Many of us are cat lovers. These little felines have beauty and personality that make them great portrait models. And cat art pictures are everywhere, from Facebook to Instagram to just about every other picture on Pinterest.
And that’s because cat portrait photography is a fun and interesting niche of pet photography. Trying to photograph cats is a lot like trying to herd them—great for laughs, but usually unproductive. Whether you are a cat owner or you like street cats, here you have some useful tips to improve your cat portrait.
Show off the Cat’s Personality
First, you have to understand that each animal has their own personality, and each breed has its own personality. For instance, furry cats like Persians and Himalayans tend to be lazy and placid, and lend themselves well to seated and lying-down shots. These cats are also much more alert in the morning than in the late afternoon.
On the other end of the spectrum, Abyssinians, Russian Blues, and Cornish Rexes are hyper and playful. They're also extremely agile animals, and like to hang off the tops of tall surfaces and perches. Use this trait to your advantage by choosing companion props like cat condos and baskets.
Also, keep in mind that each cat is different. Some are food-oriented, meaning a treat or two might be a good way to sweeten them up before a photo session. Others like to be petted, and are soothed when their owners touch them. Shoot them when they are comfortable inhibiting their natural instincts. This will give you the picture perfect portraits.
Shooting is best done in daylight. It doesn’t matter where you plan to shoot, at home or outdoors. Cute cat images with a high brightness are 24% more likeable.
Start shooting at home at a time when a lot of sunlight comes through the window. Only your cat’s mood can prevent you from shooting. The benefit of working in daylight at home is that it can be controlled; i.e., you can dissipate the light, darken the space, etc. It’s impossible to do this while shooting outdoors.
Shooting outdoors is also better in the afternoon. It’s best not to take photos in the bright sun unless there are clouds in the sky.
Frame your subject
Framing your cat in the shot with surroundings like long grass, shrubs, or tree foliage gives the photo added depth. It also creates the feeling of peeking into the cat’s own natural habitat, or his world. It’s a technique you’ll often see in wildlife photography. Indoors, you can frame your cat by including any cubby holes or hiding places that cats generally like.
Get their Attention
Cats have different characters and traits; they all react differently to similar situations. But one thing they have in common is their natural curiosity. Use it — it’s one of the ways to make the cats go where you want and do what you want them to do.
Crackling your fingers, rustling paper or dry leaves, or tossing pebbles are great ways to get their attention. Toss pebbles in the direction where you want to direct the cats, and their curiosity will do the rest. The cats will go and check out what’s there, then just use the paper rustling to make cats turn towards you.
Capture Cats in Action
Capturing pictures of your cat chasing a toy, leaping or running around a garden or scurrying up a tree is not going to be easy if you leave your camera in single shot mode. That is true unless you literally have lightning reflexes or get lucky with the timing. Therefore, if you know you’re going to be attempting action shots, switch your camera to its continuous drive or burst mode.
Sleeping Cats are Beautiful to Capture
Cats can sleep in various places and positions; it’s strange to us but normal to them. Even if they look like nothing can wake them up, the tiniest noise can disturb them from sleep. So be quiet, make no sudden movements, and do not interrupt their privacy. When they wake up, there is only a minimum chance to they get back in the strange /funny position we liked to capture in our photo.
Experiment with Angles
Make every photo different from your previous one. Do not repeat yourself; always look for interesting and new angles. Get ready to slip into strange places, roll on the grass, dirt, climb trees, and capture cobwebs. Be ready for stabbing thorns or biting mosquitoes. Give 100% for each photo to get the shot you want.
Don’t Use Flash
If light conditions are not the best, you might think about using the flash. But cats are not the biggest fans of these strong and sudden light bursts.
You might scare them to the point of running away. And in the case of kitten pictures, you might even damage their delicate eyes. Another alternative is to use an LED light that won’t annoy them nor make them run away. You can start by using the LED light at really low intensity and increase it progressively when the animals get used to it.
While practicing the art of taking cat portraits, remember that it takes tons of imagination and patience to achieve the best shots. But once you successfully pull it off, you’ll gain a high five from both kitties and cat lovers alike.