If you are reading this article, there is a big chance you are a happy parent of a cat or even two or more. For many people, who have their pets, they are an important part of their lives and members of their families. Unfortunately, our furry friends live shorter than humans and it is natural that almost each owner wants to take good pictures of cats to immortalise their cat’s cute face or a pose.
We asked professional photographer Marcus Kaspar (Instagram THEREALMARCUSKASPAR) who designed Pet Photography Masterclass to share his tips on how to take great photo of cats.
What are your tips for taking great pictures of cats?
Tip #1: Be patient. Pets in general don’t care much whether you are pointing a camera towards them or not. They just do their thing, rarely looking into the camera the way you want them to do. So be patient.
Tip #2: Take a lot of pictures, because see tip #1. By the way, that’s how pros work, too. They are no magicians who take only one master shot of their individual subject. They take hundreds of pictures. The tough part is deciding which one is best.
Tip #3: Always (especially in the beginning of your photography career) be on the same eye level as your cat. The quality of your pictures will be dramatically better when you do that instead of shooting from human eye level.
Tip #4: Keep your cat entertained. Give her some toys to play with. That will provide great opportunities for interesting moments.
Tip #5: Get close to your subject. Think of your cat as a little human. When you’re shooting a portrait of a kid, you want to get close to it, in order to eliminate distracting things in the background and to get the best possible facial expression. Same with cats. Exception: When you are aiming for some great action (running, jumping, …) you might wanna keep some distance, as it’s gonna be too hard to focus on a close range.
Tip #6: Get rid of distracting background. Keep it clean and simple and/or choose a wide aperture in order to blur the background. That way you will put the focus onto your cat.
What camera settings do you recommend?
In general it’s a good idea to chose the fastest possible shutter speed (under the given light circumstances) as cats tend to move during shooting. And you want your subject to be as sharp as possible. So when your cat is in action (playing with some toys, running, …) I’d go with at least 1/500, better 1/1000. Depending on the lighting, you might want to open up your aperture. The best aperture for sharpness in general is f8. So if the light is sufficient enough, try those settings. If you happen to have a very laid back cat that is hardly moving, you can go with 1/250 or even 1/125.
What positions are great for taking photos of cats (and dogs)?
See tip #3. Be on the same eye level as your subject. Most of the times it means that YOU will be in a very uncomfy position, not your cat.
What is your experience and recommendations in using flash?
I use flash only if I know that my subject is not afraid of it. My dog Emil for example doesn’t care much if I use it or not, which gives me great creative freedom in a studio environment. I never use a camera mounted flash though, as that will make my subject look flat (with an ugly shadow behind it) and give them those spooky red eyes. Instead, point your flash towards something reflective, like a white wall. The bouncing light will provide a much better lighting than a directly pointed camera mounted flash. For beginners I would recommend using natural light. If you master that go on and get a flash.
Is it necessary to use photo-editing software to retouch photos?
Actually that is a matter of personal taste (exception: if you are aiming for selling your pictures you need to retouch them). I do retouching, but I try not to overdo it.
When can you say the photo is perfect?
Perfection is a tough goal to achieve. Let’s put it this way: if I don’t have any more ideas what to improve in a picture it is perfect to me.
Is retouching a good idea?
As I said, I do retouching. It can be very helpful in order to bring out certain aspects in a photo. I never alter anything that would change my model though (e.g. change fur color). It’s a matter of taste how much you want to retouch a picture. In general I’d say it’s okay to retouch, BUT make it not too obvious.
What skills should a person have to take pictures of pets?
In general, patience helps (see tip #1). Moreover, a good eye for visually interesting motives and moments is a great plus. But don’t worry too much about that, as it will come with time. The more you shoot, the better (and faster) your eye will develop.
Is it possible to take good pictures with a mobile phone?
Definitely. You don’t need an expensive and fancy camera (even though it impresses people much more that shooting with a mobile phone, but who cares …?) There is this saying that the best camera is the one that you have with you. Most of the times that will be your cell phone. So just go for it. Try to apply tips #1 – #6. They are universal.
What do you like most about working with Emil?
Emil is (and will always be) my little puppy (even though he is now older than I am (dog years / human years). It’s like taking pictures of your kid. Who wouldn’t like that? Photos are great memories – just look at my photo app on my cell phone. Moreover, he sometimes has that great expression on his face, saying „I don’t know what you are doing, and I don’t know what I am doing here, but I love and trust you – and by the way, can I get a treat?”
Why did you decide to create Pet Photography Masterclass ?
There are so many cat and dog owners in the world and most of them love taking pictures of their pets. I thought it might be helpful to provide some guidance of how to improve the quality of those pictures. It’s very sad, but in the end, the photos will last longer than your cat or dog – and we all do deserve to remember and honor them in the best possible way. A great looking picture might help in doing so.
Pet Photography Masterclass – our review
I completed the course (learn more: Pet Photography Masterclass) a few weeks ago, and it was an amazing experience and an inspiration for me, also because of the great personality that Marcus is. The course is perfectly structured and consists of 8 modules that, in detail, covers all of the important issues in photography that a beginner should know, such as aperture, ISO, composition, light, locations of the pet and others. Even though I got the basic technical knowledge about ISO and speed, I particularly liked the practical tips on composition, how to turn a bad location into a good one, or the basics of retouching. In video lessons Marcus understandably explains the technical basics of photography, and also demonstrates how he takes pictures of Emil or retouches them. So it is really simple to grab your own camera and start taking purrfect pictures of cats (or other pets) and retouch cat photos even if you are not an experienced Photoshop user.
Without any doubt, the great virtue of Pet Photography Masterclass:
- is taught by a recognisable expert;
- high quality and amazing content;
- practical tips, so after completing the course a pet owner will be able to take pictures of their cat like a pro;
- easily understandable explanations of the technical basics of photography;
- easy contact with the instructor, in case you want to get feedback on cat photos you have taken;
- designed for a pet owner who is a beginner in photography and wants to know how to take great pictures of cats;
- easy access from any device and on a per diem basis;
- can be completed at your own pace;
- reasonable pricing and the course is worth even more.