Secrets of Cat Photography Revealed (Part the First)

Two things have inspired me to write this post. First, I promised the info to Michaele at least six months ago (whoops – sorry, Michaele!). Second, I regularly get emails and comments asking me how I manage to always get good cat photos.

Ha. I get plenty of pictures like this:

and this:

Can’t spot the cat in the above photo? That’s because the cat left the shot while I was taking it…

I have an Olympus Stylus 810, which is an 8 megapixel point and shoot camera. It has 3x optical zoom, macro and super macro modes, and lots of other spiffy features that I rarely use. For the extremely basic photo resizing and editing I do, I use FxFoto. FxFoto is free, although I do have the paid version, which offers more features and doesn’t have an annoying nag screen.

Probably the number one secret of cat photography is to take lots of pictures. Lots and lots and lots of pictures. The more pictures you take, the better the chances you’ll get a keeper.

Number two is to use a camera with sports mode. Cats are busy creatures who care nothing about you trying to take their picture – sports mode increases your chance of getting a non-blurry shot.

A lot of people probably get decent pictures like this, in which the cat part of the picture is perfectly fine, but there’s a lot of distracting non-cat stuff in the picture:

Simply cropping and resizing that picture produces this:

Much better. Here’s a similar shot, only taken much closer to the subject so cropping isn’t required:

Here’s virtually the same shot taken without a flash, which produces a slightly different effect (such as fully open kitty eyes!):

For natural light pictures, I recommend a small tripod (the one I have is about 4″ tall) and a sleepy cat who isn’t moving around too much! The picture above was taken with the camera balanced on a pillow on the ottoman.

Here’s another example of an ok shot with too much non-cat stuff in it (I cannot believe I’m showing you my messy unmade bed!).

And the same shot cropped and resized (plus the messy bed isn’t quite as noticeable):

Can you even stand the cuteness of Mayhem watching snowflakes fall?!!

Sometime in the indeterminate future I’ll show you a few more simple tricks for improving your cat photography in Secrets of Cat Photography Revealed (Part the Second).

47 thoughts on “Secrets of Cat Photography Revealed (Part the First)”

  1. Great post Chris! I actually like the ‘before’ shot on your Mayhem watching snowflakes — great framing and it has a wonderful warm reality to it ;o) almost could be a painting!

    Framing is important too in pictures — sometimes even a few ‘distracting things’ can add up to a great composition ;o)

  2. I have a picture of Gandalf staring out the window with the same HUGE eyes!

    Thanks for tutorial! Atticus is an excellent model, Gandalf still a bit young to sit still for anything, and Mae is a prima donna. For every good picture I get of her, there are about 5 crappy ones.

    I love that picture of May on the chair! Awwww!

  3. Excellent tutorial, wonderful pix, as usual. But your captions are what make me laugh, you have a special way of putting cat thoughts into words that seem very right for each pix. And we all know that half of getting a good picture of any kind is being ready and noticing when they are doing something picture worthy. Looking forward to part two.

  4. I have a cat with two different colored eyes, and whenever I use red-eye reduction on her, one eye or the other still gets the red-eye effect. should i get my cat contacts or try something else?

  5. Love your tips, Chris! And I can use them when I try to photograph my Labs… of course they are much bigger, so I have to crop less! Maybe the tips will work on my human Mayhem as well. She’s always into something. 😉

  6. C,C, and M,
    You do always have fantastic photos. First I am sooooo happy to see that you too put katfurproof covers on your furniture. You may have noticed the 3 or 4 different pieces of polar fleece always adorning our couch in the cat photos. But that’s why our 14 y.o. couch looks brand new! I think the best part of your cat pics is the lighting – lots of natural lighting and light colored carpet. Grey here from Oct-late March.

  7. OK, I have a carpet question. It looks like you have a Berber carpet, much like what I’m thinking/dreaming of getting. I’ve heard, however, that cats love to shred this stuff, and I have three (“Felisquatro” is from the days when I had four) generally well-behaved cats – but do cats love this carpet as much as people say they do? What’s your experience been? Please say is isn’t so!

  8. For shame! I have been thoroughly offended by your messy bed, I am never reading this blog again. OH and one more thing, I love that cropped photo of May watching snowflakes.

  9. Really – she drugs the cats and then poses them. I’ve been there and seen all the bottles of medication for the cats. They are like zombies, man. It’s really freaky.

    I’m done now.

  10. watching the snowflakes? too cute! and I like the quilt. (messy bed? what messy bed?)

    Kaska was sitting in the window (well, on the ledge) and trying to catch them thru the window the last time we got a good snow.

  11. thank you! my cat is black too and his pictures always either end up as black blobs or the really flash-heavy glowing cat effect. i’m going to have to try some of your suggestions!

  12. Very funny. I wonder if black dogs are harder to photograph than black cats, or if it is all the same. I’m going to try the sports mode…I think I have that!

  13. The secret to all good photographs is to take a lot of them. Even professionals would consider themselves lucky if they had one ‘keeper’ per roll of film.

  14. Great post! The rly nice thing about a digital camera is being able to take tons of pics…I still think black kitties are particularly hard to photograph and you get a lot of excellent shots!

    And Kat is right–professionals *are* happy to get one good shot out of an entire roll of film. You just have particularly good subjects!

  15. Have to admit, I get a LOT of photos like the first two you show (with pieces of cats or none at all!). And The Meezer, et al., KNOW when I’m coming…my little Optio S has a funky little “bl-eep” sound that it makes when you turn it on. They KNOW that sound and head for the hills!
    (sigh)
    Will have to check out a 4″ tripod…and remember to keep the camera nearby!
    Great tips!
    (((hugs)))

  16. Wonderful tips! I did know about the necessity of taking LOTS of pictures though. If you could only see the number of half-Isis photos I have .. I really should go through the folder and weed them out at some point.

  17. They can be a bit sluggish during nap time too – in the middle of the day. I think I get decent shots because I’m home in the middle of the day a lot.

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