Cats are notoriously difficult subjects to photograph. We love their unique personalities, but they’re also stubborn, indifferent, and impossible to pose. They’re either running away from the camera or putting their faces right against the lens. Your phone’s photo gallery is always full of button noses and whiskers, but most of those pictures are blurry, too dark, or simply unflattering.
#1 – Appeal to Their Curiosity
Getting your cat’s attention is your first challenge if you want a portrait of their pretty face. Professional pet photographer Zoran Milutinovic suggests playing on a cat’s natural curiosity to get them attuned with the camera. An interesting sound will draw their attention and perk their ears in that adorable way you love. Try rustling a piece of paper, clicking your tongue, snapping your fingers, or making your own “meow” noises. If you want their attention directed somewhere besides you, toss a pebble or other small object in the direction you want them to look. This will produce an alert profile look of your domesticated hunter.
#2 – Get on Their Level
Glenn Harper wrote in an article with Digital Photography School that one of the biggest mistakes amateur pet photographers make is taking the shot from a human’s height. The best cat photos are at eye-level with the subject. Taking the photo from above the cat can make them look oddly shaped and small. Kneel down to their level and don’t be afraid to get down on the floor to get the ideal perspective. If you can’t get low enough to the ground, try putting Kitty on an elevated surface or encouraging them to climb.
#3 – Use Natural Light
Black cats are especially hard to photograph if the lighting isn’t exactly right. If it’s too dark, your cat will end up looking like an unidentifiable black blob. You don’t want to use the flash because this usually creates a harsh glare and can bring out that green-yellow glow from their eyes—not to mention the sudden burst of light could scare kitty away. If you’re working with your phone, and not a professional camera, your best strategy is to plan your photo shoot for the hours just after the sun rises and right before it sets. Soft natural light will be most flattering. Harsh light creates unsightly glares and shadows.
#4 – Choose the Right Background
A busy background will distract from your subject and make the picture look cluttered. To make your pictures look like professional portraits, experiment with draping solid-colored fabrics over furniture to serve as a backdrop. Choose a color that will contrast with your cat’s fur. If you have a dark-colored cat, for example, use a light backdrop. If you want a more natural-looking image without a solid background, be wary of what’s behind your cat. Perspective can make it look like tree branches are coming directly out of their ears, and that’s not what you’re looking for in a good cat picture.
#5 – Get the Distance Right
If your cat isn’t running in the opposite direction every time they see you bring out the camera, they’re likely pawing at your face and sniffing the lens. To keep either of these scenarios from happening, find the spot that’s not too far away and not too close. If you’re on the opposite side of the room from your cat, they’ll lose interest in what’s happening and won’t pay attention to you. But if you’re too close, your pictures will all be unflattering close-ups. Pet photographers say the best distance from a cat is usually around three feet. This way you’re close enough to interact but not too close to ruin the shot.
#6 – Take a Lot of Pictures
When your subject is as finicky as a cat, you’ll never get the shot you want on the first try. It won’t help your phone’s storage problems, but one of the best strategies for taking pictures of your cat is to take as many pictures as possible. Cats move fast and their facial expressions change in seconds. Your reaction won’t be fast enough to get the look you want, but your chances of success improve with each press of the button.
#7 – Know Your Cat’s Personality
The best pet pictures showcase the animal’s unique personality. If what you love most about your cat is their playfulness, structure your photo shoot around their regular playtime. If they’re especially adorable right after they wake up from a nap, have your camera handy when they start to stir out of a slumber. The pictures will remind you of your cat’s best qualities, and it’ll also make photographing them easier. They’ll already be at ease, and they’re less likely to run from the camera when they’re allowed to simply be themselves.