Cat Photography Tips: Help Get Shelter Cats Adopted Faster

Petfinder: Volunteering with Shelter Cats

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by Jane Harrell


June is Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month — and what better way to celebrate than to help adoptable cats find homes? One easy way to help is photographing these pets for your local shelter or rescue group. A great photo on Petfinder can literally be a lifesaver for a shelter cat.

Getting a compelling shot of a caged cat can be tough. Here are some pet photography tips from Eva Prokop, a volunteer photographer at Animal Care & Control of New York City and Big City Little Kitty in Queens, to help you know how to photograph cats:

1. Bring Cat Toys

Eva carries around a necklace that she dangles next to the camera lens to get a shot of the cat looking into the camera. She also uses toys to catch “action shots.” Not sure what toys to pick? We have tips on picking safe and fun cat toys.

2. Change Your Light Setting

Even the most basic digital cameras often let you change the brightness of the photograph. For dark cats, Eva suggests using a setting that allows more light into the lens so you capture the cat’s details.

3. Don’t Use A Flash

Not only will it encourage a cat to look away, but it will also often wash out the cat’s features (and bounce off metallic backgrounds like cages). Instead, try getting as much light from the surrounding area as possible. If daylight is not available, Eva suggests using a detached flash with a diffuser to soften the light. (You can buy both at a photography store, or learn how to make your own for a regular digital camera) Learn why you should also avoid using a flash with dogs in our tips on getting great dog photos.

4. Add Props

Whether you’re shooting a cat in a cage or a cat colony, setting the stage can help make her relatable to viewers. Bring props such as a colorful pillow, blanket, or even a seasonal decoration to give your photo a homey feel.

5. Focus On The Face

A cat’s eyes tell her story. Eva recommends getting close and comfortable with your subject. Don’t be afraid to get on the cat’s level and focus on her features. Shooting in macro to blur the background while keeping the foreground in sharp focus can add drama.

6. Edit and Revise

Even the best pictures can often use some after-the-fact help. Eva uses Picasa 3 (a free Photoshop-like software) to tweak her photos before uploading them to Petfinder. You can also edit photos for free using software from or online at

7. Tell Us!

Have you volunteered to help with photography at a shelter?  What was the most rewarding (or most difficult) part of the job?

Want to learn more about volunteering? Check out other ways to volunteer with shelters and rescues, with dogs, with cats, or even with other animals.