5 Ways to Take Great Photos of Your Cat

Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker with a Cat
Photo by Joel Riner of Quicksilver Studios
Joel Riner did all the photography for Dr. Marty Becker's book Your Cat: The Owner's Manual.

Snapping a great picture of your cat can be a challenge. Often the cat is moving so fast the shot is blurry, or he’s looking in the opposite direction, or he darts out of range and all that’s captured is the tip of his tail.

I’ve worked with Joel Riner, a commercial photographer from Quicksilver Studios in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on a variety of animal shoots over the past few years, and I’ve learned a lot from him about photographing animals. Joel was kind enough to talk with me about snapping the perfect cat photo. His first piece of advice: Decide ahead of time on the type of picture you want and get things set up accordingly before ever bringing the cat into the shot. Your cat’s willingness to stay in one place and be photographed may not last long, so being prepared will allow you to take good pictures quickly.

Here are five more simple tips for getting great photos of your feline.

1. Keep the background simple. Your cat should be the focal point of the picture, so opt for a backdrop that is not busy. Pull your cat forward and away from the background to make him stand out more. Perhaps the shot you want is of him sitting on his favorite perch; if so, move the perch away from the wall or other furniture to make your cat the focus of the photo. Using a shallow depth of field setting also helps; it will focus the camera on your feline while blurring out the background.

2. Choose the best lighting. Ideally, opt for soft, natural light. Indoors, an area with a large window often works best. Overcast days make for the best pictures; bright sun can cast odd shadows or make the background too bright. If you are shooting on a bright day, the best pictures often happen when the sun is low in the sky. Avoid using a flash if possible; in addition to causing the dreaded red eye, it can make your cat uncomfortable.

Cat portrait
Thinkstock

3. Choose a comfortable setting. Your cat may get uncomfortable if he is forced to stay in a certain area or position for too long. Make the area where you are photographing your cat relaxing and quiet and he will be more likely to stay put. Choose an area the cat is already accustomed to, such as his cat furniture. Tasty treats or toys can make staying in this one place more appealing.

4. Create a calm atmosphere. Classical music or a CD like Through a Cat’s Ear can help your feline relax during a photo shoot. Feliway, a pheromone product for cats, can be sprayed on surfaces the cat is resting on to promote relaxation.

5. Get down on your cat’s level. This may mean lying on your belly to snap a picture — you almost want to be looking up at your cat when you photograph him, rather than looking down at him. If it’s easier, photograph him on a climbing structure or perch — anything that puts you both at the same eye level. To get your cat to look at the camera, try making a strange noise. You may want help to get the cat’s attention; have a helper stand behind you and rustle a paper bag or bounce a feather toy.


Here are more Vetstreet photography articles you may enjoy:

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