Have you been disappointed with your photos of your cat? If I asked you to articulate what distinguishes good photos from bad, can you tell me?
You don’t need a whiz-bang camera. If you learn and practise these basic techniques, you’ll see your photos improve measurably. And don’t be afraid to take lots of photos to get a few good ones. The professionals do.
Prepare your cat
Take a little time to plan your photography sessions. How do you want to capture your cat’s personality? Is she smoochy, lazy, active, playful?
Help your cat relax around the camera. Let her sniff it first. Remove any collar and wipe her over with a damp cloth if he looks a bit scruffy. You might want to control how far your cat can roam during the photo session. This could be as simple as closing a door or putting up a barrier.
If your cat is very active, wait for a quieter time, like after a meal when he may be sleepy. Or tire him out first. A good way to get your cat to hold still is to let him play quietly and once you have everything ready, call him. This will catch his attention, giving you a few seconds to capture an alert posture.
If you have a predominantly outside cat, she may be flirty when just let into the house. A chance for great photos of her rubbing against a chair.
If you want your cat to look at the camera, hold some food above or alongside the camera. You’ll want to take these shots before feeding her.
For shots of your cat playing, it will be easier with an assistant. Have some teasers, like feathers or string. Use a box or paper bag, but not all at once! You want uncluttered photos.
Inadequate light ruins a lot of photos. Outside light is best, ideally at dawn and dusk. Remember not to shoot into the sun. Inside shots are best near a large window. Otherwise you will need good artificial lighting. There are a few problems with using the camera flash. It can cause red or green eyes when the light hits the back of the eyes. Red eye reduction is not helpful as it uses a second flash by which time your cat will have moved. The flash also tends to scare cats. If you must use it, you want the flash as far from the camera lens as possible. If possible, turn the flash away so it’s not pointing at your cat. If you can’t do this, cover the flash with tissue paper to soften the effect.
If your cat is on the move, a fast shutter speed is helpful. Most digital cameras have a sports mode designed for moving action. If your cat is a fast mover, a fast shutter speed allows you to take a quick series of shots.
To avoid blurred shots, steady the camera by bracing the it gently against your forehead, pushing your elbows into your ribs and holding a shallow breath just before you take your photos.
Get up close, at cat or even mouse level – this will give intimacy to your shots, and put you in your cat’s world. You may need to get on your stomach or knees. The cat should take up most of the space in your shot.
Cats look different from different angles. Take facial close-ups, full body shots, three-quarter body shots and action shots.
Avoid distractions and clutter in your photos – use simple settings like a large patch of grass or a well-lit room with pale walls and plain carpet. Avoid couches, televisions, tables, lamps, wall hangings and such in the background.
If your cat is light-colored, try to have a dark background, and vice-versa. If necessary, hang a cloth as a backdrop. Be careful of background objects that appear to stick out of your cat’s head (or rear-end). Only include background objects if they add to the photo.
Now I strongly suggest you spend time looking at good and bad photos. Articulate why the poor ones don’t look so good. Is the object of the photo too small and far away? Is there too much background distraction? Is the lighting poor? Then look at some of your good photos or from my website. Why do you like them? Put it into words and you can start to transform your photographs.