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11 Best Cat Photography Tips to Improve Your Pet Photography

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 11 min read
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Cat photography is a fun and interesting niche of pet photography. And 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 and about every other photo on Pinterest.

Our Top 4 Choices for the Best Camera for Cat Photography
Nikon Z5
Nikon Z5
Nikon Z5
Canon EOS R10
Canon EOS R10
Canon EOS R10
Sony a6600
Sony a6600
Sony a6600
Fujifilm X-T5
Fujifilm X-T5
Fujifilm X-T5

11 Best Tips for Cat Photography

I used to live in a town full of cats. As a photographer, I photographed many cats and learned a lot about cat photography. I ended up taking cat photos almost every day! So, here you have my 11 best tips to improve your cat photography.

1. Always Be Ready to Shoot

This is a simple recommendation, and it might seem quite obvious. But it’s common to miss a shot because it takes too long to get the camera ready. With cat photography, it’s even more apparent.

Cats are fast and usually don’t repeat their actions just for us to take photos. Always be ready. Prepare the camera settings needed for the lighting you have, and keep the camera close at hand.

If you 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 gaze from the screen. Keep your camera up for as long as viable shots are available.

black cat sitting on pillar outside for cat photography
Shot with a Canon EOS R10. 45mm, f/5.6, 1/30 s, ISO 200. Winston Olivar Martínez (Unsplash)

2. Change Camera Settings or Use LEDs in Low Light

Some might consider using a flash if light conditions are not the best. 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.

Open your camera’s aperture instead of grabbing a flash and lower the shutter speed. Then, increase the ISO value to increase light sensitivity or the best exposure.

Another alternative is to use an LED light that won’t annoy the cat or make it run away. You can start using an LED light at a very low intensity and increase it progressively as the cat gets used to it.

Kitten sitting up on a shelf for cat photography
Shot with a Nikon Z5. 85mm, f/1.8, 1/250 s, ISO 640. Bangyu Wang (Unsplash)

3. Use a Semi-Auto Mode for Fast Shooting

Unless they are sleeping, cats can be fast and unpredictable. It’s good to be ready to shoot fast. Shooting with a semi-automatic mode can help with this.

Aperture mode (Av or A in most cameras) is a favorite setting with animal photography. But be wary of using very low apertures, though (f/1.8, f/2.2, etc.). You might unintentionally set the depth of field too narrow. This can ruin your cat photo. If the cat moves, it may be out of focus.

You need to choose the best aperture to keep everything important in focus. To compensate for higher apertures, you can use slower shutter speeds. But this is not always the best option when the animal is moving. So you can increase the ISO instead.

cat photography close-up with high iso setting
Shot with a Nikon Z5. 105mm, f/3.0, 1/100 s, ISO 1,250. Alan Veas (Unsplash) – cat close-up

Shutter priority mode (often labeled Tv or S, depending on the camera) is another helpful option. With this, you choose the shutter speed. Your camera then adjusts the aperture to get a well-exposed photo. It is usually good not to go under 1/125 or 1/250 s (seconds) with cats. 

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

Shutter priority selects very low aperture values when pushing the camera to use very fast shutter speeds with low lighting. Using high ISO values (more than 6,400) is best. But you might end up with a very grainy, out-of-focus photo.

black cat walking in grass as an example of cat photography
Shot with a Canon EOS R10. 250mm, f/8.0, 1/400 s, ISO 4,000. Thomas (Unsplash)

4. Use Burst Mode to Capture Behavior

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

This might also called Continuous High-speed mode or Burst mode. Most cameras have it. It lets you take several images in quick succession.

Try to read the cat’s behavior. When you think it’s about to act, start to take pictures. You end up with numerous photos of the cat in different poses. It can take time to sort through them all and find the best cat photo. But your chances of getting the best shots increase!

How to activate burst mode and the number of photos it takes depends on your camera, so I recommend going through your camera manual. Just make sure to deactivate it when you don’t need it. Always shooting in continuous mode fills up your memory cards quickly!

close-up of black cat yawning for cat photography
Shot with a Canon EOS R10. 250mm, f/8.0, 1/400 s, ISO 4,000. Thomas (Unsplash)

5. Focus on Eyes to Draw Viewers In

The focus point in your image is where the viewer’s eyes 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 sharp photos of them, they look stunning.

You can also expand on this rule and get creative cat photos focusing on other parts of their bodies. Paws are great for close-ups, for example.

