How to Photograph Kittens and Cats

Capturing the essence of a beautiful kitten in a photograph is something to behold! They’re so full of life, love, and personality. To be able to bottle,all of that up into one camera frame can be, well…quite challenging.

When I first started looking at Maine Coon kittens online, I noticed two types of photographs being presented. Good ones, and bad ones. I could spend the next one thousand words describing or showing examples of a “bad” photograph of a kitten. To summarize it, though, imagine a cluttered background in someone’s house, there’s a kitten on a cat Tree with a litter box in the background. The flash was used so the kittens eyes look like aliens from outer space. To make it all end with a bang, the kitten is on the floor and the human is standing over it, pointing the camera down.

You get the picture. (No pun intended).

When I had my first litter of Maine Coon Kittens, I decided that I needed to learn how to photograph kittens. I mean GOOD photographs. Just taking a quick iPhone shot of these babies wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to take it to the next level.

These cats and kittens exhibit such beauty and grace (and personality) that I want to do my best to capture that for you to see and to enjoy, without distraction.

I contacted a professional photographer friend of mine, Chad Dennis, and learned a few things about DSLR cameras and how to use them properly. It was then I realized the photography is a skill that has to be practiced over and over. You must learn from mistakes and continue to make small adjustments until you get the result you want. Well, that’s pretty much how everything works isn’t it?

how to photograph kittens

What seems easy from the outside, really isn’t that simple.  To capture a very good photograph of a kitten or cat, takes alot of time, patience and preparation. They’re living objects that move around ALOT and have a mind of their own.

By no means am I an expert at photographing kittens and cats, but I do get a lot of practice! And I take a lot of pictures.

So for those who want some easy to follow tips on how to photograph kittens and/or cats, this handy reference guide is for you.

CAMERA

What kind of camera should you use to take photographs of your kitten? Let’s look at this from two perspectives. Are you a breeder? If you said yes, then I suggest using a DSLR camera. Something a bit more professional that has manual adjustments. While some people may argue, they do take better quality photographs than a mobile phone.

These cameras are a bit on the pricey side, but if you really want to kick it up a notch with the presentation of your kittens, then just make the investment and take a few online classes to learn how to use the settings. This will give you the best results for posting your beauties on social media and your website. Besides that, you can also use the camera for vacations, weddings, babies, family portraits, and Lot more!

I have the Canon Rebel T7i DSLR Camera. It’s a good Entry level camera that has some really cool features. My favorite is the WiFi enabled remote control. This works wonders when taking photos of kittens, and trying to keep them on the photo table at the same time. The best tip I can give you is to learn how to use the camera on Manual setting! If you buy a DSLR and use the “Automatic” setting, then you might as well just use your phone to take the shots.

On the other hand if you’re a pet owner and want to take quality photographs of your kitten, then your iPhone or Android device will definitely get the job done as long as you follow the rest of the tips in this guide. There’s some HDR settings on the iPhone that help with automatic settings for optimal exposure.

LIGHTING

The lighting has to be the single most important element of any photo you take. from one novice to the next, believe me when I say this. The best photographs are taken with just the right amount of light filling the space with your cat. remember though, that you’re ultimately creating an image that you like. You can create different moods all based on the amount of light, and the direction the light is hitting the subject of the photograph.

  • Outdoors during The Golden Hour – if you’re able to get your kitty outdoors in a safe environment, then outdoor shots are great! Natural scenery (trees, flowers, etc) look beautiful. The best time to take outdoor photographs is during the “Golden Hour”. This is one hour after sunrise and/or one hour before sunset. This is a photographers trade secret and eliminates a lot of bright, over exposed photographs of your kitten.
  • Indoors with Natural Light – if you want a “true to color” photograph of your kitten, then look for a spot indoors that has a lot of natural sunlight. A nice big window is a great place to start looking for the light. Anytime you’re using natural light, you want the light source to be behind the camera, not behind the kitten.
  • Indoors with Studio Lights – Shooting photographs indoors with studio lights is another fun way to capture some cool shots. The best thing about this option is that you actually control the amount of light, the shadows, the backlighting, and the direction of the lights. This is my most preferred method for shooting kitten photography. I can set up a small space in the environment that they’re used to, and they act more natural. Otherwise, they’re geeking out in a new space. I’ve acquired numerous lights for taking pictures of kittens, and I use them all depending on what look I’m going for. But these are a few of my favorites.

I use the Newer Dimmable Bi-Color LED Studio Lights. After buying several sets of lights, I prefer these because I can use a battery pack and make them 100% portable. Which means I can take the lights to the Kittens, instead of being limited to a place where there is an outlight and having the cat distracted by a cord. LOL The stands fold up nice and compact so I can store them away in a closet until photo day.

The Emart 14 x 16 Portable LED light box is my secret tool for taking great pictures of small kittens.  I originally bought this for my husband because hes a luxury watch trader.  It was perfect for taking photographs of his watches.  One day I popped a kitten in there to see how it would look, and it actually turned out stunning!! So now, I like to use the lightbox as long as the kitten fits in there. They come in different sizes. This one is good for a newborn – 5 week old kitten.

Here’s a photo of a kitten that was taken inside the Emart light box. The LED lights are just amazing at lighting the subject. And he’s even a solid black kitten! I love this look.

how to photograph kittens

 

SPEEDLIGHT 

I love my Newer NW-670 TTL Flash Speedlight! It’s never a good idea to take a photograph of a cat or a kitten using the flash on your camera. It washes out their fur, and really does a bad number to their eyes. Sometimes, the light sources just aren’t enough for what you’re trying to accomplish. This is when I use my speedlight. The speedlight allows me to send the light in whatever direction I want, filling that area with as much or as little light as needed.  Because it’s not pointed directly at the cat’s face like a traditional flash, it doesn’t affect the iris of the eyes, and the photos come out perfect!

how to photograph cats

DIFFERENT LIGHTING EXAMPLES

In these photos below of HissyFit Coons Omega, you’ll be able to see different lighting options and backgrounds that I used to capture different essences for him. There’s a description underneath each.

How to photograph cats
Outdoor Lighting during the Golden Hour. Blurred Background for less distraction [2.8 FSTOP]
How to photograph white cat
Solid Black Fabric Background, 3 studio LED lights. (2 facing font and 1 Overhead). Cat sitting on glass platform for cool reflection effect.
Cat photography

White acrylic background. Full body photograph, slightly cropped out of the photo. Positioned to the left of the frame. Speedlight used with light filling space on the left 60 degree angle, causing more light on one side of cat.

 

BACKGROUNDS

Another important element is the background of your image. It’s very distracting to see a “busy” photograph of a kitten due to clutter in the background. People tend to get distracted by looking at things in the scene rather than focusing on the subject. For some reason people just don’t pay attention to what’s in the background either. This can grab some weird items like dirty socks, toilets, piled up laundry, and litter boxes.

When choosing a background, keep in mind the color of your cat. If he’s a dark colored kitten, for example, then you’ll want to avoid black or gray backgrounds until you get really good at controlling the light source. Use a white or pale yellow back ground. It’s very hard to get a good photograph of a black kitten or cat, so that will take some extra extra practice with several lighting scenes.

You can use so many things to get a nice clean backdrop when you’re taking photographs of your cat. Something as simple as a solid colored wall will do. This is another area where I’ve tried all sorts of things for backdrops.  Paper, Acrylic, Fabric, wall stickers, wrapping paper.  What I’ve found to be my favorite and the easiest to work with is Background Fabric.

