Photographing a cat isn’t an easy task. Most of the time, they’re sleeping, which won’t make for an interesting picture. You want to catch them when they are active. And, cats aren’t going to stick to any preset schedule. So, you’re going to have to take your pictures on the cat’s schedule.
Once your cat is up and about, grab the camera. You can’t get cats to pose or stay in one position for long so you need to be ready. Or, you’ll be missing a lot of pictures, and cats aren’t going to repeat the behavior just because you want them to.
Get to Their Level and Find a Neutral Background
When your cat is finally awake, it’s time to drop to your knees. Photographing cats from a standing position will cause them to seem small, and the surrounding furniture or fixtures will dwarf the cat. When you kneel or lay on the floor, however, you’ll be at the cat’s level, and this will improve any portrait images.
To get the cat’s attention, jingle a toy in front of you, or even use food or catnip to get their attention. This will get them looking at the camera and paying attention to you. Or, even use a hot water bottle or heated blanket since cats like warmth, and they may go and lay on these.
Try to wrangle the cat in front of a neutral background so nothing distracts from the picture. Also, don’t use complicated props. Stick with solid-colored knickknacks, flowers or even fruits or vegetables. If necessary, you can use the cat’s owner as a prop as well if it will keep the animal calm.
External Flash and Reflector
One of the major issues with photographing cats is the light reflecting off of their eyes. Cats will get red-eye just like humans in photographs. This comes from your flash being too close to the subject, causing it to bounce off of their eyes. If possible, don’t use the flash. But, if you must, use an external flash, and place a bit away from your camera.
Use a reflector to bounce this external flash towards your subject. This will add lighting to the cat, but keep your photographs from having the red-eye problem. You can also set your camera’s ISO to a higher setting if you are photographing indoors or in a similar low-light situation. And, experiment with wide aperture settings to let in more light.
Another idea is to use a flash diffuser, which will give you light. But, it won’t cause your subject to wash out and will reduce the possibility of the red-eye problem.
You don’t need to photograph the whole cat to get a good picture. Focus on the best features: the face, eyes or coloring. Try to create as much dramatic effect as possible with your pictures.
You may also like to read this guide to animal photography for additional tips on how to photograph cats.