12 Tips for taking great photos of your cats

Jun 1, 2015 at 7:15 a.m. ET
Image: Tiffany Hagler-Geard/SheKnows

Taking pictures of animals has always been a passion of mine. My first subject I shot was my cat Cuddles, an adorable gray cat who never minded that she was the focus of my camera.

By working with the Humane Society since 2010, I have gotten the chance to capture thousands of cats on camera. I have picked up a couple tricks and tips to ensure you capture the best and cutest picture of your furry friend. Cats are aloof and not trainable like dogs can be, so using these tricks will give you a better chance at a more successful shot. After all, you work around the cat's schedule, not yours.

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Tip 1: Pick a sunny afternoon

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Is the cat relaxed and hanging out in the afternoon? Midday is a great nappy time for the cats, so a sunny Saturday afternoon would be a great time to grab your camera. A relaxed cat will give you a soft smile, and lean up at you. I prefer to wait until the cat is sunbathing or looking out the window. It will give you nice light, along with a happy cat face. If the cat is acting hyper or wandering around the house, there is a safe bet he won't be paying any attention to you.

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Tip 2: Wait until feeding time

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Cats will be more willing to sit and stare at you if they want something from you... breakfast! If you want the cat to listen and look up at you, bring a can of wet food with you and have someone stand next to you and flick the tab, to act like you are opening a fresh can. The cat will look up in awe, waiting for his delicious treat. Start clicking away, because they won't fall for it for long.

Tip 3: Too hyper? The cat is nervous about the camera? Give them a good petting

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Pet their head, let them sniff your camera. Make sure they understand you are there to hang out and be friends. It's always alarming when sticking a large camera or device in front of their fuzzy faces. Let them get used to you. If they are too hyper, have a friend use a treat or feather toy to dangle on top of your camera. And get some fun snaps of them playing. Sometimes you can get a quick snap of them grabbing the camera.

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Tip 4: Use treats and toys

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Have a friend hold a treat near the cat so the cat recognizes the treat. Have the friend bring the treat above the camera, bringing the cat's face towards the camera.

Tip 5: Get eye level with the cat

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Find a nice spot you can reach and see your cat. A cat scratching post, the bed or the couch are all spots you can get eye level with the cat. If they are lying down and relaxed, you can take a bird's-eye view of them looking up at you. The "snapping a can of wet food" trick can help with this pose.

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Tip 6: Cats at night

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When shooting indoors in low light try to have a brighter light to shine or turn on, or use a flash. I would avoid flash photos unless you have a bigger camera. Phone cameras work best in natural light, and tend to give you those evil devil-cat eyes when using a flash. Turn on an additional light if you can. Or you can get creative using silhouettes or the outdoor lights shining in.

Tip 7: Take advantage of their persistence and annoying habits

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Does your cat wake you up in the morning, and sit on you until you wake up? Grab that phone or camera while the cat is all ears. Casually set your camera right in front of you and grab that cute bed pose. I can get the cutest head shots of my cats early in the morning when they are demanding my attention.

Tip 8: Sleeping? Snap away

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Those cats are too adorable to not snap a photo while they sleep the day away. I recommend taking a couple snaps of them and then pet them to slowly wake them up. They will open their eyes and might become even more adorable for your lens.

Take advantage of the time and take a selfie!

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Tip 9: Catnip!

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A cat's best friend if you want a sweet rolled-over, purring and super-happy cat. I sprinkle some on my carpet, or give them a catnip toy and let them go to town. They will eventually burn out and lie there for a while with a serene face. They will be in a great playful mood, and will be rolling around for an adorable picture. Make sure you place the catnip in a well-lit environment, possibly near a screen door or window to get some nice natural light in.

Tip 10: Put them in a box

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All cats love hiding in boxes and bags, so encourage them to sneak inside one, and they might pull an adorable face on you.

Tip 11: Kittens are much more curious than older cats

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If you have a friend, have them place the kittens in front of your camera and jingle a toy above the camera. They will usually look up or walk towards the camera for some candid cuteness. I find kittens much more pliable than older cats. You can move them around easier. With adult cats you will have to work within their bubble.

Tip 12: Reward them!

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Just remember, cats are tricky, and will easily stop falling for tricks, so be sure to reward them if they pose correctly.

It's always nice to give them a treat after they shine those big eyes at you. And be patient! They are cats after all.

Animals featured in this article, that aren't my own, are from the Humane Society of New York. You can check out cats available for adoption here. Remember: Adopt, don't shop!

"Cats never strike a pose that isn’t photogenic." — Lillian Jackson Braun

This post is part of a collaboration between ARM & HAMMER™ CLUMP & SEAL™ Lightweight Cat Litter and SheKnows

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