7 Cat Picture Tips

You can take great cat pictures with a few quick tips. Check out how CAT FANCY used them at a recent cat photo shoot!

By Elizabeth Anderson

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Norwegian Forest Cat -- Top Cat Picture Tips
CAT FANCY photographed a Norwegian Forest Cat for the magazine by using toys to get the cat's attention (see Tip #5).
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Tip #3: Grab a friend (or two) to help photograph your cat. An extra toy-shaker or fur-fixer can really help get your shot.
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Tip #4: Get down to eye level. A front-on shot will produce a great portrait.
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Tip #5: Play, play, play! Toys are great for grabbing cats' attention or for creating great poses.
Maine Coon Cat with Outstretched Paw
Tip #7: Quality takes quantity. Several shots we took of this Exotic cat showed her blinking, turning away or generally looking disinterested. After several tries, we wound up with a great portrait!
When it comes to capturing a priceless pounce or that funny face, you don't have a huge window of opportunity. Your cat might cooperate when sleeping, but sometimes you want a picture of your cat with her eyes open.

Click here for sleeping cat pictures >>

Cat photographers from around the country share some of their professional tips and tricks that can help any amateur get higher-quality results. See our CAT FANCY photo shoot pictures for examples from a recent cat picture session.

Want to shoot great cat videos? Get cat video tips here! >>


1. Forget the Flash
“Some pictures simply can't be gotten without a flash,” says Austin resident Kip Holm, hobbyist turned pro. “If you use a flash that hits them in the eyes, they will soon avoid you as soon as you pick up the camera. I always used a flash bounced off the ceiling when I used one on Duncan, and he never minded it.”

Remove the flash and shoot using natural light to avoid red eye, or “ghoul eye” as Terry deRoy Gruber calls it. New York resident Gruber has an extensive photography background with his work appearing in national publications such as “In Style,” “Vanity Fair” and “Vogue.” His books include “Working Cats, Fat Cats and Cat High.”

“If a camera has a redeye reduction feature, this will almost always cause you to miss the picture because of the resulting delay,” Holm says. “I like manual film cameras. With black animals you want to be able to over expose a little to get detail in their fur. A problem with digital is the delay between when you press the shutter and when the picture is taken. It is always during this delay when the cat turns its head and looks the other way or stops doing what it was doing.”

Check out our Black Cat Photo Gallery >>

2. Prep for Photos
“To get good cat pictures I recommend having a camera (or two or three) within arms reach and ready to go at all times,” Holm says. “Cats don't usually wait around for you to find the camera, load the film and set the exposure.”

3. Ask for an Assistant
“Get someone to assist you by helping to pose your cat where and how you want it and directing its attention to the camera,” says. Helmi Flick, of Bedford, Texas. She should know: she has been working with her husband, Ken, for eight years to get award-winning shots of cats, and her photos have appeared on several national magazine covers.

Click here for our breed pages, featuring many of Helmi Flick's photos >>

4. Go to Eye-to-Eye
“Get down to the cat's level, don't shoot down at the cat from your level,” says Preston Smith, a cat show photographer since January 2005. The Kansas City resident got his start after being referred by fellow photog Flick.

“Use a digital camera with a long enough zoom to not crowd your cat's space,” Flick adds.

“They are best photographed when they are in their own surroundings where they are comfortable,” says Bill Dow, who has been photographing cats for over 37 years, most of that time as resident staff photographer for the Shambala Preserve founded by Tippi Hedren in Acton, Calif. “My best success occurs when I photograph them being themselves.”

See cats being themselves in CAT FANCY's Funny Face photo contest >>


5. Play for Pics
“Make sure you're playing with your cat versus requiring them to be a model,” Gruber says. “I use string, and rods with feathers to create different ways of moving the cat into position. He'll stay there longer if it was a game to get there versus just putting him there.”

“You can try making unusual sounds to get them to stop and look at you,” Dow says. “Squeaky toys sometimes work.”

6. Use Treats as Tricks
Gruber says he uses a little incentive for the cats: “Many photos were taken with a piece of Pounce stuck on an object and the cat trying to get it.”

Find a list of healthy cat treats here >>


7. Get Quality Through Quantity
“Re-shoot the same situation until you're happy with what you got ... and understand how you got it,” Flick says. “Immediately review your shots and figure out how you can improve them. Learn from your mistakes."

Holm concludes with this final piece of advice: “Take lots and lots of pictures.”

Elizabeth Anderson is a freelance writer based in Orange County, Calif. Her last article for CAT FANCY was on “cattoos.”
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Reader Comments

Juli Garland    Phoenix, AZ

1/9/2014 1:37:32 PM

I am so excited! The picture #7 is my sweet Exotic GC, GP, NW D'Eden Lovwr Cookie of Notricats! I remember when y'all came to the CFA show and took pictures! Thank you so much!

kelly    corona, CA

8/6/2013 8:12:30 PM

I am a professional photographer and photograph animals every Friday at our local shelter, we do the adoption portraits. Cats by far are the funnest to photograph! I love what we do! ?

gg    la, CA

4/27/2013 6:39:31 PM

it takes lots of shots, good thing we have digital cameras, not film anymore! :)

Claire    Fort Collins, CO

4/23/2013 9:34:13 AM

Thanks for the suggestions

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