Portrait of a tabby against a black backdrop for cat photography
Shot with a Sony a6600. 17mm, f/10, 1/400 s, ISO 100. Michele Fasani (Unsplash)

6. Shoot at Different Angles

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

This perspective emphasizes the cat’s face and eyes. But pay attention because it can cause a bit of distortion in the photo. It might give a comic touch to the image.

Cats 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).

If you go down to the cat’s eye level, you can take nice photos without distortion. And because you are at the cat’s height, you can look at the world as they do.

A cat sitting high-up on a ladder for cat photography
Shot with a Sony a6600. 105mm, f/4.0, 1/200 s, ISO 6,400. Esmonde Young (Unsplash)

7. Take Medium Shots

You can tell different stories about a cat depending on the distance between you and the subject. 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 draw attention away from the cat. Although these little animals have lots of personality, they are small. You want the cat to be the main character. So, medium-distance shots are a better choice.

A cat takes up more of the frame in a medium shot than a wide-angle one. They still include a bit of the environment, too. These are excellent images to introduce the cat and their surroundings.

Cat sitting on a car for cat photography
Shot with a Fujifilm X-T5. 35mm, f/3.2, 1/500 s, ISO 125. Doğan Alpaslan (Unsplash)

8. Get Up Close or Use a Telephoto

In a close-up, the cat fills most of the frame. And the environment is barely visible. The subject is the main focus of the image. It’s best to get close to the cat for these shots.

Depending on the cat, you may need to be silent and approach it very slowly. Make a little step towards the cat and stop. Check if it looks suspicious or is about to bolt.

If it’s okay, take a second little step and stop again. Again, 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 photographers in National Geographic documentaries!

Close-up of a cat with a collar for cat photography
Shot with a Fujifilm X-T5. 80mm, f/4.0, 1/120 s, ISO 10,000. Tracy Anderson (Unsplash)

Another option, like in wildlife photography, is to stay far from the cat and use a telephoto lens. 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.

Our Top 4 Choices for a Telephoto Prime Lens for Cat Photography
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm F/2.8 VR S
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm F/2.8 VR S
Nikon NIKKOR Z MC 105mm F/2.8 VR S
Canon RF 85mm F/2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F/2 Macro IS STM
Canon RF 85mm F/2 Macro IS STM
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8-22 Prime Lens
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8-22 Prime Lens
Sony FE 85mm f/1.8-22 Prime Lens
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 80mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 80mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 80mm F/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro

9. Take Advantage of  a Cat’s Curiosity

Cats are curious animals. So use this to your advantage. Some cats are more curious than others. But generally, these little felines like to know what you’re doing.

You can use some tricks to make them look at the camera. Make noises with some leaves or by crumpling paper. They’ll probably look in the direction of the sound’s origin.

Show them something, especially if it’s hanging from something, and move it from one side to another. They’ll follow the movement or even try to catch the object. There are retractable cat toys you can buy that are perfect for this.

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

A cat walking on a sidewalk as an example for cat photography
Shot with a Nikon Z5. 85mm, f/2.5, 1/4,000 s, ISO 100. Bangyu Wang (Unsplash)

10. Be Patient With Cat Photography

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 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 a unique personality. After some time, you know which ones are bossy, fearful, extra curious, or friendly. Those last two traits are especially relevant. Those cats will open up to you first and be the easiest to photograph.

Cat stretching outside on a market stall for cat photography
Shot with a Sony a6600. 39mm, f/2.8, 1/200 s, ISO 100. Night Glow (Unsplash)

11. Be Open-Minded About Results

If a cat is tame and familiar with you, you might be able to make them pose in a particular way by using some tricks. You can entice them with cat treats or toys.

But the most common situation with stray cats is that they show some personality. They end up either ignoring you or doing whatever they want. Usually, this is the exact opposite of what you wanted them to do. Cats have this talent!

At this point, the best approach 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.

cat with eyes closed on sidewalk for cat photography
Shot with a Sony a6600. 55mm, f/4.0, 1/100 s, ISO 250. Night Glow (Unsplash)

Conclusion: How to Photograph Cats

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!

After you have the purr-fect cat pics, you can edit them in Adobe Lightroom for a finishing touch. Learn more about how to edit with our Effortless Editing in Lightroom course!

Our Top 4 Choices for the Best Lens for Cat Photography
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Nikon NIKKOR Z 28-75mm F/2.8
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Canon RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Sony E 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
Fujifilm FUJINON XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR