1. Make your compositions better
A good composition is key in any type of photography, including cat photography. The way you frame your picture and how you position the cat (and other elements) can completely change the photo.
Using composition, you’re telling the viewer what’s most important in the picture. Also, careful use of composition is a good way to develop a personal style.
There are many rules that serve as guidelines for composition. For instance, if you like the idea of dividing your image into segments, you can follow the rule of thirds or the golden grid.
Otherwise, you can use shapes, such as the golden triangle, to arrange elements in your cat photos. Color and texture will help you maintain balance.
Learn the most important rules to make your cat photography better, but don’t be afraid to break them every once in a while.
2. Use different focal lengths
Beginners often wonder about the best gear to do pet photography, and cat photography is no exception; in particular, beginner photographers are always looking for the best lenses.
However, there isn’t one best lens that suits all situations and cats. For example, some cats allow you in their safe space very quickly, so with them, you can use a short wide-angle lens or a standard lens.
Other cats are more skittish and will run every time you get close. Unfortunately, if you’re photographing a cat as part of a pet photography business, you can’t spend much time getting the cat to trust you. In such a case, you might want to use longer focal lengths.
Even when you’re working with your own cat, you’ll want to have some variety in your pictures. Sometimes it’s good to have the cat close to you (you’ll need to use a short focal length). Other times, you might want to let a cat be a cat, so stay out of the way and snap your photos with a telephoto lens.
3. Be patient
When you’re working with cats, keep in mind that they’re not paid models. Cats are animals – domestic ones, yes, but animals nonetheless.
Cats don’t care about your hourly fee or your photographic expectations. You have to be flexible and adapt to their personality and schedule.
So don’t think that you can go in, take the photos, and leave. First, you have to spend some time connecting with the cat. Animals can be very anxious when a new person comes into their territory or wants to interact with them.
Take some time before the photoshoot to let the cat calm down and get used to you. I understand that you can’t spend too long on this, but factor in extra time when you’re planning and doing the budget so you don’t get stressed.
Another thing about patience is that it soothes the cat. If you try to rush things or you feel agitated, you’ll pass on those feelings to the cat and things will get even more difficult.
4. Make a shot list
One of the best cat photography ideas is to create a shot list. This will serve as a guideline when structuring your session.
You can also use a shot list to determine the materials you need before heading out to your cat photoshoot.
I recommend you include a close-up portrait on your list because it’s one of the classic shots that you can’t miss. When the cat’s face fills the frame, it becomes the most important element – no distractions. Like this:
If it’s a frontal portrait, you’ll emphasize the eyes. Here, making eye contact with the cat is key to a great photo.
(You can also try a close-up in profile or capture a specific expression.)
5. Use burst mode
When you’re dealing with moving cats, you might want to turn on your camera’s burst mode to capture action shots.
I’m not saying that you should use burst mode for the entire session; this will result in an enormous amount of pictures to cull and edit.
However, there are certain situations when it’s useful. For example, if you bring a toy and you want to capture some fun playtime shots, like this:
6. Don’t forget about the details
Our adorable furry friends have adorable furry parts. Most of us cat lovers can’t get enough of their paws, ears, or noses.
So if they’re so cute, why not photograph them? It’s also a good way to give the cat a break from the photoshoot. While the cat is off resting or has some water, you can take detail photos since you don’t need the cat’s undivided attention.
7. Follow your cat
Unless you’re doing a studio portrait session, it’s important to let the cat be a cat. In other words, let the cat run to chase a shadow, let it get bored and want to change settings, etc.
Don’t try to impose your own schedule for the entire photoshoot. Instead, follow the cat’s lead for a while.
A lot of great pictures can happen when cats are minding their own business, so just have your camera ready for some amazing candid photos!
8. Play peekaboo
Cats are curious and playful by nature, so use your creativity to make the most out of these personality traits.
I’ve found that playing peekaboo with a cat leads to great photo opportunities. This is because when the cat is hiding behind something, you can introduce a foreground element to make a creative composition.
(This effect is known as a frame within a frame.)
9. Try black and white photography
Going black and white allows the viewer to see things differently from everyday life. That way you can give your photo a creative atmosphere.
Many people do associate black and white with fine art photography – but most clients will appreciate having a few shots in grayscale, regardless.
10. Photograph the cat from above
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul, and this is true for cats as well as people! When you photograph a cat from above, you can catch them looking up at you (which emphasizes their eyes).
You can also use this type of shot to show much of a cat’s personality and mood. Look at the examples above. On the left side, I took a snapshot of the cat that was living at a holiday rental house I visited with my husband (the cat didn’t know us, and we were in his territory).
On the right side is Bianca, a sweet cat that I’d been photographing for over an hour. That was her look when we took a coffee break.
(As you can see, the two cats’ expressions are quite different!)
11. Use hard light to add drama
In photography, there are two different types of light: soft and hard.
Soft light evenly illuminates the scene. If it creates shadows, they are not defined or intense. (Soft light is very flattering for portraits.)
Hard light, on the other hand, creates high-contrast scenes with strong shadows. This type of light adds drama to an image, which is what I recommend you try!
Note that hard light can be created naturally or artificially. For instance, when you’re working outdoors in bright sunlight, you’ll naturally get hard light. You can also create hard light in a studio by using a speedlight or a strobe without modifiers.
11 cat photography ideas: final words
You’ll notice most of these cat photography ideas have to do with the photoshoot itself and not your gear. That’s because you can start making your cat photos better today – with whatever equipment you have, even your smartphone.
Of course, if you can afford to purchase a camera with interchangeable lenses, it’s a good idea. You can also benefit from Animal Eye AF to ensure sharp images every time.
Either way, I hope these cat photography ideas are helpful the next time you want to capture your furry friend!