How to Take Great Pictures of Your Black Cat

“How do you get such beautiful pictures of Shorty? My pictures of my black cat turn out like black blobs!”

It’s a common frustration of owners of black cats: how to take great pictures of them so look as beautifully in photograph as they are in 3D reality? We can see with our own eyes that black-furred cats and dogs are among the most striking to observe because the depth and uniformity of their colour actually makes their physicality stand out more than their brightly-coloured brethren. So why do their pictures look like black blobs and dark smudges?

The typical, featureless black blob cat photo
The typical, featureless black blob cat photo

In fact, not being “picture-perfect” is a reason why some people won’t adopt black cats at all, compounding an issue known as Black Animal Syndrome. It’s true! The social media age has fostered an image-conscious and selfie-obsessed generation to the point where our pets must have colourful markings and unique physical characteristics.

Now, I don’t want to begrudge anyone from wanting to have a beautiful animal nor from wanting to capture them beautifully in photos. But black cats are beautiful and they can be incredibly stunning in photos. Whether you’re shooting with a camera phone or a high-end DSLR, here are my 5 simple tips for getting a great picture of your black cat. And it all starts with lighting, lighting, lighting! Watch the video below for a tutorial and read on for more details.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMW6twgxq4g

1. Use Natural Light
2. Use Indirect Light
3. Use Direct Light
4. Get Up Close
5. Choose a Solid Background


1. Use Natural Light

And by lighting I don’t mean using a flash. Often a flash will flatten the features of your cat subject instead of highlight them, not to mention temporarily blind their sensitive eyes which will make them hate the camera and turn away when you point it at them.

shorty black cat flashlight eyes

Avoid using the flash

Instead, take pictures near windows that afford a lot of natural light. This is the best way to accentuate their features, where their lines, curves and whiskers will catch the light.

Take advantage of the natural light near windows

Take advantage of the natural light near windows


2. Use Indirect Light

Direct light, whether it’s from the sun or an overhead bulb, will wash out your cat’s features and the colour of their eyes.

Direct light will wash out your cat's features

Too bright! Direct light will wash out your cat’s features

For the same reasons photographers like shooting on cloudy days, you want a general soft illumination on your cat from indirect sunlight or from a soft lamp placed beside or in front of your cat.

Use soft light from a nearby lamp

Use soft light from a nearby lamp

Having the light source behind or flooding the area around your cat will definitely result in the “black blob” phenomenon.

3. Use Direct Light

Remember what I said about avoiding direct lighting? It’s still true but you can use it to your advantage to capture very different images than your typical portraits.

Silhouette

Being backlit isn’t always a bad thing, especially for black cats, because you can catch dramatic silhouettes and interesting scenes with a light background.

shoLight angle

If you’ve got a lot of light, whether direct or indirect that would wash out your cat’s features, try shooting at an angle perpendicular to its source or just off to the side. This technique will highlight their edges and avoid the “flashlight” eyes they get in direct light.

DSC_0846

With the rest of her body drenched in direct light, once Shorty looks up, her face catches enough indirect light that she’s lit like a movie star who has hit her mark.

Direct lighting at an angle can highlight your cat's edges

Direct lighting at an angle can highlight your cat’s edges. Even though her face is pretty dark here, it still works because it makes her eyes pop.


4. Get up close

When you’re several feet away, your camera may not be able to focus on your black cat because it needs a lit subject.

Too far away

Being too far away can make your black cat look like a shadow.

Getting up close to your kitty so that their body or face fills the frame gives your camera the best chance to focus on their eyes which should be the main focal point.

Get down to their level to focus on the eyes

Get down to their level to focus on the eyes


5. Try a solid background

Many people have asked if I painted my accent wall blue to provide a perfect backdrop for cat photos. The answer is no, but it sure works well, doesn’t it?

Generally a solid background will allow your black cat to stand out whether it’s blue, black or even white.

But that doesn’t mean a busy background makes a bad photo. Again, it all depends on lighting and, in this case, blurring out the busy-ness.

shorty how to take picture black cat

Here, the background is a cabinet, garbage can, window, oven, dishwasher, more cabinets, and a fridge, but blurring them out helps Shorty stand out like a supermodel.

Set the aperture on your camera

Many camera phones do this automatically when you tap your finger on the screen to select your focus. If you have manual functions on your camera, you can do this by using a wide open aperture (lowering the f-stop) thereby creating a shallow depth-of-field so that your focal point is clear while the rest of the image blurs away.

You can also use spot metering, which is helpful with moving cats, so that your camera will focus on your black cat and retain the exposure based on that focal point, and then you can move the camera and recompose your shot.

On the iPhone

With the iPhone and its latest operating system, after tapping to focus, you should see a little sun icon appear. Then you can swipe up or down to change your exposure if your lighting isn’t ideal.

It also has a way of spot metering. If you tap and hold the focus until the message “AE/AF Lock” appears on the screen, that means the auto-exposure and auto-focus have locked and you or your subject are free to move a little bit while you take your photo.

Of course, many apps like Instagram have filters that can adjust exposure and blur out the background after you’ve taken the photo, but knowing how to get the photo first will help ensure you get more great shots to choose from.

I hope these tips help you turn “black blob” images into stunning photos of your little black panther. If you’ve got any other questions or suggestions, please post them below.

14 thoughts on “How to Take Great Pictures of Your Black Cat

  1. I love these two kitties. Kodi because he’s such a doofus and Shorty because she’s so beautiful. You always frame your photos so perfectly too. And another tip: keep trying! It’s taken me 8 years to finally get decent pictures of my little tuxedo lady in all her glory 🙂

  2. Dear Rob,
    Thank you so much for the beautiful funny videos you have presented for so many years. Thank you for the thoughtful blog posts. Thank you for sharing Kodi and Shorty with the world. And thank you for your generosity of spirit in including all other cats on the web. If only world leaders would behave like responsible cat owners!

  3. Rob, this video is fantastic! Thanks, as always, for sharing your furbabies with us. Can’t wait for new blog posts! 😀

  4. I tend to watch the visa of black cats.
    We love Shorty & Kodi. My Rose (buff) & Pearl (totally black) are shelter adoptees. We support the shelter adoptions and rescues. Also, black cat adoptions. Thank you!
    Ms Pat Kerlin

  5. Brilliant tips. Thanks for sharing. We have one all black fella and his B&W sister. They are both gorgeous cats but my black boy is truly handsome. No photo can ever do him justice ?

  6. Can you please tell me the make and model of your camera? Love Shorty and Kody. We had 2 cats (Buddy & Holly) who lived to almost 20 years; they felt the love!

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