Say Mouse! How to Get the Purrfect Picture of Your Cat Clients

Kitty's Korner

Say Mouse! How to Get the Purrfect Picture of Your Cat Clients

After investing your time and effort into a great cat groom, it is always a good idea to take a picture to send home with the family or to keep for your portfolio and social media accounts. Yet every time you click the button on your phone to get a picture, you get closed eyes, a blur as the cat speeds off, the tail as it burrows into a hiding place or the spot where the cat was a split second ago. Why do some people have tons of great cat photos and others just can’t seem to get even one? 

It is all about the technique!

The first step in capturing that purrfect picture is to control your environment. Like with any photography, your subject has to be comfortable. High places, small places and dark places all make a cat feel comfortable.

Over the years I have found the best place to take cat pictures is inside a three– or four–foot–tall wire dog exercise pen. Wire exercise pens give cats the safe feeling of being in a small, dark place. They also can be quickly adjusted to adapt to the needs of the cat you are working with since they are easy to move, set up and store.


Photographing a cat inside an exercise pen gives you more control of the environment you are working in than a platform or open space. My preference is to set up my dog pen adjacent to a large window in a quiet room where random noises cannot be heard. 

Next, you need to decide how you will decorate the exercise pen to provide an eye–catching backdrop for your pictures. You will want to use the three center panels of the pen to stage your pictures, then you will use the other panels to control the kitty. When choosing your first layer of your backdrop, keep in mind that it needs to be long enough to cover at least two panels (the center back panel and at least half of the two panels on either side of the center rear panel) and wide enough to stretch over the back, drape down and cover the floor in front of the pen. For my back layer, I like to use a king–size blanket. King–size blankets are big enough for the cat to move off of its mark and not ruin the picture. 

Layering your photo area will enhance your pictures. First you will need to decide if you want to have the same coverings on the back wall and the floor, or if you prefer two different coverings. Using two different coverings can make the cat look like it is floating on a cloud. If you choose to use one covering, you simply lay it over the first. While using two full layers may seem a little redundant, I do it for several reasons: Not only will the bottom layer add padding for the cat’s comfort, but if there is an issue like a claw was cut too short or an unexpected furball, you can simply remove the top layer and continue your photo shoot. When using two separate items for my backdrop, I drape the first over the back then fluff the second one up on the floor in front. Sometimes placing a padded chair cushion under the top layer will encourage the cat to lay on your desired spot.

The next step is to decide if you want to add decorations or props in addition to the backdrop and floor covering. Keep in mind that cats always need to be supervised when using decorations or props. Anything added to the photo area should be in scale with the cat you are working with. The goal is to have the cat fill the frame or be just a little smaller. Six– to 18–inch–tall items tend to work well in my experience. You will want to space them out so you can get the whole cat and the props in the photo no matter where the cat settles into. While getting a larger prop to place behind the cat may seem like a good idea, remember cats like to hide when something new is happening. My experience has been that the cat will end up behind the prop. It is best to keep the props small. 

The last thing you will need is something to get the cat’s attention. My preference is a stick with a long wire and a feather at the end, but any wand–type cat toy will work. I like this type of attention–getter because of the control it gives me to direct the cat’s eyes while I snap the picture. To capture that great photo, you want to be able to make a quick and unexpected movement of the wand in order to capture the cat’s attention.

After the stage is set, wrap the unused panels around to close off the exercise pen as small as it will go without disturbing your setup (Fig 1). Make sure you have everything you will need such as a camera, attention–getter, comb to do a last fluff–up and a cloth to wipe the eyes one more time, then take a deep breath and get the cat. Gently place the cat into the pen and give it a few minutes to explore and settle (Fig 2).

Taking the actual picture needs to go quickly. The average cat has an attention span for being photographed of about three to five minutes at most. When you are ready, open the sides of the exercise pen just enough to sit or make way for the camera. You want to take your pictures at the cat’s level. Remember, you want the cat to feel safe and comfortable. Wave the toy and click away (Fig 3.). Since a cat’s attention span is so short, it is best to continuously take your pictures. After the cat is done, you can go back and keep only the good shots. 

Taking a good cat picture is as much of an art as cat grooming itself. And capturing that purrfect picture of your groom not only is a great gift for the owners, but will help your social media presence and is a great addition to your portfolio! ✂️

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