Cats are among the most popular photo motifs of all. Pictures of their expressive eyes, their velvety soft paws, their silky shimmering fur and their graceful nature fascinate us. The problem: The animal models are quite unconventional. The following 10 tips will show you how to stage your house cat perfectly in spite of all this.
Whether it’s a relaxed snooze on the warm window sill, a hearty yawn, a funny game with the ball of wool or a curious walk through the garden at home: the cat provides many suitable photo motifs – but as soon as you have your camera or smartphone in your hand, the pretty velvet paw has already jumped up again and the right moment to take the photo is over. Fortunately, we have a few simple tips and tricks for you to help you take great photos of your cat or tomcat – even without an expensive reflex camera, telephoto lens or tripod.
1.The motif in your mind: How would you like to show your cat?
Whether it’s a photo wall in your living room at home or online on Facebook, Instagram & Co – there are plenty of pictures in which your beloved furry noses are the centre of attention. The quality of pet photos, however, leaves a lot to be desired: poor lighting conditions, shaky movements, restless backgrounds or just boring sleep pictures. Taking a sharp picture of a cat in good light, in an interesting pose, demands a lot from cat lovers and amateur photographers – after all, cats usually have little interest in a good portrait photo.
In order to take a good photo, you should – before you reach for your camera or mobile phone – think about what you want to express with your photo. How do you want to show your cat? Would you like to have a skilful portrait photo that shows off your beautiful eyes? Or would you prefer to see your cat in action – playing, climbing or jumping? Do you want to take a picture of your cat in nature or would you prefer to take it on your sofa at home? Sometimes it helps if you get inspiration from other cat photographs on the Internet. But don’t try to imitate a motif 1:1 – that usually goes wrong. After all, every cat is different – and this uniqueness is what the photo is supposed to emphasize.
To find a suitable motif for your cat, you should rather think about what makes your cat special. Does she have a particularly spotted coat? Or what does she like to do best? Is she still small and playful? Then a dynamic photo with her favourite toy would be suitable or a photo where the little cat looks curiously into the camera. With pictures of kittens it is nice when the proportions become visible, for example when you take a picture of the kitten at the mother cat’s teats or on her arm. Is your adult cat a free spirit who loves to hunt mice all day long? Then you should take pictures of her in the garden or in the open field. Or does she prefer to lie on your lap and be stroked? Then a motif where your furry nose lies comfortably in the sun is suitable.
2.Pay attention to a neutral background
No matter for which motive or in which “pose” you would like to photograph your cat – she is of course the center of attention. And this should also be shown to advantage on the photos. A restless background with people, cars, patterned wallpaper or the TV distracts from your velvet paw and should therefore be avoided. If you take pictures of your cat indoors, you should take them in front of a white or plain wall (without pictures or posters) or on a nice wooden floor. Alternatively, you can hang up a sheet or paint a large piece of cardboard and use it as a photo background. Plain coloured cushions or blankets are also very suitable for background arrangements.
It is important that your cat is shown to its best advantage against the chosen background. For example, a black cat should be photographed on a light wooden floor or a coloured blanket rather than on dark tiles. Cats with brown-reddish fur, on the other hand, will not stand out well on some wooden or laminate floors. If you have a white cat at home, you may of course also use a darker blanket or black cushions as a background. If you prefer to photograph your cat outdoors, you should also make sure that the background is as neutral as possible, for example a green meadow.
3.Ensure sufficient light
A nice background, a good pose and the best camera – all this is of no use if the lighting conditions are not right. Good lighting, as much natural daylight as possible, is essential for beautiful photos. If you don’t have a photo light set, you should take pictures of your cat near a large window if possible – or move the set directly outside into the garden. To avoid unattractive shadows, by the way, you should not position yourself directly with your back to the light, but rather photograph yourself a little to the side of the window or the sun. If your cat looks directly at the window, you’ll see a white dot on the pupil in the later photos – a very popular effect when taking portraits.
Indoors, in addition to natural daylight, you can slightly increase the ISO value of your camera or use a flash. The flash should always be pointed upwards and the photo should only be indirectly brightened by the backlight of the ceiling. Never flash directly in your cat’s face – it will frighten him and make him run away.
4.Cats in portrait: Sharp in front, out of focus in back
Another tip to make your cat stand out even more is to blur the background while the cat’s face is in sharp focus. Professionals set the aperture to the lowest possible number in Mode A or AV. If the value is between f2.8 or f3.2, the aperture is wide open and therefore the depth of field is shallower. The background will appear blurred while your cat is in focus in the foreground. It’s important that the focus is on the cat’s eyes – a portrait photo is most convincing with sharp and expressive eyes that immediately catch the eye of the viewer.
