How To Photograph Your Cat :: Digital Photo Secrets

How To Photograph Your Cat

by David Peterson 3 comments

Have you wanted to get a good picture of fluffy but don’t know where to start? Cats are a notoriously skittish subject. They can be a real challenge to pose. But with enough time, patience, and creativity, you can create some very interesting cat photos without purchasing any more equipment than what you already have in your home. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how.

There is one mistake almost everyone makes when taking pictures of their cat. They do it indoors. Because there isn’t enough light inside, they start to use flash to compensate for it. That’s where everything takes a turn for the worse. Cats have a reflective layer of tissue on the back of their eyes, and when you shine a flash on it, you get an effect that’s worse than red eye. Plus, it startles the cat, and it won’t be long before you can’t get fluffy to keep her eyes open in front of the camera.

Always shoot pets outdoors during the early morning or late afternoon hours

That’s when the light is the best. You also don’t have to bother with using a flash. Most professional pet photographers take the cat out to the backyard so there’s a lowered chance of escape. That’s where they setup shop, bringing in backdrops, toys, and other accessories to help with the shoot.

The above photo was probably taken outside with a simple white backdrop and a non-reflective white surface for the cat to stand on. You can’t see everything in the yard because it was cropped out of the shot. If you want, you can also setup an indoor studio with lights on both sides and some kind of light diffusing material. This will create an effect that’s similar to photographing your cat outdoors.

The backdrop is a critical element. It needs to compliment the colors already present in your cat. If it distracts in any way, don’t use it. That’s part of the reason you’re taking pictures outside instead of inside. There tends to be less messy dishes and things lying around in the backyard. It’s a cleaner place. For example, in the below image the green grass doesn't distract from the cute kitten.

Get on eye-level with your cat

Avoid shooting from above as it makes your cat look like a bug about to get squashed. There’s something so much more human about getting up close and on the same level as your cat. It’s exactly what you should do when photographing babies and young children. You have to get into their little world and show things from their perspective.

If you think you’re already zoomed in enough, zoom in some more. Most amateur pet photographs are taken from too far away. By zooming in, you get your cat to fill the frame, making the photo much more visually interesting. It’s also a good idea to incorporate people into your shots. When it’s you and your cat, you can zoom out a little more to fit the two of you in the shot. Common sense, I know, but it’s worth mentioning.

Have someone handle your cat

I’ve found this to be a huge help. Like I said, cats are skittish. They don’t know what your camera does, and they aren’t thinking to look straight into it. You need to finesse them, but your hands are tied up in taking the pictures. A cat handler makes your life so much easier.

It’s a good idea to have a bunch of toys lying around to get your cat excited. You can have your cat handler do all the playing while you snap the photos. As a last resort, you can bring out the kitty treats. Do this with some degree of modesty, and you’ll keep your cat excited long enough to get the shot.

Know when to quit too

Cats aren’t the most cooperative subjects, that’s for sure, but you don’t want to force something that’s just not happening. As soon as your cat starts losing interest in the toys and the treats, call off the shoot. Tomorrow is another day, after all, and if you keep doing this long enough, you’re bound to capture something interesting.

It’s all about persistence.

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  1. Mia Matterson says:

    Awesome tips David! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

  2. mohammed irfan says:


  3. Rob Currie says:

    The kitten on the white background was taken in a studio, you can see by the shadows of the front legs that there were 2 lights - one each side. The easiest way to see is to look at the reflections in the eyes - you can usually see not only the lighting setup, but also the modifiers on the lights such as soft boxes, umbrellas, beauty dishes or ring flashes!

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.