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CROP your kitty photos!

Taking adoption photos of rescue kitties is one task that gives fosterers a lot of headaches! For one thing, I don’t know if you know this about kittens, but they tend to move around a lot. They don’t exactly love to pose for your camera. Also kittens, especially those with darker coats, tend to blend into their background and don’t stand out in the photo. Rescue groups like ours also don’t have a central location where they can bring in a volunteer professional photographer with high tech equipment to help. Instead, fosterers are mostly taking photos with their smartphone at their home.

Of course, you don’t need to be a pro to take a good photo of a kitty for their adoption page, you only need to make sure you CROP your photos! This is a handy acronym to follow that can help choose the best photo.

  • Contrast
  • Resolution
  • Open the Blinds!
  • Props are your friend!

Let’s take a look at each part.

Contrast

One of the biggest issues with kitty photos is that cats blend in with their background. This is because cats are generally neutral colors that match a lot of furniture such as beige, black, white and grey. Orange Tabbies and Calico kitties tend to more easily stand out. To help with this, you can use a colorful background. Find an accent wall in your home, hang a sheet with a colorful pattern, or even bright colored bowl to sit the cat in. Here is a photo one of our fosterers took of a black kitty, who are notorious for being hard to capture in a good photo:

The photo is made a hundred times better by hanging a colorful sheet in the background and resting the kitty on a bright pink blanket.

Resolution

Sometimes it’s hard to tell when your phone camera photo comes out blurry until you see it in a larger format. Luckily, on adoption sites the potential adopters are seeing only a thumbnail, so the issue of blurry photos doesn’t stand out as much. However, when they click on profile to see additional photos, this is where blurry photos can affect the ability for the pet to get chosen. The problem is two-fold: Cats are fast little guys, and don’t often want to stand still. Also, sometimes our cameras are bit shakier than we realize. If we are moving our hands slightly or don’t let the camera app focus, it can cause the end result to be blurry.

Thankfully, there are some things we can do about it. Most modern smartphones have the ability to focus by pressing your finger onto your subject in the camera app, or use special modes for taking pictures of fast moving subjects. You can also find tripods or inexpensive stability mounts for your phone. Most phones will also allow you to set a timer for the photo, so you can set a 10 second timer and use that time to get the kitty’s attention with a toy while the phone is steadily mounted ready to take a perfect photo.

Finally, for speedy cats that won’t stand still, I find it’s easiest to start video recording the kitty, and then going back after I get some footage to save a screenshot. The additional benefit of this is that now you also have a video you can use for the adoption page, which also can help a lot to get the kitty adopted. Most native camera/video player apps on phones will let you save a frame as a picture in the options (three dots) menu. If you’re unsure how to save a screenshot from a video, you can find how to do it on an iphone here as well as get an app like framegrabber . Youtube also has videos for your specific phone. Just search for “how to save a frame from a video on [phone name here]”.

The photo below is of a kitty that was very active. He wanted to keep coming up for pets so I took a video so I could set him back a bit and get this great shot below of him looking at me with the cutest face.

Open Your Blinds!

This tip might be the most important. Well-lit photos are key to adopters seeing your pet clearly. The best way to achieve this is with natural light. Taking pictures in the daytime in a room with a good amount of sunlight will make the pictures come out great and the cat’s features shine. Natural light isn’t the best for every photography application, but it certainly is for your phone’s camera when it comes to taking pictures of kitties. I know some of us have nosy neighbors or don’t want to leave the curtains drawn all the time, but temporarily letting the light in makes a huge difference.

In the photo of Tetley below, he actually doesn’t have much contrast with his background. For one, he’s an orange tabby and his orange tabby brother is behind him, and the walls are close in color. However, because he’s in a room with natural light coming through, his whole little body and markings stand out, and you can see him doing his cute little loaf pose prominently.

Props are your friend!

In many cases a clear, well-lit picture of a kitty is enough to make them stand out, but sometimes they can use a little help. This is where props come in. cute adornments like bowtie collars or their favorite stuff animal toy they are holding like a baby can make adopters go crazy with excitement to apply for the kitty. Also, if the kitty is named after something, you can use that something as a prop to help the kitty stand out and make potential adopters think “that is so cute” or “oh, I love that name!” where they might not think so otherwise.

Recently, one of our fosterers named some cute kittens after different types of tea. This is where props came in handy! Below Boba and Matcha really enjoyed their photoshoot!

CROP your photo!

Of course, the acronym was chosen for a reason. I see a lot of photos on Petfinder of a kitty in the background with other kitties or objects, and they aren’t standing out enough to make adopters want to click to find out more. Remember that all potential adopters are seeing is a thumbnail of your kitty when they first choose whether or not to click. There are so many kitties in need of a home. If you want yours to get chosen, cropping the photo to include only the kitty is best.

Here is an example of a photo that was cropped to highlight the kitty more.

The original photo is pretty good as is. It uses a lot of the tips above. There is natural light, the wall is a nice contrast to the kitty and while a little blurry when you zoom in, it’s clear enough to see the kitty’s features. But because it wasn’t cropped, you can’t really make all of that out in the first photo. All it took was a simple crop to make the photo a bit better and stand out more in a thumbnail version.

Most modern smartphones let you easily crop and edit the photo you just took. You can again search how for your phone model on youtube for a step by step guide if you can’t figure it out. Generally, you snap the photo, click the photo you just snapped at the bottom, and then you can use the options menu to choose edit. The crop sign looks like this and it’s very easy to use. Sometimes there are presets for a 1:1 square ratio, but it’s also fine to just drag the corners to the extent of the relevant part of the image. It’s generally best to have the cat’s full body, but sometimes a cute closeup of their face is good too.

Other tips

CROP tips go a long way, but they don’t cover everything. Some other tips I’ve learned through the years are to get down on the floor at the cat’s level. For one thing, it can make the cats less nervous and more interested in you. It can also get a great angle for a shot with contrast rather than shooting down on them. If you have a particularly scared kitty that won’t stay till because they want to go hide in a dark spot. I’ve found that resting the kitty on their back on your lap, burrito wrapping them, or holding them in your one arm while you take a photo with the other can get some pretty good shots. Additionally, for these hard-to-photo-kitties, having someone hold them over their shoulder and taking a closeup of their face can work in pinch as well. Let us know if you have any tips for good photos!

Following these simple steps can help anyone who is fostering a kitty take better photos. You can see above, none of these photos were done by professional photographers, myself especially,  but they don’t have to be. Having clear pictures of kitties so they stand out in small thumbnails is super important to helping them find their forever homes.

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