Getting the Purrfect Candid Cat Photos: Tips and Kit for Owners

{Image source: Erik-Jan Leusink on Unsplash}

Nowadays, there are estimated to be over 6.5 billion pictures of cats permeating the Internet. And with good reason! What cat owner doesn’t love to show off their feline friend to the world? Yet it begs us to ponder the age-old question of how you can make your cat photos stand out in such a fur-ociously competitive market on social media

Capturing natural, candid photographs of your cats that show off their true personalities requires a little bit of preparation and know-how. However, doing so will make the final photos so worth waiting for!

With the right approach, photo gear, storage, and a bit of patience, you can get magazine-worthy shots of your furry friends doing what they do best – being themselves! However your cat acts around you, whether it’s affectionate, energetic, or lovingly distant, your candid cat photos can look the part and draw more eyes to your beautiful friend.

This article covers some key tips and affordable essentials to help you take your cat photography game to the next level.

Set the scene and get on their level

When it comes to getting great candid cat shots, set preparation is key. Cats feel most relaxed and act naturally in environments that are familiar and comfortable to them, and disrupting their feng shui might not be the best idea.

{Image source: Y. Peyankov on Unsplash}

Start by photographing your cat in their favourite spots at home – curled up on a windowsill, playing with their toys, trotting across a wall, sitting high up and watching the world go by, or lounging in their bed.

Getting down to your cat’s eye level also makes a dramatic difference to shots. Crouch or lie down to get the best angle of your cat in action, whatever they’re doing. The slight high-angle shots taken where the cat dominates most of the frame, and is positioned high up in the shot, give a new dimension to their presence.

This perspective makes it seem as if you are part of the scene with them rather than peering down at them from above. Some wildlife photography tips also suggest taking photos around sunrise and sunset to minimise sun glare, while also focusing on the subject’s eyes. Cat eyes, as we know, can tell thousands of possible stories.

Natural lighting is also key for capturing your cat’s true colours and textures. Nearby windows and glass doors allow soft directional lighting if your cat prefers to stay indoors. Cloudy bright days or dappled shades work well too, if taking photos of your cat outside. Be mindful of harsh shadows or bright patches over your subject, as this can distort how the final product looks.

Grab their attention with toys and treats

Treats and toys are surefire ways to get expressive, energetic cat shots. Have a stash of their favourite snacks, or brandish a beloved feather wand to capture their excitement; where their eyes widen expressively, or they begin to lick their lips or even meow at you. The key is photographing them just before throwing a toy or handing over a treat – when their eyes are alert and posture poised.

Holding a target stick or finger against glass doors and windows also grabs their attention, if only fleetingly so. Try placing a bird feeder outside and take photos through the window as they gaze longingly at the ‘prey’ that will inevitably elude them in their futile attempts to catch it. The reflections and glass obstacles make these shots more visually interesting too, adding a bit of depth to them.

{Image source: Lesli Whitecotton on Unsplash}

Master the moving target – cat action shots

Cats who are on the move present a fun photography challenge. To up your chances of razor-sharp action images, first learn your camera settings thoroughly. Use high shutter speeds (at least 1/4000th of a second) to freeze the action, and switch to burst photo modes. Keep your camera in continuous shooting mode to give you the choice of a handful of images, rather than one or two taken in a moment.

Pet photography also requires anticipating movements as much as possible. Observe your cat’s habits carefully and prepare for key moments – mid-leap as they jump between furniture, pouncing after toy mice, or climbing and stretching. Compose shots with extra space for their impending motion.

For more dynamic blur effects, consider slower shutter speeds. This accentuates the impression of speed as your cat zips by. Just be prepared for more outtakes!

{Image source: Gerry Roarty on Unsplash}

Essential gear for cat photography on a budget

You don’t need the latest expensive camera bodies and lenses to take outstanding pet photos. You can find some affordable used gear online via second-hand retailers, on social media marketplaces, or in local community groups.

Here are some options worth considering as a starting point for your cat photography project:

  • Second-hand entry-level DSLR cameras offer full manual settings for a very healthy price that ranges between £50-£150. Go for brands like Canon, Nikon, or Sony to ensure you’re getting quality. Mirrorless cameras are also very compact and offer similar benefits to DSLRs.
  • Kit lenses from 18-55mm (APS-C) or 24-70mm (full frame) cover standard focal lengths well for under £100 if second-hand. They offer decent sharpness and versatility to your raw shots.
  • For cat portrait photos, a nifty fifty 50mm f/1.8 lens gives a beautiful bokeh blur. Or opt for a 35mm or 85mm prime lens. All are very respectable price-wise.
  • Telephoto zoom lenses up to 200mm let you photograph from further away, which makes photographing shy cats easier and less invasive in their personal space. A used 70-300mm or 55-200mm lens wouldn’t make a huge dent in your budget.

Check reputable second-hand photography retailers, your local community groups or online marketplaces for great value, quality second-hand photography kit for your DIY cat shoots. Make sure to verify who you’re buying from and that the equipment works.

Have patience and let the photos come naturally

The key to truly memorable, natural-looking pet photos is simply spending time with your cat and letting the scenes unfold. Don’t force unnatural poses or locations, and don’t make the cat do anything they’re uncomfortable with. Instead, relax, play and engage with your pet normally, with your camera close by to capture authentic moments.

Learn your cat’s habits and watch their behaviour to predict great photo opportunities. With practice, you’ll hone your reflexes to grab hilarious candid close-ups of yawns, sneezes, swipes, and bleps!

Above all, be patient and persistent. Sift through the blurry outtakes and near misses to end up with a collection of frames that capture your cat’s inner essence at its finest. These will be photos you treasure forever.

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