Lights, Camera, Cute!

Experts share their tips on taking the perfect photo of your cat.

Leonardo da Vinci once said, The smallest feline is a masterpiece. This fifteenth-century artist and philosopher certainly knew what he was talking about. After all, cats certainly are natural models – sleek, sophisticated and, yes, serene.

So, what better way to celebrate your cats inner diva than by capturing her image on film or disk? But wait – if youre still taking photos that are out of focus or possess the dreaded red eye, dont despair. Two professional photographers are about to share some of their secrets for creating a magnificent masterpiece with your own cat.

Celebrity pet photographer Christopher Ameruoso has snapped photos of hundreds of celebrities and their four-legged companions. Professional photographer Lexy Roberts takes some of the photos found in CatWatch and in many publications from the Cornell Feline Health Center. (To see samples of her work, call 607-253-3414 to request a copy of the Cornell Feline Health Centers 2005 annual report. Or you can view the 2004 report online at


Which is better: film or digital cameras?
Chris: Digital, definitely. I have total control over my work from start to finish. Anyone who wants to stay with film, I always say, Good luck; Im happy for you. If you learn your craft the right way, you will not see the difference between film and digital. It is amazing what can be done in Photoshop (a software program used to manipulate digital photos).

Lexy: I only shoot digital. I have a high-resolution camera, so the images are fantastic. One main advantage of digital is that you can see your image seconds after taking it. You can check exposure, lighting and positioning of the cat as well as seeing if the critter blinked. You cant do that with film.

What is more versatile – color or black-and-white photography?
Chris: I always shoot in color. I can then convert the picture to black-and-white if needed. Shooting in color allows me to control the shades of the image Im working with.

Lexy: I really dont have a need to shoot black-and-white anymore. Digital images are shot in color and are converted to grayscale depending on the final product desired.

Do you prefer to shoot indoors or outdoors?
Chris: Outside, mostly. I love to use the natural light and environment. I think that you have much more of a feel with outside shots and lighting. Shooting inside can get too flat. The best time of day to shoot outdoors is about ten in the morning. I suggest shooting photos with the sun behind the subject (called back-lighting).

Lexy: I like shooting inside best because I have better control of the lighting and subject. It is also nice to have the cat on a perch near a window, since natural light is really pleasant and gives a certain feel to the image. If shooting outdoors, early mornings or late afternoons tend to have softer, warmer light. Overcast days are good, too, because the light isnt as stark.

When photographing cats, how long should the photo shoot last?
Chris: When you shoot with a pet, you probably have about 10 to15 minutes. Anything after that will be really difficult. Animals cant sit that long; they get bored. Do it quickly or have a lot of patience.

Lexy: It really depends on the cat. One cat I photographed in the studio acted as though she posed for a living. She was a dream and it only took about 15 minutes. I had one cat that wouldnt come out from under its owners armpit and when it did, it ran under the table. Sometimes Ive had to wait up to two hours for a cat to settle in and get what I needed.

How do you keep a cat interested in posing for the camera?
Chris: I have a little squeaky-toy that I use. This will only work for about ten shots. After that, you just have to do what it takes to get the cat to look your way. Sometimes it gets very funny. I learned that treats dont work very well. Cats want to run to them and then they are out of the frame.


Lexy: Most cats dont respond well to loud noises the way dogs do. Sometimes Ill make a tiny hissing noise or a scratching sound. The cats seem very interested and it works for the first few tries. I may resort to barking if all else fails.

Any other suggestions?
Chris: I strongly suggest going digital. I have many photographer friends who said they would never stop shooting film. I convinced them to try using digital and now they will never go back to film. Dont knock it until you try it.

Lexy: You have to have patience when photographing cats, but as long as you have the time, it is worth it.