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11 Cat Photography Tips for Improving Your Pet Photography

Last updated: September 21, 2023 - 10 min read
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Many of us are cat lovers. These little felines have beauty and personality that make them great photography models. Cat pictures are everywhere, from Facebook to Instagram to just about every other photo on Pinterest.

I used to live in a town full of cats. So as a photographer, this meant I photographed many cats and learned a great deal about cat photography. I ended up taking cat photos almost every day.

Versatile Zoom Range
Nikon AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Improve your cat photography with a versatile zoom lens that provides a broad focal length range, fast and quiet autofocus, and minimized chromatic aberrations.

11 Cat Photography Tips for Improved Pet Photography

Cat photography is a fun and interesting niche of pet photography. Here you have my best 11 tips to improve your cat photography.

1. Using a Semi-Automatic Shooting Mode

Unless they are sleeping, cats can be fast and unpredictable. It’s good to be ready to shoot fast. And shooting with a semi-automatic mode can really help you to speed up.

Aperture mode (Av or A in most cameras) is a favorite among wildlife photographers. But be wary of using very low apertures, though (f/1.8, f/2.2, etc.).

You might unintentionally set the depth of field to be too narrow. This can ruin your cat photo. (If the cat moves, it will be out of focus).

You need to choose the best aperture to keep everything important in the image in focus. To compensate for higher apertures, you need to use slower shutter speeds.

But this is not always the best option when the animal is moving. So you can increase the ISO instead.
close up cat photography profile of a cat's eyes and noseShutter priority mode (often called Tv or S, depending on the camera) is another helpful option.

With this one, you choose the shutter speed. With cats, it is usually good not to go under 1/125 or 1/250 s. Your camera will then adjust the aperture to get a well-exposed photo.

This might be a good approach when working under good light conditions. But things get a bit more complicated with low-light conditions (dark environments, dusk, etc.).

It will select really low aperture values when pushing the camera to use really fast shutter speeds with low lighting. Using high ISO values (more than 6400) would be best. But you might end up with a very grainy, out-of-focus photo.
a picture of a cat with leaves on the ground and interesting background

2. Photograph Cats Using Different Angles

Cats are not the tallest animals. So photograph cats from your eye level downward. You can get really nice high-angle photos.

This perspective emphasizes the face and eyes of the cat. But pay attention because it can cause a bit of distortion in the photo. It might give a comic touch to the image.
up close photograph of a cute cat's face and eyesCats are pretty good with heights. They like climbing on trees, walls, and any other tall structures. You can emphasize this behavior by taking photos from a low angle (pointing the camera up). photograph of a cute brown tabby cat sitting on a wallIf you go down to the cat’s eye level, you can take really nice photos without distortion. And because you are at the cat’s height, you can look at the world like they do.

a photograph of a cute stray cat outdoors

3. Use Continuous Shooting Mode

Cats can be unpredictable, so getting that amazing cat photograph can be quite hard. You can increase your chances of catching a good moment using the continuous shooting mode.

This is also called Burst mode or Continuous High-speed mode. Most cameras these days have it.

It will allow you to take several images in quick succession. Try to read the cat’s behavior. When you think it is about to act, start to take pictures.

You end up with quite a few photos, so it will take time to sort through them and find the best shots. But your chances of getting the best shots will increase!

The number of photos and how to activate it depends on your camera model, so I recommend going through your camera manual. Just make sure to deactivate it once you don’t need it. Shooting continuously in continuous mode will fill up your memory cards quickly!

white cat yawning with a bright background behind her

4. Focus on the Cats Eyes

The point that is in focus in the image is the point where the eyes of the viewers will be drawn. In portrait photography, it is recommended to focus on the eyes of the model. Eyes convey emotions, and we are naturally attracted to them.

The same is true for cat photography. Cats have these mysterious and beautiful eyes. If you get them sharp, they will look stunning.
up close portrait of an orange cat with yellow eyesYou can also break this rule and get great cat photos focusing on other parts of their bodies. Paws are great for close-ups, for example.

closeup of two white paws of a cat

5. Take Medium Shots and Close-Ups

Depending on the distance between you and the subject, you can tell different stories about a cat. You can take a wide shot that includes a lot of the environment. This shows where the cat lives or stays.

Be mindful, though, when taking wide-shot photos. You can easily miss the cat. Although these little guys have lots of personality, they are small.

As you want the cat to be the main character, medium shots and close-ups are a better choice.

The subject takes up more of the frame In a medium shot than in a wide-angle one. They include a bit of the environment too. These are great images to introduce the subject and their surroundings.

