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Five Tips for Taking Good Photos of Your Cat

Cats are notoriously difficult photo subjects. An action shot of a cat usually reveals nothing more than a blur. A portrait can result in the infamous “laser eyes” phenomenon. And when you've got the camera out, half the time they simply refuse to even look in your direction. But you can take good photos of your cat with a little planning and patience…and the following tips:

  • First, decide whether you want close-up, full-length, body part, static, or action photos of your cat. If you want to use props, set them up before you bring your cat into the scene.

  • If you want action photos, shutter speed is critical. Cats can move very quickly without much warning. Therefore begin with a shutter speed of at least 1/200th of a second. If you're not using a flash, there may not be enough light to use a fast shutter speed. Change your ISO setting to at least 400, and go even higher if necessary as long as you don't get excessive digital noise (those annoying brown, red and green spots in areas of dark color).

  • Many digital cameras have features that help you get clear, focused pictures. It is still advisable to hold your camera steady, especially if you're using the zoom option. When zoomed in, most cameras tend to amplify any tremble and may produce blurred images. Either avoid using the zoom option or keep the camera very steady by holding it with both hands or using a tripod.

  • Try to not use the flash. Take your photos outside in natural light or indoors where there is plenty of light coming in. If you have to use flash, take the photo from an angle and/or use the red-eye setting to avoid the “laser eyes” phenomenon. Some photographers also suggest placing white tissue paper over the flash to diffuse the light.

  • Angles are important. Photos taken from above can be great for illustrating fabulous snuggling poses, but if you want a portrait or you want to take a picture of your cat's face, you're going to have to get down closer to her level. Also, try experimenting with photos taken from other angles such as below your cat.

  • And finally, take lots and lots of photos! Don't give up. Even the best photographers in the world will tell you that there are at least 50 so-so shots for every great one.

Advice from Other Cat Owners 

Capturing Your Cat's Expression

I've found that if you can get your cat's attention by dangling a toy near her or making silly noises, you'll get better "expressive" shots. The noises work best if you can't shoot one-handed. Talk in a funny voice or make animal sounds and she'll prick her ears and/or cock her head at an angle, which makes for a nice expressive picture.

Also, if you're taking a formal portrait, before you shoot, make sure that the area is unobstructed (nothing in the background or foreground that shouldn't be there), and that your cat's coat is clean and brushed. Even if you can touch up the picture in Photoshop (as I do), it's better if you can eliminate those "problem details" before taking the picture.

~Andrea E., owner of a Maine Coon

More Cat Photography Advice

I think 400 ISO may be too high in many cases. The higher the ISO the more grainy your image will be, so use the lowest ISO you can get away with. Some cameras, particularly Digital SLRs will have exposure settings. You can over expose a bit to brighten darker photos but you will probably want to use a tripod or something similar if you do so.

Also, look at the light settings on your camera. Many cameras have settings such as daylight, fluorescent, shadow, cloudy, etc. If you are in a mixed light setting try experimenting with these settings to get the most accurate color.

~Margaret N., owner of a Domestic Medium Hair

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