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Tips for photographing shelter cats


cat photography tips

Eva photographed Madelaine at Big City Little Kitty in Queens, NY.

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 to photograph cats 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 tips from Eva Prokop, a volunteer photographer at Animal Care & Control of New York City and Big City Little Kitty in Queens, to get you started:

  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • Don’t use a flash. Not only will it encourage a
    cat to look away, it will 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 here
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

Do you have tips for photographing shelter pets? Tell

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