I bought this bundle of Julius Studio Background Fabric Bundle, which gives me plenty of options to change things up based on the color of my kitten.  You can also dramatically change the way the background looks by using different lighting and/or moving the kitten closer or farther away from the background.

background fabric for photographing kittens

FRAMING

The “frame” is what you see when you look through the view finder of your camera. It’s what you see in the frame.  You can get very creative when it come to framing a kitten or a cat in a photograph. They don’t always have to be dead center of the frame. In fact, that can get a bit boring.  Change up how close you get to the kitten, how much of the kitten is in the frame, and what section of the frame the kitten is in. It’s ok to take the kitten in the right 1/3 of the frame, and leave the rest of the frame empty. That makes for an interesting photograph. It’s also ok to take a photo of only half of the kittens head. Especially if you’re capturing something hilarious or a great expression.

You can also edit what is seen in the frame POST photo shoot. I do this alot, nearly on every photograph. It looks better to crop an image, and have a focus on the kitten or cat, then for the kitten to seem “lost” in such a big space.  Alot of times I see photos of kittens and they look so tiny and small because of the table top they’re sitting on, and the ENORMOUS amount of empty space that is taking up the frame.  Take a few minutes to edit the image on your phone or desktop software, and bring the kitten much closer to the viewer by simply cropping closely around the kitten.

TIMING

I’s all about the timing when you want to learn how to photograph kittens. There is a good time, and a bad time.  The challenge i, you really never know when those times are until you get everything ready and start shooting. The kittens let you know if its a good time.  My preferred time to take photographs of kittens are immediately after a nap, or even to wake them up from a nap. They’re just sitting around staring into never-land. The glazed over look is the best. HAHA. The worst time is when you see them all playing or right after they eat. They are hyped up and ready for action.  Its hard to keep them in a central location when they’re full of energy – which is literally 90% of their waking hours.

Be patient and know that its ok to come back later and try again. They’ll be just as cute in a few hours as they are right now.

TOYS

You’ll definitely want something to get the attention of the cat. Especially if you want them to look directly at the camera. I like to hold Mylar crinkle balls in my hand. They make a lot of noise, and when you want the cats attention all you have to do is crinkle it in your hand. Then SNAP THE PHOTO!

You can also use feather sticks and other noise makers. Whatever it takes to get the attention of the car you’re trying to photograph, and to capture that perfect photo.

ANGLES

When taking. Photograph of a kitten, get down to its level. This makes for a much better shot than looking down on the cat. When possible, get the kitten to look directly into the camera (by directing the toy right into the direction of the camera) and paying great focus directly on the eyes of the cat. By having the kitten look directly into the camera (aka spiking the lens) you’ll be able to see all of the beautiful details and features of the cats face and whiskers. I LOVE full frontal face shots looking straight at the camera. Those are the BEST!

How to photograph a black cat

Cat eyes are what really bring the photograph to life and love, so focus on the eyes and everything else really won’t matter. If you can adjust the shutter speed on your camera, turn it to at least 1/250 so that you can focus on the eyes and capture the constant movement of the kitten without getting blur. This, of course, would require some additional adjustments to your F-Stop and ISO depending on the amount of light you’re working with.

HAVE FUN AND ENJOY CAPTURING YOUR BEAUTIFUL KITTEN

It’s a lot of fun to take photographs of cats and kittens. In fact, I take at least 5 to 10 photos every single day for posting on social media. I like to experiment and see what creative expressions and angles I can capture. Every moment only last for one second, so it’s always worth catching on a digital image for you to enjoy forever!

Cat photography is one of my favorite hobbies. I also like to come up with cool names for my kittens! Check out how I name my kittens in this blog post and get some ideas on how to get creative with naming your kitten.

3 thoughts on “How to Photograph Kittens and Cats”

  1. Thank you for this! I loved it! You do such interesting and informative blog posts! I dabble in (very) amateur photography, and I love to photograph my cats. I have a black Coon, so I know what you’re talking about when it comes to photographing them. Often, I get a big black circle with eyes in it. (Haha!) I particularly loved learning about the lighting sources you use. I’ve also found that it’s much easier to take a posed shot of a kitten on a particular background than it is a young adult. I’ve had to resign myself to just casual shots for my black Coon because he’s so big but still playful like a kitten. It’s a never-ending battle between the camera and him–and he usually wins. 😀

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