How to Take Good Pictures of Cats
One of my most pleasant tasks, in my capacity as the editor of our sister site Meowhoo.com, is reviewing the submissions to the monthly cat photography contest. I get to see bad photographs, good photographs and some truly outstanding ones too. To clarify, the cats always melt my heart, as does the love and admiration that the owners so obviously have for their treasured felines. It's the photographic quality of the picture that is sometimes lacking, with blurry, dark or otherwise compromised images.
I am not a professional photographer, but I would like to share some of my insights from the photo contest, as well as some tips and ideas I have picked up over the years with my attempts at taking pictures of my own cats. Some of these tips, are oriented towards the more planned out photo sessions, others may benefit you with those spontaneous shots too. Fortunately, with today's digital cameras, you can just click and effortlessly produce a multitude of good quality photographs. One of those could turn out to be that amazing cat picture, so why not give it a try?
Choosing Your Setting
If you have your heart set on creating a special cat picture, the setting is one of the first things to consider. Make sure that your setting is clear and uncluttered, so that the cat can be the main focal point in the image. You may want to use a sheet of fabric, or a pretty blanket, to set the background with. A plain one, without a pattern, would probably work best, allowing the eye to focus on the feline in the picture.
Adding a special prop can add life to your picture. Any pretty object can achieve the desired effect, but if you opt for a cat toy, or some other item that your cat is likely to interact with, you can bring a whole new dimension to the scene. Many cats love getting inside boxes and baskets, and these make wonderful props for an imaginative shot.
Timing Your Pictures
Of course, once you have your setting and props ready, there remains the question of the model actually showing up for the shoot. Cats can be capricious models at the best of times. Your cat may sense your anticipation and interpret that as tension, which might very well achieve the opposite effect and drive kitty away from your carefully planned setting.
Prepare the setting in advance, and then be patient. Don't call your cat over, as with some cats, this can be a sure way of driving them away. Let the cat come over and explore the surroundings in her own time. Keep the camera within reach and follow your regular routine, to put your cat at ease.
Keep your cat's daily routine in mind as well. If you're looking for a sleepy look, try and take the pictures around his or her resting times and if action shots are what you're after, then opt for the more wakeful times. These differ from one cat to another, so follow the rhythm of your own in-house model.
Holding the Camera
Many of the latest models of digital cameras have good measures in place to ensure that you get clear focused pictures. It is still advisable to hold your camera in a steady way, especially if you're using the zoom option. When zoomed in, most cameras tend to amplify any tremble and may produce blurred images. So, either avoid using the zoom option or keep it very steady by holding the camera with both hands.
Some cats, and in particular kittens, can be very active. You may actually want to capture them as they move around, climb their cat trees or even make some spectacular jump. Make sure you know how to operate your camera to achieve the best results when taking action shots. Your camera manual (of which you can probably find an online version, if you lost your printed copy) should have plenty of information on the right settings in your camera for taking action shots.
Planning Your Picture Composition
As you view your scene on your digital camera screen, think about what you want the focal point of the image to be. Usually, you would want your cat to be in the middle of the picture and to take up a significant amount of image space. You don't want the person viewing your picture to wonder where the cat is… Experimenting with new angles and compositions is great, but when taking pictures of cats, it's best to keep the focus on the felines.
Again, this is where a cluttered surrounding can come in the way. I sometimes get submissions to the Meowhoo photo contest where it really is almost too difficult to see the cat, with so many objects lying around and distracting the viewer.
Lighting and other Technical Aspects
If you are passionate about achieving truly good photographs, you may want to do some further reading about the more technical aspects of photography. Good lighting can truly make a difference. Black cats can be a true challenge in terms of lighting, where poor lighting can sometimes make them totally disappear into the background.
Flash Photography poses an even bigger challenge. When your cat gazes directly at the source of the flash, you could end up with an alien looking feline with "laser" yellow eyes. If you need to use the flash, here's a tip by one of our forums moderators, Gaye Flagg: Try covering your camera's flash assembly with a bit of opaque tissue paper, much like what we use in gift bags or boxes. Tear or cut a small piece and tape it over the camera's flash assembly. This will help to diffuse the light and make the "laser beam" effect lessen. Alternatively, try to get the cat's attention not directly focused on the camera ... you can dangle a favorite toy or some other interesting item over your shoulder to direct your cat's focus of attention away from the camera.
Sharing Your Cat Pictures with the World
Once you have taken some good cat photographs, you may want to share them with the world. The internet provides you with some useful websites where you can upload your photos and then link to them from your website, forum signatures and more. Don't forget to join our forums and post your pictures in our Fur Pictures Only forum, and to submit the best pictures to the Focus on Felines Cat Pictures Contest!
Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!