Learn tips and tricks for capturing your feline friend’s best angle
Cats are very independent creatures and don’t take direction easily. They’re a challenge to photograph but make wonderful subject matter and are so rewarding to shoot. Even if you don’t have a pet cat, someone you know will and we recommend you hotfoot it round to their house to have a go yourself!
You‘ll need plenty of patience before you start shooting. Cats have personalities too and you need to work with them rather than end up becoming frustrated getting them to do something they don‘t want to do.
Before you shoot, take the collar off. They‘re a distraction and take the focus from the eyes. When it‘s time to shoot, choose a lens that covers the classic portrait focal length, between 50mm and 00mm. Use a centre-weighted metering mode and meter for the highlights, especially if the cat has white markings, as you don‘t want to overexpose patches of fur.
For tight face portraits, focus on the eyes and then recompose the shot. They‘re hard to see through the viewfinder, but try not to crop out the whiskers as they provide personality.
Don‘t leave the wide-angle lens in the gadget bag. They‘ll give your shots impact with a quirky angle and distortion effects. Our shot of Rocky is boosted further with him cheekily sticking his tongue out.
With our wide-angle lens prefocused on Rocky‘s face we used a twig to tap the camera and grab his attention.
The combination of shooting close to Rocky at an aperture of f/6.3 and framing from above eye level has rendered the ground as a clean, more natural backdrop.
Even using a wide aperture at f/4 hasn‘t stopped the background distraction. The dark strip between the grass and the wall is going through poor Rocky‘s head.
The background in this shot is at least clean. However, Rocky‘s too close to the wall for it to be softened by the wide aperture we used at f/4.5.
Outside in the garden provides plenty of light and space for you to get some great shots. Tidy up any distracting clutter, such as garden hoses or furniture. Rocky loves sitting underneath his favourite deck chair, so after we packed it away we were free to shoot him out in the open.
Getting on their level is part and parcel of good technique for natural-looking portraits. Keep checking the background for anything distracting and adjust your composition to remove it. The simplest way to do this is shoot slightly from above eye level so the grass and cat‘s body becomes the background.
Shoot more upright compositions for head-on portraits and avoid chopping off paws, whiskers, etc, unless you‘re cropping in tight on the eyes and face. For wider pictures include some space in the frame and shoot with the cat‘s face on one third of the frame, or shoot their whole body from side-on.
Capturing a mid-action shot, such as this is a simple case of giving them a feed and waiting until the cleaning ritual begins. Shot in natural window light at 80mm; 1/125 sec at f/1.8; ISO 100; Centre Weighted meter reading.