Photographing cats can be a lot like herding cats. I often refer to them as the teenagers of the pet world. They can be left alone for the weekend, but they will probably throw a party and trash your house. If you are cat person, you already know this. If you are not a cat person, let me give you some tips & tricks to get you over the hurdle and start taking better pictures of our feline friends.
Don't expect to take a great cat picture the moment you get out your phone or camera. It never fails, you see a great shot, grab your phone, and your cat spoils the shot by coming over to see what you have. They are curious by nature. It's going to happen, repeatedly. Get used to it now. You might as well snap a few images to warm up and get the cat used to you and the phone/camera. They will quickly realize the camera isn't a treat and go about their merry way again. Good cat shots tend to involve some waiting for the right moment or time. Don't give up.
SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FELINE SUBJECT
Tying in with patience, be willing to spend some time getting to know your feline subject, especially if you are new to them or they are in a new environment. They will most likely be standoffish until they get to know you and feel comfortable in their surroundings. Breaking the ice with a few treats might help, but it will really depend on the personality and temperament of the cat. Some cats are very outgoing with people, others are skittish. If it's not your cat you are trying to photograph, ask the pet parent about the cat's history. Do they have bad experiences with loud noises? Were they once feral? You may have to build a little trust before any good images follow.
GET ON THEIR LEVEL
The magic happens when you can (literally) get on a cat's level. Once comfortable with you and their surroundings, cats will show you who they are. That's when the fun begins. They stop seeing you as a stranger and more like one of their own. They get comfortable having you up in their face, and you just might catch something completely awesome by accident. Look very closely at the background of the above pic. Tell me when you see it.
This one easily ties in to some of our previous topics and is a great trust building exercise. If you can get a cat to play with you, they tend to forget that they may have been wary of you just a few moments before. Beware of sudden movements here however, as they can still spook pretty easily. Capturing action shots is hard to do by yourself, but don't be afraid to play with one hand and be ready to shoot with the other. It can lead to some fun results.
Be ready for happy accidents. These are the shots you may or may not intend to get but end up being fun and different. Filters & creative captions often enhance these shots. My personal favorite apps for my phone are Hipstamatic (when I want funky Holga style effects and borders) and Lightroom for mobile (when I want more natural looking shots). I like to use weird (not pretty) images as an opportunity to get creative and create funny stories via captions.
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS
Lastly, it's the little things that can make an interesting cat photo. Does your cat have cute paws, a missing ear, extra toes, mis-matched eyes? Is there something small that makes your cat unique? Is the cat a rescue? Did the cat adopt you? Just like people, every cat has a backstory. Use this as a starting point for your cat shoot. Get up close and personal. Show the world the little things that make your cat unique.
For more feline inspiration, follow me on Instagram at My Feline Overlords.