My tips for a successful photograph of your cat in 2023
If you have a cat, you will know their personality well. Whilst not impossible, you know you will have a challenge on your hands while attempting to get your cat or cats to “do” anything especially if they do not want to. I don’t think I am unique when I say this is certainly my experence with “my girls”. My girls (I have 4 cats – 3 pedigree and one black rescue) often tell me they don’t want to be messed with, and any chance of a photoshoot is met with grumpy looks and a definite cold shoulder …. sometimes turning away in disgust. I am, afterall, only the slave who serves the food.
I was bought up with cats and recall collecting our first family cat with my parents when I was 10 years old. Going back through the archives of photographs I can see that the many images of cats and kittens are blurred, out of focus, there are limbs chopped and cats and kittens run in all directions, striking all sorts of odd poses. I just wanted to take a good photograph of my cats to enjoy at the time and for now as a memory since they went over the rainbow bridge many years ago. So here are a few of my cat photography tips for herding cats/kittens during a photoshoot in 2023. Scroll to the bottom for a few of the outtakes where I did not listen to my own advice.
Mum (Aurora) taking a break from her kittens
Choose a good location and make sure any background distractions such as clutter are moved – there’s nothing worse than taking a photograph outside and later noticing that there is a dustbin in the background. Choose a place where your cat likes to be and get them comfortable with the camera. Have treats and toys at the ready and where possible have someone helping who can stand behind you and get your cat’s attention. If you have a second person ask them to hold a favourite toy or treat above your camera should get them to look in your direction for a few moments.
I have found that if they have just woken up or eaten they are more receptive to a photograph or two and this is when it is important to grab that window of opportunity so keep your camera close by.
An overcast day is great to get images of your cat as it will prevent harsh shadows from direct sunlight, and it usually helps your subject to stay cool. A spot with plenty of light helps your camera get a clearer image, good natural light makes any photograph a pleasure to look at, cat photography is no exception. It is best to use softer light rather than the harsh midday sun and avoid simultaneously using overhead lighting that can confuse the colours of your photographs.
Since cats are most active in the evenings and early mornings lighting is going to be a challenge. There’s definitely a place for artificial light and our pets often look cute or have their mad moments in the evening when we have curtains closed and lights on. Phone camera settings have become more sophisticated so it is possible to go into a professional mode and change the white balance to account for the yellow cast that some bulbs throw out. Avoid using phone or camera flash which can scare your cat or make them look like a red eyed monster.
Setting up your camera
Good focus is so important. In this day of sharing photographs on social media it is frustrating when a favourite photograph is out of focus. If your cat is playing it is important to have a high shutter speed to get a sharp picture. If you are using your phone, a DLSR or mirrorless camera getting the focus as best as you are able is so important for a good photograph. This may mean tapping the back of your phone in the area of your cat’s face – or similarly focusing on the eye nearest you for a nice sharp image.
Make sure your camera is set to the right settings that match the available light for the time of day. It is always worth trying out different settings and the following principles will be a helpful guide:
- Use a fast shutter speed, around 1/250 and definitely higher for action shots. This will freeze the action and give a sharp view of your cat’s movements.
- Have a wide aperture – F2.8 or lower if you lens allows this. You might want to go higher, such as f4, for action shots to get a better focus.
- Set your ISO between 100 and 400 and check this with the available light as it may need to be higher if you are indoors or in low light. This can be higher to ensure a better focus but this may introduce noise to your image.
- If your camera has this function, consider switching to silent or quiet shooting. The sound of a shutter release can startle some pets, especially if you’re in a quiet location.
If you know you will be printing the photographs it is always worth putting them into some editing software to add a bit of sparkle to the image. Using your camera in raw format means you can change certain settings in photo editing software, such as Lightroom, Camera raw or Photoshop. Adjust the white balance to match the scenario, such as overcast days although if the camera misses slightly, this is one such parameter which can be altered after the shot.
When you take the shot make sure it is in focus, you can do this by ensuring the focus is on the eye nearest you and if you are using your phone a small tap on the screen in the place your want the focus can help you get good results.
Most importanlty, keep your camera handy as you never know when a photogenic moment might arrive and let’s face it our cats are so beautiful why not take as many pictures as possible!
They’ll be more kittens soon so watch this space https://www.helencarterphotography.co.uk/pets/
Meet the boys!
Cosmo, Mr Mischief & Yoshi offer some outtakes from their modelling career.
These photographs were taken in my kitchen on a hot afternoon. In this shot I waited for the kittens to wake up Cosmo was where I wanted him one (left) I pulled Mr Mischief forward (middle) which woke him up – the quietest boy, Yoshi, was at the back so I bought hime in line with the others.
They are on a dog crate – and to their side are french windows with natural light shining in. My camera settings were f3.2; s1/200 (too slow!); and ISO 800 I was using a Nikon D810 with a 50 mm lens. I was making all sorts of strange squeeky noises to try and get their attention and clicking my fingers.
(Sort of) Success at last don’t let me lure you into thinking I got this close third time! Plus this image was too blurry and that dreadful yellow from the wall – which has now been repainted. Note to self …. check your settings before you start as the window of opportunity is limited. Doh!
Too late we’re bored. Good luck next time!
In the meantime do remember that not all of our pets get the best start in life so do consider donating to your local animal sanctuary. https://oxfordshireanimalsanctuary.org.uk/get-involved/giving/food-bedding/https://www.cats.org.uk/oxford
New litter of kittens in 2023
So here we are in 2023 and I have my chance to try again and this time I decided to catch them young! Meet this little fella, he currently has no name so leave me an idea in the comments if you are feeling creative today. He has a brother and sister too so keep an eye out on my social media for regular updates on their progress and extra tips for getting the best shots possible. https://www.facebook.com/helencarterphotography/ you’ll also see my other girls who keep me on my toes in my servant role.
Did you know that since March 2023 there has been a new law in UK where all cats and kittens aged 5 months and over must be microchiped by 10 June 2024 or the owners risk being fined £500.