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Planning Your Cat Portrait Session

Cats are naturally very different from dogs. They each have very distinct and unique personalities. Some love the indoors while others love the outdoors. No matter the cat, we all love taking pictures of them. But no need to go to a cat photography studio! Instead, we’ll learn how to plan your own cat photo shoot in your home! (Hint: This is just one of the few alternatives to hiring a professional photographer.)

As an example, our cat Cyradyl (pronounced: seer-a-del), is an indoor cat with an affection for the outside. He loves staring outside at the leaves and fall season and gets really excited any time I open our blinds of our glass sliding door.

To best prepare a cat photo shoot for Cyradyl, how should I prepare? Luckily, as I’m shooting indoors, I don’t have to worry about a leash. So I can cross that off my list and instead focus on the three main things I need to keep in mind.

Focus 1: Their Pawfectly Unique Personality

First I would ask myself: what sort of personality does my cat have? Does he love to stay inside and hide himself under the bed every time someone comes in the room? Is he very playful and social with strangers, soaking up all the attention he can get? What sort of rooms and places do you usually find him? Is he curious and opens cabinet doors in the kitchen (like Cyradyl) or does he love hiding in small places like the back of a closet?

The answer to these questions are going to set the stage and background of our cat photo shoot. Plan on taking a candid photo of your cat acting their normal selves in their normal, everyday environment. You can plan to capture them in different places, with different energy levels, and using different props or toys as motivation (more on that later). Let your mind be filled with different cat photoshoot ideas and try different things!

Focus 2: The Lighting/Time of Day

The next thing to consider after you choose your location is the lighting and/or time of day of that location. Is it an area deep inside your house that never sees the light of day? Or is it like Cyradyl in the picture above, sitting next to a window with lots of light available? This will greatly change the setup of your camera gear and the settings you use to take your photos (assuming you are using a DSLR camera).

If you are in a dark environment or area with little light, you are going to want to use a lower F-stop lens (such as a F/2.8 lens) that lets in more light and possibly think about using other lighting, such as bouncing light off a white wall to light up your cat.

Whereas if you are in an area with a lot of natural light, you’ll want to possibly still keep a low F-stop (to add that blurry background) and a higher shutter speed to freeze everything to be crystal clear. Or maybe you want the camera to do all the work.

Now, if you’re in an area with very little natural light and under heavy artificial light, you’ll want to make sure your white balance is good so your picture doesn’t come out a weird shade of blue or red due to the type of light you are shooting with.

These are all things that you have to take into consideration when taking your shot. If you’d like to learn more on these topics, stay tuned for future articles or do some research into the topic more on your own as well. I completely support learning more about photography whenever you can! 🙂

Focus 3: The Motivation (or Lack of) for a Pawfect Cat Photo Shoot

Finally, you have to take into account how you are motivating your subject to get their photo taken! Some cats are very introverted and very camera shy. It’s likely they’ll quickly dismiss all your cat-calls (ha!) and attempts at getting them to look at the camera.

Some cats this may not be an issue for (like Cyradyl, who is very curious) and you can easily distract them to look into the camera with just the snap of your fingers or wave of your hand. But other cats may need more motivation, like a cat toy or small treat.

The main thing to remember with this step is: focus on the eyes.

The eyes are the gateway to the soul. And it is how you are going to connect the most with the subject of your photo (in this case, your cat).

Cat eyes are already pretty cool to look at anyways, especially under different lighting situations (or when they are very focus on something and ready to “pounce” on it!)

So get your camera in focus on those eyes!

Now you have an idea of some of the things that go through a famous cat photographer’s mind when preparing for a photo shoot! ;P

Feel free to email me at and let me know about your cat photo shoot and share some pictures with us on our Instagram page or Facebook!


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