Photographing Shelter Cats: A Pro Offers Tips

Photographing Shelter Cats: A Pro Offers Tips

A picture may be worth a thousand words but, for a shelter cat, the value is far greater. A good photo can literally mean the difference between life and death for a homeless cat in search of a forever home.

While professional skills and equipment can produce top-notch photos of adoptable cats, just about any photographic equipment—combined with a love of cats, some spare time, and some patience—can create a photo that piques the interest of potential adoptors on a shelter website and through social media.

Successful Photos Start with Patience and Positive Energy

Professional photographer Tom Myers, owner of New Jersey’s Bundle of Paws Photography, volunteers at Animal Friends for Education and Welfare, photographing adoptable animals. “I believe strongly that good quality images help speed the adoption and re-homing process for both cats and dogs,” says the photographer and member of HeARTs Speak, an international organization of artists who volunteer time and their skills to help animals in need.

When photographing shelter cats, Myers first emphasizes the importance of having patience and positive energy. "The pets will pick up on your energy if you are frazzled or trying to rush," he says. "It's nearly impossible to rush through and be successful. It will make it even more difficult to find a relaxed pose that speaks emotionally to a viewer."

Creating the Connection

Some of Myers' most successful photos have been shots that invite the viewer to make an emotional connection to the cat. "Several people in my year and a half of volunteering have said to me that 'I had to go meet that cat (or dog) after seeing that picture.' That’s why focusing on the eyes and face is so important."

Especially important in photographing cats is the safety of the animals. Myers’ local shelter doesn’t have a dedicated room for cat photography so he works close to minimize the appearance of the crate or enclosure, putting as much emphasis on the cat as possible.

Just as with human photography, natural lighting is best. "Try to get the eyes in focus using natural light," explains Myers. "I never use a flash with cats. Especially if you have to shoot through a crate or enclosure or in one. The eyes are going to draw the most attention and create the reaction of 'I have to adopt that cat.'"

Great Photos Reap Real Benefits

The benefits are tangible, not only for the pets who have found forever homes but for the photographer as well. "I find some of the most regarding experiences in my work come when I see a cat (or dog) rehomed to a great family and know I played a small part in the process to help that happen."

-Written by Paris Permenter and John Bigley

Photo courtesy of Bundle of Paws Photography