Grey cat lying on a bed

6. Get Close to Your Subject

In a close-up, the subject (the cat in our case) fills most of the frame. And the environment is barely visible. The subject is clearly the main focus of the image.

You will need to get close to the cat for these types of shots.
Cute cat photographDepending on the cat, you may need to be silent and approach it really slowly. Make a little step towards the cat and stop.

Check if it looks suspicious or is about to bolt. If not, take a second little step. Stop again. And check if the cat is fine with you being there. Repeat until you get to a comfortable distance to shoot from.

Don’t make any sudden movements or change from standing to kneeling too fast. The trick here is to move slowly and softly, like the guys from the National Geographic documentaries.
stray cat picture near a carAnother option, as in other types of animal photography, is to stay far from the animal and use a telephoto zoom.

If you do so, consider the focal length you use. You may need a faster shutter speed. This is because longer focal lengths increase the effect of camera shake.

7. Be Patient

This tip is especially relevant when taking photos of stray cats or cats that don’t know you. Cats are usually suspicious by nature. If you get too close to them too fast, they will run away before you even have the time to take a single shot.

Don’t take it personally. Instead, let them get used to you progressively. Cats are territorial, so they tend to hang around specific places. If you can spend time close to them as frequently as possible.

This doesn’t mean that you should go there and try to touch them or play with them. Just be there. Observe, learn about their behavior, and get to know them.

Each cat has its own personality. So after some time, you can get to know which one is the boss of the territory, the fearful cat, the extra curious, or the friendly one.

These two last are especially relevant. They are the ones that will open up towards you first and be easiest to laying on the street

8. Take Advantage of Their Curiosity

Cats are curious animals. You should use this to your advantage. Some cats are more inquisitive than others, but in general terms, these little felines like to know what you are doing.

Thanks to that, you can use some tricks to make them look at the camera. Make noises with some leaves or crumbling paper. And they will probably look in the direction of the sound’s origin.

Show them something, especially if it’s hanging from a cord, and move it from one side to another. They will follow the movement or even go and try to catch the object.

Some cats, especially if you are close to them, show curiosity for the camera. They are attracted by the DSLR noise made when shooting. After taking the first photo, chances are that the cat will look straight at the camera, so be ready to shoot again!

curious cat sneaking from behind a wall

9. Be Open-Minded About the Results

If a cat is familiar with you and it is tamed, you might be able to make them pose in a particular way by using some tricks.

But the most common situation with stray cats is that the cat shows its own personality. It will end up either ignoring you or doing whatever it wants. Usually, this is exactly the opposite of what you wanted it to do. Cats have this talent.

At this point, the best thing to do is to be open-minded and accept that these little felines are wild. Take a deep breath and keep taking photos of whatever the cat is doing. You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
stray cat among leaves and fallen branches

10. Always Be Ready to Shoot

This is an easy recommendation, and it might seem quite obvious. But it is common to miss a shot in real life because it took us too long to get the camera ready.

With cat photography, it is even worse. Cats are fast and usually don’t repeat their actions just for us to take photos.

Always be ready. Pick the settings needed for the light situation and keep the camera close at hand.

If you want to check the images on your screen to make some adjustments, do it fast. Don’t get distracted going through all your photos. The cat might be gone when you raise your head from the screen!

Black and white cat sitting in the window, staring outside through the curtain

11. Don’t Use Flash, Especially with Kittens

If light conditions are not the best, you might consider using the flash. But cats are not the biggest fans of these strong, 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.

Instead of using a flash, open your camera’s aperture and lower the shutter speed. Then increase the ISO value to increase light sensitivity.

Another alternative is using an LED light that won’t annoy or make them run away. You can start by using an LED light at a really low intensity and increase it progressively when the animals get used to it.

A cute kitten sleeping with paws in the air

Conclusion: Cat Photography Tips for Improved Pet Photography

Cat photography is both challenging and fun. Set your camera to a semi-automatic mode. And always be ready to shoot. Use continuous shooting mode to increase your chances of catching a perfect cat photo.
Be patient when photographing cats. And give them some time to get used to your presence. Be open-minded about the results, and you will take fantastic cat images!
Once you have the purr-fect cat pics, you can edit them in Adobe Lightroom for the finishing touch. Learn more about how to edit with our Effortless Editing in Lightroom course! We also give you some great tips in our article about what’s inside a pet photographer’s bag.
Versatile Zoom Range
Nikon AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED Zoom Lens
Nikon AF-S DX 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
Improve your cat photography with a versatile zoom lens that provides a broad focal length range, fast and quiet autofocus, and minimized chromatic aberrations.