For those who are not familiar with photographic terms such as focus, depth of field, aperture and shutter speed, but still want to take a nice portrait photo of your cat, we recommend the portrait mode, which is easy to set on most digital cameras (usually the portrait mode is marked with a head symbol). Also some smartphones are able to take portrait photos with a blurred background. If this mode does not exist on your smartphone model, you can also download apps for depth-of-field reduction. Or you can use an image editing program or app to blur the background afterwards.
5.Cats on the move: Fast, but still not blurred
A particular difficulty in cat photography is that the animal model usually does not participate as we would like her to. Instead of sitting still and looking into the camera, she prefers to explore what is going on behind the camera, jumps on the scratching post or runs to another part of the apartment. To take a picture of her cat running or jumping and to freeze the movement on a photo has of course a very special charm. The problem is that such jump photos often become blurred or blurred and are then only suitable for the digital wastebasket.
To prevent this, the camera’s shutter speed must be as short as possible. Those who shy away from manual camera settings can alternatively select the camera’s sport mode. If the cat rages and plays, the continuous shooting mode is also suitable. This way you won’t miss an original pose of your cat. Of course, you’ll have to take some time to sort through the flood of images after the photo shoot. And most importantly, make sure you have enough space on your camera or smartphone in advance.
6.Walk at eye level with your cat
Cat photos look more natural when they reflect the perspective of the cat. Pictures where the photographer takes a bird’s eye view, i.e. the cat from above, are rarely convincing, because too much environment distracts from the actual motif and the cat seems too small. This means for you: Get down on your knees!
Take the camera at the eye level of your cat and try to catch her look in the horizontal plane. If you have knee problems, you can of course try to bring your cat into a higher position and take a picture of her for example on a table or on the scratching post.
If you have a particularly majestic cat at home, such as a Persian or Maine Coon, you should go even further down and photograph it lying down, from the so-called frog’s perspective. In this way, you can impressively show off your majestic cat. But be careful: Sometimes cats look thicker from below than they really are.
7.This is how your cat looks directly into the camera lens
Real eye-catchers are photos where the cat looks directly into the camera. But how do you get the headstrong tomcat or cat to do that? Just wait and pull the trigger at the right moment can be quite a test of patience. Luckily, there are some tricks with which you can steer the look of the velvet paw into the right direction.
This works best if a second person can assist you during the cat photo shoot. To do this, attach an interesting toy to a stick. While you have your finger on the trigger, your partner will try to draw the cat’s attention to the toy. If he succeeds, he will jerk the stick towards the camera lens, your cat will follow him with his gaze and you will pull the trigger! If you are alone with your pet when taking pictures and you don’t have an assistant by your side, you can also tap the camera body with your finger and try to attract the attention of your pet with these clicking noises. Cats are very curious by nature – use this! Last but not least, you can also have a delicious cat snack ready and lead it to the camera lens. Your cat will do anything to get at it – and with a bit of luck, he’ll even look directly into your camera.
8.Please step closer
To get good cat photos, the cat must be in the center of attention and as little background as possible – that much you already know. Unlike landscape photography, you need to get as close as possible to the four-legged model with your camera. Your cat may perceive the camera – after all, it’s best to look directly into the lens. Get up close and let your cat “examine” the camera – with a little luck you will get a great snapshot from close up.
Also detail shots, which for example show only one paw of your cat or only the special spot on her nose, are very interesting and make an impression on every photo wall in the enlargement. Remember that you are shooting in the best possible picture quality. This way you can reduce the size of the picture afterwards without the picture becoming too pixelated in the enlargement.
9.That certain something: Photo effects in post-processing
Even if you can make an impression on Instagram & Co with the hashtag #nofilter, sometimes photos only become true works of art with special image effects. And let’s face it: If every celebrity photo in the glossy magazines is edited, you too can make your cat even more beautiful with various image editing programs or corresponding apps.
Pictures become interesting when you set contrasts or vary the colouring slightly. Some cat pictures, for example, look even more professional in black and white than in colour. Cat photos become a real eye-catcher if you put a so-called vignette on them. This will darken the picture towards the edge with a shadow effect and your cat in the bright center of the picture will be even better accentuated.
10.Practice makes perfect
You now know a lot of tips on how to take nice photos of your beloved furry nose. However, it is still possible that you may not be able to take the perfect cat photo right away. But don’t worry, always remember: no master has fallen from the sky yet! Whether in sports, music, painting or even cat photography: To become really good, talent alone is not enough. You only become a professional with a lot of practice and training.
So grab your camera and try out different settings and different perspectives. The more familiar you become with the technique, the faster you can react to interesting poses of your cat and capture them in a great photo.
We wish you a lot of fun, patience and of course a lot of good light when photographing your velvet paw!