The beauty . . . and challenge . . . of capturing kitty


From their powerful eyes and beautiful fur to their graceful gestures, cats are amazing photography subjects.  But they can also be one of your more challenging.

Cat’s eyes are both part of their beauty and their challenge.  Cats’ eyes are much more sensitive to light than ours, requiring just 1/7th the light we do, which is what makes them such great night hunters.  Their slit-like iris gives them more control over how much light enters their eye.  Like a higher-end camera lens, cats’ irises give them better depth of field than us.  But I suspect the sensitivity of their eyes is also why so many cats especially dislike camera flashes. 

And those eyes are quick to convey displeasure.  When unhappy, cats’ pupils can dilate, shrinking the beautifully-colored iris and leaving a lot of black, conveying through the image that they’re not enjoying the experience.  Also, when their pupils dilate their eyes are even more sensitive to light, so the camera flashes become even more annoying.  

We want our models to be at their best.  So with cats I recommend using natural light as much as possible.

Windows make a perfect stage for your cats.  The light can be amazing.  And thanks to allowing the kitty to watch the world go by during the shoot, you’ll often see many different expressions.  You can even stage things for your cat to see.  A remote control car can shake a bush, or you can have it run along a path for your cat to “stalk” from his window perch.  Or you can just let the natural world entertain her. 

Another option is to shoot from outside, photographing your kitty through the window.  Of course you’ll want to make sure the glass is clean and turn off any inside lights to cut glare.  You’ll also want to watch for reflections in the window.  It’s best to find a spot where there are few or no reflections so the focus is just on your cat.  Keep in mind too though:  using reflections from the yard can add a another beautiful layer to the story — through color, texture, and also show your pretty kitty and what he is watching in one photo. 

It takes precise positioning to make a photo like that work.  You’ll most likely want to make sure your cat’s face is not obscured by reflections.  But, if you can get the reflections and cat to work together you’ll create a stunning photo.

Window light also works great when photographing inside.  Pick a time of day when you have nice light streaming in.  As you can see in the attached shot a table can make a nice stage.  It makes it easier for you to get shots that are at the same level as your cat, which gives you a more intimate portrait.  Being up higher can also give you nice options for backgrounds.  Lastly, a fun toy or even just a favorite bit of plastic can help give your cat something fun to engage with.  The more fun the experience is for you cat, the better your images will be.

We’d love to share your cat photos on the Spot Magazine website.  Send them to me at  And I’d love to hear about how you created the photo — what worked and what you learned that you’ll use in future photos.  I’ll look forward to seeing and sharing them!

David ChildsCatsComment