as this can alter the cat's natural coloring. Bright, overcast days are usually the best times. Direct sunlight will also increase the contrast in the scene and any parts of your cat that are in shadow may come out pitch black in the final photo. Use something white to reflect some light into the shadowed areas (you may need someone to act as your assistant here) so that there's visible detail everywhere in the final photo.

What About Using A Flash?

Using a flash seldom captures the true coloring of your cat. Depending on the position of the flash, it can cause red-eye (flash units built into the camera are more likely to cause this than separate flash units that are offset from the camera). Your cat also won't tolerate multiple blinding flashes and will head off somewhere else for some peace and quiet. Flash also tends to throw out a hard light and, in low light situations, this can lead to stark, unflattering shadows in the final photo. However, you can use a flash in daylight to provide fill-in light for dark areas in the scene.

There's a type of flash called a Ring Flash that encircles a camera lens and provides a diffuse light and is designed for close-up photography. This flash gives soft shadows and less contrasty final results. While it's a specialist item for SLR cameras, it might be worth investing in one ($90+) if you want to photograph your cat in close-up a lot.

Getting The Best Cat Photos

The wrong way to photograph your cat. I took this shot of my cat Fritz from a standing position. Yes, he looked up at the right moment but his expression is less than flattering! There's also too much clutter in the background.

The worst way to photograph your cat is from above which is the typical position people take; i.e. you stand, with the camera pointed down at the cat. Unless your cat happens to look up at you just as you take the photo, all you'll get is a reasonable picture of the top of his head. If yours does happen to look up at you, the pose won't look very natural.

There are two simple things to do to increase your chances of getting a great photo

  • Get down to your cat's level (that means lying on the floor or ground)
  • Get in close (but not so close that you make your cat uncomfortable)
Again, this photo I took of a friend's cat doesn't do her justice.

When you're taking photos, don't make your cat come to you. Instead, go to where s/he is most comfortable. That might mean sitting on the grass, lying on the floor or hunkering up against the sofa. Do what it takes. If you're trying to take full body shots, then always take them from the cat's level rather than above. The results are much more flattering.

After taking a photo, most people leave it at that. Why? If you own a digital camera, take as many photos as you can . There's no guarantee that your first shot will be a "keeper". Try framing your cat in different ways, zooming in to the face and taking full body shots. The more photos you take, the greater the likelihood that you will get a really great shot. Always try to take at least few head or face shots of your cat. That's where character lies and that's what you want to capture for posterity.

Catty Essence

Getting in close - A better way to photograph your cat. This is Fritz close-up.

Cats have smiling faces - at least that's how it seems to me. Like I said in the previous paragraph, take plenty of pictures of your cat's face to capture his/her personality. But that's probably the "serene" look. Cats go nuts for at least one-half hour out of twenty-four. Try to photograph your cat when it's in its manic phase!

Now this is not an easy task and, as you photograph your cat, you will get lots of pictures of carpet, walls, bits of the cat and various blurred versions thereof but, when you do get a successful picture, they're worth their weight in gold!

So, maybe you find that too challenging (I haven't succeeded myself in getting such a picture). Try to photograph your cat when it's being playful rather than manic. Have some of his/her favorite treats or toys to hand. Hold them up near the camera to catch (and hopefully hold) interest in the right direction. It's probably better, though, if you get someone else to play with the cat while you focus your attention on just getting the pictures.

Good luck in your attempts to photograph your cat! And send in some of your results.

Videoing Your Cat

If you happen to be proficient at using a video camera, you can always record reams of footage and edit out the crap stuff afterwards. This way you'll have a better chance of catching your cat in some memorable pose or action or doing some strange catty thing. Take a look at the Funny Cats video on the Cat Movies and Adverts page for a great compilation of home cat movies.

If you do record some footage send in your results. The best will be added to the Cat Movies and Adverts page.


I know it's unrelated to cats, but it is related to photography - if you're interested in landscape photography, I also run the Great Landscape Photography website which gives tips and advice on improving your landscape photography.

If you're looking for discount cameras or photo equipment, try this camera store.

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