Kittens are extremely adorable, which makes them great photography models. However, they are also quite unpredictable. Taking cute kitten photography comes with some challenges that I will help you to overcome in today´s article.
What Makes Kitten Photography Challenging
Cats are elegant and confident yet at the same time, they are also funny. They’re prone to getting into impossibly ridiculous situations because of their curiosity and character. This is why they are so popular as pets.
These traits also make taking kitten photos challenging. Unlike dogs, cats don’t follow instructions very well. Not only will you be unable to pose them, but you will also need to be ready to take a photo in case they do something special (which they will probably not repeat again).
You need to have the equipment at hand and be ready to take photos. The challenge of taking kitten photos is even greater because of their dexterity. Their unpredictable rapid movements force us to have a high shutter speed, which means we need to take care and have a good light source.
1. How to Get your Kitten to Relax and Look at the Camera
You can use your kitten’s inquisitive nature to your advantage to get them to look where you want them to. At the camera, for example. Cats are highly responsive to sensory stimulation like smells, sounds, lights and movements.
To get a cat to look at the camera, try making a bit of noise near the camera. You can whistle or snap your fingers, or crunch a paper bag. Food smells can also be very attractive for a cat. You can hold or place some of the cat’s favourite snacks near you. Just keep in mind that the cat might want to eat the food, not just look at it.
Moving objects like feathers or cat toys will also get their attention. Different cats will react differently to stimulations. Get to know your subjects and adjust accordingly. Sometimes having a window open behind you is all you need; in other cases, you might need more than that.
Using objects that the cat is familiar with will usually get a calmer reaction than introducing them to something new.
2. Be Patient and Prepared for the Unexpected
Pets don’t always do what you expect them to. You can train your pet and then it will be easier. But kittens are too young. They’ve just started their training or not even that. You need extra doses of patience with them.
Never get stressed or mad with them. Forcing them to do what you want will end up with bad results. Both you and the kitten will get stressed. These negative feelings are never good for creative work.
The best piece of advice I will give you today is to be patient and open-minded about the photos you are taking. Even if the kitty is not behaving, you can still take cute unexpected photos.
3. How to Set Your Focus for Sharp Kitten Photos
Kittens are unpredictable and move quickly, so it’s better to set the camera on autofocus. If you keep it in manual, it will take you longer to focus and many of your photos will be blurry. Autofocus will allow you to set the focus point fast and you’ll get sharp images of the kitten.
Knowing where to set the focus point beforehand is important. You won’t have much time to think about it while the little guy is moving around. The general recommendation is to focus on the eyes. This is the part of the body that conveys more emotions and connects stronger with the viewer.
You can also be creative. Take some close-ups focusing on the little paws or any other part of the body you like.
4. Use Continuous Shooting Mode to Capture Better Kitten Photos
Another way to increase your chances of taking great kitten images is by using continuous shooting mode. This is also known as Burst mode or continuous high-speed mode.
Usually, you activate it by selecting it with a dial. It depends on your camera model, so check your manual first.
This shooting mode will allow you to take several images in quick succession. Even when the kitty is moving, you have a big chance to have at least one good photo from the series.
Taking so many photos requires a lot of space on your SD cards, but it is totally worth it. Just make sure to check the card before you start shooting. Stopping to delete photos is really annoying.
When you transfer them to your computer, delete the blurry ones. This will help you save precious megabytes of storage.
5. Best Shooting Mode for Photographing Kittens
Setting your camera on a semi-automatic shooting mode enables you to take photos faster. These modes are extremely helpful when your subject is fast and unpredictable.
Use Aperture Priority in Good Lighting Conditions
Aperture priority mode (called Av or A in most of the cameras) allows you to choose the aperture. The camera will adjust the shutter speed and the ISO (if you have it set on auto-ISO) for you. This means you’ll need to select the aperture that will be best to keep the important details sharp in the image.
Low aperture values, f/1.4 to f/4, will give you a beautiful blurry background and a dreamy effect that is great for kitty portraits. But if the kitten moves slightly you might end up with the whole animal blurry.
If you think the kitty is going to move, use higher aperture values. In that case, remember that the camera will probably select slower shutter speeds to compensate for the light exposure.
This is not always the best option when the animal is moving.
Use Shutter Speed Priority to Freeze the Kitty’s Movements
In this mode, you choose the shutter speed. With cats, it is recommended to keep the speed above 1/250 seconds. Your camera will adjust the aperture to get a well-exposed photo. This is great if you are working in an environment with a lot of light.
If you push the camera to use fast shutter speeds in low lighting, the aperture values will be low. You will also need to use high ISO values (more than 6400) and you might end up with a really grainy photo.
6. Use Manual Shooting Mode in Bad Lighting Conditions
If you are shooting in a place with low light conditions, it is better to shoot in Manual mode. This will enable you to take underexposed photos in order to use a fast shutter speed and avoid low aperture values.
7. When Using an Extra Light Source, Be Careful Not to Scare the Kittens
When shooting in low light conditions you might need an extra source of light. The easiest is to use a flash. But some cats don’t like strong and sudden light, especially when they are not familiar with them.
They might get scared and run away. And if the kitten is really young, you can even damage their eyes.
If you can’t avoid using an extra light, try an LED light. You can set it at low intensity and increase it progressively when the kitten gets used to it. It is also a continuous light more similar to natural or artificial lights. There’s less chance you’ll scare the animal.
8. Emphasise Cute and Unique Kitten Traits With Perspective Changes
Kittens are small animals. If you shoot downward from your eye-level, you will emphasize their small size.
You can get really interesting images if you shoot a close-up from this angle. But they are probably going to be distorted, so the kitten might look a bit funny.
To get the photos to look more natural, you should go down to the kitten’s level. It might be a bit challenging, but it is totally worth it for the interesting perspectives.
9. Best Image Format for Kitten Photos
You can add some variety to your kitten photos by including different image formats. Each type will allow you to emphasize one thing or tell a part of the story.
I usually avoid taking very wide shots. This type of photo includes a lot of the environment. You can use them to show where the kitten lives or likes to play. But kittens are so small that they will be barely noticeable in the image.
There are some exceptions though. If the kitten has some contrast with the environment, for example, because of its color. Then they will stand out and the wide shot will work really well.
A great option for kittens is to get closer and take medium shots. The cat takes more of the frame than in wide-angle shots. It’s then very clear that the kitten is your main subject.
The images still include a bit of the environment so the viewer can understand where the cat is.
Close-up kitten portraits are great to emphasize the pet’s beauty. You can focus on different body parts: their eyes, their fur or their paws. To take these shots you will need to use either a zoom lens or get really close to your kitten.
Kitten photography is challenging but fun. Set your camera to shoot fast. Use the autofocus and if you have enough light, shoot in one of the semi-automatic modes. Also, use fast shutter speeds to avoid blurry images.
Be patient with the kitten and stay open-minded about unexpected results. Try to take photos of different situations: the kitten playing, looking at the camera and resting.
You can also change your perspective and take medium shots and closeups to add more variety to your images. And please, share your cutest kitten pictures with us in the comments section below!