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Catster Tips: How to Avoid Taking Crappy Photos of Your Cat

I'm an amateur, but I am learning to take better pictures of my felines. Here are some tips.

 |  Jul 7th 2014  |   24 Contributions


Like all of us, I have my strengths and my weaknesses. I like words and language, and I'm not so good at the visual stuff. When I started writing for Catster, all of a sudden I had to take a lot more pictures of my cats. It's been a learning experience!

Catster writers have written here and here on how to take good cat photos, and Janiss Garza writes on how to get your cat to pose for the camera. Look to these articles for the fine details of lighting, framing, and all those things I'm just beginning to learn about.

What follows are my very remedial observations about what to think about when you're trying to get a good picture of your cat. 

I like this pose, but I wish the contrast were better and the focus was a little crisper. And I would crop the edge of my purse out of this picture.

1. Be ready at all times

The thing we love about cats is that they're so versatile. One minute they're asleep, the next they're leaping or doing something cute. We can never be ready enough. Thank goodness for digital photos and smartphones and cell phones. I can easily and quickly take many pictures, even though the vast majority of pictures are mediocre or bad at best.

I find that I have to be in the frame of mind to react quickly. I'm always trying to be ready for that cute or perfect cat moment or that picture that might help a story along.

I love this photo of Zorro, even though I think it could be crisper. I did manage to get his entire face, without cutting off the ears. I played with auto-adjustments, too.

2. Take lots of photos

The more photos I snap, the more I increase my chances that one, hopefully, might be good. For example, I suddenly notice Kieran doing a cute thing. If it's a cute thing where he's moving, that's tougher, of course. I just take a bunch of photos and hope for the best. Sometimes I luck out!

I had to learn to hold the phone correctly. I still haven't got the hang of it for selfies and catsies -- mine always come upside down. 

And cats may not be that interesting when they're sleeping, but it can be the best time to get a good shot.

Rarely have I gotten good shots when a cat is moving. When they're still, I try to make it an interesting shot. Are they posed in some cute way? Are they sleeping in the shape of an egg? Are they draping a paw or making a cute face? It's a balancing act.

Norton is napping on the sill, BUT I wish the contrast were better. I did play with some setting and exposure options. I also wish he had his eyes open -- that's always more interesting.

This is a little more interesting, because there's more contrast, and I've got a cute pose, even though Norton's eyes are closed.

3. Black cats are HARD to photograph

I've had two black cats, and I'm still no expert. When I photograph these guys, their eyes get lost in their face. The sheen of their coats can make it hard to discern the shape of the cat. Use your particular computer's photo manager program to manipulate the light and the setting to show your cat off better.

Rama's glossy coat almost swallows up his eyes -- and I just began to cut off the tips of the ears when I shot the photo.

4. Try to get the kitty's face

This sounds obvious, but it's something I learn again and again. I often grab the camera when a cat is doing something cute and I snap, only to realize that I captured the back of the cat, or some un-engaging representation.

We love cats' faces, and their eyes and faces (and ears and whiskers) are beautiful and expressive. Try to think before you snap. Sometimes we don't have a lot of time to set up the photo correctly.

Sometimes you get lucky and stumble into a great pose. This could be a better pic but I think it's cute.

5. Framing the picture is important

If you have to set up the shot in a hurry, try not to cut off part of the cats' ears, for example. I've made this mistake before. Cropping is also important. Do you really need to see all the clutter on my desk? Probably not. Crop out what you can without losing the integrity of the cat. 

There's pretty good contrast here, even though Norton is just posing on an old fleece blanket. His white paws really jump out.

I have a lot to learn in this regard, so share your tips, please! Post your astoundingly good pictures of your cats and inspire me!

Read more about cats and photography:

More by Catherine Holm:

About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr (cat fantasy novel out June 1), the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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