How to photograph cats (the professional way)

24 July, 2007

Some more tips from the excellent 1-day workshop organised by the Novice Breeder Advice group in May this year – professional photographers, Anatoli Krassavine and Valentina Koulagina shared their secrets of how to photograph cats.  They showed us some of their handiwork, and made it all look easy.  In short, if you want to take good photos of cats:

— Get on the cat’s level (or get the cat on yours using a prop like an ironing board).  Don’t shoot any of those downward views of your cat looking up (use that ironing board)

— Don’t use a built-in flash (as it’s not powerful enough, and too slow).  Use an external flash unit and move it farther from the camera lens, at an angle of 5-10 degrees

— Background – use a plain background.  The colour should complement the cat, its eye colour and fur pattern.  It should not be reflective.

— Use a reflector shield to bounce the light off the flash onto the cat – it can also be used to direct natural light onto the cat.

— You need at least 2 people for cat photography – the photographer and the cat wrangler.

— Try hiding a hot water bottle under the covers of the surface – cats enjoy heat and may settle down.

— Use entertainment (e.g. tickler toys).  Cats also love a cuddle.  Or use bribes like food, dip a prop in tuna oil for instant attraction!

— Keep props simple, e.g. a feather adds a spot of colour and interest and changes the character of the cat.  A simple stick, fruits and veg are other props.  A yellow rose complements the amber eyes of a cat.  Or use owners as props.

— It is not mandatory to photograph the whole cat.  Get close, and  closer and even closer for dramatic effects.

— Most importantly:  The cat will do what it wants, when it wants!

[PS – For best results, I think it helps to have a really good digital camera as well, plus photo manipulating software like Photoshop]



  1. Do you know if it works well to photgraph kittens with natural lighting and a fast shutter speed? My Mother in law has 4 week old baby kittens that I want to photograph =)

    • Hi, yes natural lighting is fine.

      I have the kittesn on the bed with the curtains wide open so the sunshine comes in – does them a world of good.

      I only have a basic digital camera and everything is auto. Sometimes I override the flash because I find the flash tends to white-out and even out everything, but otherwise I just rely on my 6 year-old camera to do it all. The only time I find flash handy is if it’s a black kitten. Also, if you can have the natural light bouncing off another source to illuminate the kittens from all angles that would be perfect.

      Of course, if you have a proper digital SLR you can shoot in RAW and correct that on the computer.

      The trick is (1) get on the same level of the kittens (2) have someone (or yourself) use a wand toy to direct their attention and gaze (3) have them looking towards the camera if possible (4) get close (5) use simple props like a feather.

      If you send me the photos I’ll post them on the blog!

      Good luck and best wishes!

  2. In my cat photos, the whiskers always end up looking rough, almost as if they’re made up of lots of little segments with spaces in between. They don’t look like smooth lines, in other words. Do you have any idea what could be causing this or what I could do about it? Thank you.

    • Hi Ros, thank you for reading my blog.

      Hmmm … it sounds like pixellation which is to do with the resolution that your camera is set to. Could you send me a photo so I can see exactly what’s going on?

      Best wishes,


      • Thanks for answering! I’ve emailed you a photo to demonstrate. These days, my photos are usually 3072 x 2304 in size, and my camera has 7.1 megapixels. If I reduce the size of the photo (in pixels) to fit onto the computer screen, it makes the whisker problem look even worse than in the original. The only “solution” I’ve found is to go over and over the whiskers with a blur tool in a photo editor. It’s time-consuming and less than ideal because I end up losing some of the nice whiskery look.

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