Cat Photography: Capturing Cuteness

Cat photography is not an official activity of 3Develop (to avoid the word core business for a change). But always when I see such a cocky creature I tend to quickly grab my camera. In that sense I step in the footsteps of my father (Willem Blok, 1921-2006) for whom cats, and animals in general, were also a favorite photo subject.

And as we all know cats rule the Internet, so I decided to write a blog post about photographing cats. With useful tips which, by the way, also apply to photographing small children.

Grid with three by three photo's of cats in different situations
Nine pussycats from the archive

Camera settings

Nikon has already given thought to the correct settings. On my d5100 there’s a scene mode called pet portrait. For anyone who has different camera: these are the most important settings that go with it:

– A large aperture (f3.5). This coincides with a faster shutter speed and that’s what you will  need with those playful little tigers. An additional advantage is the small depth of field, which is always good for portraits:  if you’re lucky, you get the cat in focus and the background blurred.

– The autofocus AF-A (automatic servo). The camera automatically switches between single-servo AF for stationary objects and continuous-servo AF for moving objects. A cat is, of course, not often stationary and for that reason, you better forget about manual focus.. Unless we’re talking about a sleeping cat, which is not an uncommon sight but it doesn’t always result in the most dynamic photos.

– The release mode to continuous. Also known as sports mode. When you press the shutter button, the camera continuously takes pictures.

Red and blue eyes

Close up of a ragdoll cat, mostly white with some black spots and clear blue eyes
Introducing Louise

If necessary,  pet portrait turns on the flash, but that really is not always a good idea. The red eyes that often causes can be corrected with Photoshop (or other software). But the blue eyes of ragdoll Pip, pictured above, are quite difficult to reconstruct. Shooting in a room with plenty of natural light is therefore the best.

More is more

Since the advent of digital photography we are no longer limited to 36 photos per film, which makes cat photography much easier. Take a lot of pictures and be prepared to throw at least half of them away in the first selection round. I took about 180 pictures in half an hour of Pip’s roommate Louise, portrayed below. Figuring out which shots were the best took more time.

Photo of a cute white kitten with blue eyes looking to the left
At cat’s eye level

Close to the ground

The most important tip I can give: take pictures at the eye level of the cat. And since a cat’s the eye level is rarely higher than twenty centimeters, this advice often comes down to: lay down on the ground. Unless the cat is willing to sit on its cat tree or another high point, of course.


As soon as cats see a camera they tend to go sniffing around the lens and of course that rarely yields good pictures. Often, the novelty wears off after a few minutes. Otherwise there is no other option than to get an assistant who distracts the cutie with ropes, fake mice and other toys. A piece of cat candy can also do miracles.

Action picture of a white kitten eating cat candy
Cat candy


One last tip: pay attention to the background and the environment. A cluttered environment is not bad but it must be functional: a cat surrounded by its favorite fake mice for example. Otherwise, select a neutral environment. I like the picture of Loesje below because the background has the same shades as the cat’s fur, which makes the blue eyes stand out even more.

A white kitten with blue eyes is looking at the camera with a look that seems to balance between curiosity and uncertainty
Blue and shades of grey

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1 Response

  1. Erna says:

    Fascinating tips, they all are look so cute.

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