Yes, this blog post is completely serious. Who doesn't want to know how to take cracking photographs of cats? Everyone loves cats.
Hopefully you'll have a cat or two of your own to practice your photography skills on, but if not, find a friend who has a cat and ask to borrow it.
As a photographer I open my studio doors to many pets; mainly dogs, as they are better travelers and adapt easily to new environments. But on occasion I've had people bring their cats along or I've been asked to do a home-visit and set up a little studio in someone's house. My mum works for Cats Protection, fostering cats and kittens until new forever homes are found for them (and yes that is the best job ever). So I've been lucky enough to get my hands on many kittens for cuddles ...and photography purposes!
Types of Cat Photography
I bet you didn't know there were different types of cat photography! Well, that's probably because I've just made it up. But there are different ways of approaching your pet photos and by splitting these ideas up in to categories for this blog post, you can decide which methods you'd like to try...
Candid & Lifestyle
Capturing cats in their most natural environment. Whether that's the garden or your (their) living room. Follow your cat around the house, lie on the floor and get down to their level, entice your cat with treats and toys. Use the environment around you to improve your images and snap them doing the things they love the most. I love this black and white shot above, the longer you look at the photo the more detail you see; like the double reflections of the cats' faces in the window.
The easiest way to photograph a cat is to find a sleeping cat. Tip toe around said cat, being careful not to wake it! A short focal length can create some beautiful images here, f.2.8 or lower, blurring out the background and leaving all attention on the cat's features. If you're very quiet you can get super close and capture all the teeny hairs and whiskers for a detailed portrait. I just had to grab a photo of this beautiful tabby kitten relaxing in his bed after a long day of playing. Cats sleep in the most unusual positions!
Preened & Posed
It is possible to 'pose' your pet and style the whole photoshoot to your liking. But it's hard work, and you will need a helping hand. I've found kittens easier to capture if there are noisy or fluffy toys involved. Wait for them to tire themselves out first so they will be slightly more cooperative when the camera comes out. Have everything set up waiting and ready. Think about your background, lighting, props and composition. Take a few test shots without the cat/kitten. Then you have to think fast and shoot faster. Put the cat/kitten in place and immediately catch their attention with loud funny noises and shiny things. Take lots of photos!
Hectic Motion Capture
Cats and kittens can really move. To photograph your pets when they are playing or running around, you'll need lots of light (natural daylight is best). And a fast shutter speed. Anything under 1/100 will be too slow. The faster your shutter speed the better. I could use anywhere up to 1/800 and beyond if shooting outdoors on a bright day. Your camera may have a burst-mode setting which can be useful when capturing a fast moving cat. This will take lots of photos one after another and you can flick through and select the best one, discarding the rest. Most phone cameras have this setting!
My Top Tips
Find the Angle
try shooting from above, find a unique angle, it can make all the difference.
Find the Light
the more light you have the sharper your images will be.
Find a Friend
having a second person to dangle cat toys or dispense treats is very useful.
Find the Time
you can't rush a cat into doing anything. You'll need patience to get perfect shots.
Best of luck with your cat photography, I hope some of the above tips were useful. If all else fails, you can come to me and I'll photograph your cats for you! You can share your cat photos with me via Twitter, because I always want to see pictures of cats. And you can read more of my photography tips and tricks here.
*Please note all images are copyright of Gwen McMullin / Photography by Gwen and must not be used, copied, saved or reproduced without consent.