Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photographing Dogs and Cats– Which is Easier?

By Langley Cornwell

As you might imagine, I am one of those people who takes crazy amounts of pictures of our dogs and our cat. Now that so many cell phones have decent cameras, it’s easy to capture those precious moments.

What got me thinking about this was an article I read in Catster. The writer volunteers as a photographer at her local animal shelter. In the article, she chronicles her change of mind – at first she preferred photographing dogs but eventually came to enjoy cat photography more. With dogs, she liked the camaraderie and thought her photos were better with natural lighting and nice outdoor backgrounds. When she ventured into the cat room to take pictures, there was too much commotion. She couldn’t get a cat to sit still long enough to snap a good shot. And, when she got lucky and captured one of the elusive creatures on camera, the backgrounds were cluttered with litter boxes, cages, supplies, and maybe a few bags of CANIDAE Life Stages cat food, all lit by severe fluorescent lighting.

Then one day the shelter manager hung up a donated blanket and two heat lamps in an effort to spiff up the cat photos. The photographer mentally rolled her eyes, thinking there was no way a cat would sit in front of that thing long enough to have her picture taken. She was wrong. In fact, she now believes that cats intuitively know what she is trying to do and pose for the camera.

This revelation made her change her stance on the topic. The cats posed so well that she could photograph twice the number of cats in half the time she usually spent on the dogs. With dogs, she spent time following them around the exercise runs or waiting for them to get still enough to be photographed; they were more interested in sniffing the grass for the latest bit of news than being caught on camera. So her final answer was that cats are easier to photograph than dogs.

Jet "meditating"
If I was forced to give a straight answer, I’d have to hedge. In my experience, cats get into more “photo-worthy” poses, but I can’t manage to get a good shot of our cat Jet with his eyes open. Experienced photographers could probably give me a few tips, but I’m just an animal lover with a cell phone and no skills. When I snap a shot of the kitty, a flash usually goes off and he, with his cat-like reflexes, closes his eyes in that split second. I have so many cute shots of the little guy but it always looks like he’s meditating.

For kicks, I decided to pose the question to some friends. The answers were divided. Diane at CANIDAE says that dogs are much easier to photograph than cats. “Cats have a habit of turning their heads at the last minute – totally frustrates me to no end.”

Dana, a local friend who takes pictures for the Charleston SPCA, believes that dogs are easier because you can grab their attention more easily. She loves photographing cats too but says it’s harder to “stage” or anticipate a moment with most cats.

I have another friend named Jenne who takes photos for an animal shelter. She also believes that dogs are easier. “After having to photograph hundreds of cats at the shelter, dogs are easier, hands down. Treat in hand, ‘here doggy,’ perfectly still – snap snap. Cats, you gotta chase them around and even then it takes forever to get one useable shot.”

Jet napping
Another friend believes dogs are easier because they show a much wider variety of expressions and emotions. Then there were those that absolutely preferred photographing cats. Some laughingly said they can only get a good photo of their cats if they are sleeping. But some prefer to photograph cats because they simply don’t move around as much as dogs.

Crystal said “I'd have to say cats. Dogs want to walk up to you for attention, and some won't sit still for the camera. A picture of a big black nose isn't something you'd want to put in a frame. Cats are more laid back about it. They just sit there and stare with an expression that says you're a silly human.”

Most people can make a good argument for both sides. Tamara calls it a tie: “Cats may move around more, but I've never met one afraid of the camera , like some dogs. On the flip side, some cats will let you follow them around like the paparazzi they deem you to be, while some dogs love the attention and will pose like good models.”

A childhood friend and photographer named Blake also says it’s a tie: “EXCEPT that cats don't necessarily want to play with you like dogs do, like when I crouch down on the ground to get a different perspective and the dog subject thinks that means he's supposed to come to me and play. I love taking pictures of both, though!”

As you can see, there’s no easy answer. What about you? Which side of the coin do you fall on?

Dog photo by Jelene Morris
Cat photos by Langley Cornwell

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. It depends. I mostly photograph cats but don't tell anyone, I love photographing dogs too. With cats it's more intuitive. They don't do anything they don't want to and it requires honoring and respecting their process.

  2. I think it depends on the dog or cat. When the camera comes out, one of my dogs starts wandering all over the place as if he wants to make sure I have to invest a lot of time and energy into getting one good picture of him. On the other end of the scale are three of my other dogs, Max, Riley, and Keikei who love having their picture taken and are very cooperative. It's the same with my cats who will pose like pros for pictures - most of the time.

    Holding up a treat works good for the dogs, but I usually don't need treats for them, and a fishing pole toy with the feather on the end for the cats works well to get their attention. The fun part is holding your "attention grabber" while trying to keep the camera still so the picture isn't blurry.

    As far as which one is easier, for me, depends on how much time I have to invest in getting a picture. I'd have to say it's a tie.

  3. I'm going to say cats. I photograph the cats at our shelter all the time, and find I can get a nice shot IF I stay ready, am patient, and as Layla points out, honor and respect the cat's process. :)

  4. The biggest challenge to photographing a cat is their eyes cos you don't want laser eyes or eyes with no pupils. TW has to photoshop pupils in my eyes sometimes. Yeah, I turn my head and shut my eyes sometimes but that's cos I don't wanna be bothered.

  5. Catzowey! Paws UP that we meowsters love to strut our stuff on a cat walk and I never ever blinks my EyeTailYun eyes when my fotographer is clicking away!


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