Written by: Alexay Tamas, Cat Photographer & Dentist (@atmas2)

Since the beginning of quarantine, I have spent A LOT more time photographing my cats. I’m here to share with you the tips and tricks I’ve learned on how to successfully photograph your cat. Grab a treat and let’s get started 🙂

1 – Be Patient

The reality is, you’ve got a 50/50 shot your cat will do what you’re hoping. I’ve made the mistake of pre-planning shots and expecting my pet to follow along. SURPRISE! They run the show when it comes to cat photography.

Never force your cat to wear anything or do anything it doesn’t want to. It’s never worth ruining their trust to get a good shot. In the beginning, I would hold my camera and walk around playing with them. I let them sniff it and play with the strap.

I never took any pictures, just wanted them to get familiar with this new, strange thing. In the end, just be patient, let them get comfortable, and see what happens!

2 – Do not use flash

Now that we’ve got our subject comfortable, let’s keep it that way. Sudden, large bursts of light will scare your cat.

Never use flash. I also turn on silent mode to avoid any distracting sounds. If lighting conditions are not ideal, there are some tricks that may help.

Instead of using flash, in manual mode, open the aperture of your camera. You can also try lowering the shutter speed and increasing the ISO value.

All these things will increase your camera’s sensitivity to light. If worse comes to worst, use an LED light (I often use my lantern) to supplement.

3 – Have good lighting

So we shouldn’t use the flash, but we need good light… How do we do that?

If you are photographing your cat inside, find a window! I love using natural, indirect sunlight in my photos. Aim to have your subject illuminated from the side for the softest, most even image.

It is difficult to balance the highlights/shadows if your subject is facing directing into the light. It is equally challenging if they’re back lit and blocking the light source. So when it doubt, aim for them to be side lit.

If you are adventurous and shooting outside, shoot either at sunrise or sunset. Both times will have soft, warm, indirect light. Avoid midday because the sun will be too harsh.

4- Focus on the eyes

They say the eyes are the window to the soul. When photographing cats, always make sure their eyes are in focus. This can be hard! I shoot on a Sony a7riii, and it has an option to switch to autofocus for animal eyes rather than human.

If your camera has that, turn that baby on! No more focusing on fur or their nose. The eyes can help tell a story through your photograph.

What is your cat looking at? What are they maybe thinking/feeling? The eyes can give us insight to what was happening for your cat in that moment.

Not only do we want the eyes in focus, but we need to be able to fully see them. Often, that means getting down on their level – yep, that means the floor! I often shoot photos on my belly or knees.

While I’m down there, I want to make sure I capture all the action! Generally, I shoot using a fast shutter speed (1/500 or greater if the cat is playing or running; you can shoot slower if they’re sleeping or still).

I may also go in to continuous mode if I need a ton of shots taken all at once. Just be careful not to fill up your memory card. I’ve definitely done that a few times 🤣

5 – Use a telephoto lens

You may be picking up on a theme…keep your kitty comfortable. The more relaxed and natural your photoshoot feels, the better the results will be. I almost exclusively shoot with a telephoto lens.

I use Sony’s 70-200mm GM lens. Using a zoom lens allows you to step back and capture the action without interrupting your cat. Lenses with longer focal length will also give your pet a nice separation from the background.

Even on newer smartphones, many give two options for focal length. My cats do not want me all up in their business, so it works best to shoot from a distance. You can always zoom and crop later in editing.

I hope you learned a thing or two! Cat photography is quite challenging. Honestly, there are some days I shoot and get absolutely nothing worth using. That is totally normal!

Whether it’s for the ‘gram or for a brand, I try to think of photoshoots as an opportunity to play and spend creative time with my cats. If I also get some great photos, that’s a bonus! The pictures never are the priority.

Some days they’re feeling it and some days not. Again, it’s all up to them. We’re just here to be patient, keep them comfy, and most of all…happy 🙂 <3 Good luck!

Order Alexay’s prints at: https://atamas2.darkroom.tech/