If you have difficulties catching your pets because they have to go to the vet, sorry, but I can't help you. I mean 'capture' as in 'take pictures of them', which is also very hard to do.
I am a devoted cat lady and living with three cats, pet photography is mostly about cats for me. I do have experience shooting dogs (with my camera, just to be clear) because my grandparents own a dog and I volunteered at a guide dog fair where the owners could take pictures with their beloved helpers.
But first, cats. Cats do whatever they want so you are lucky when they cooperate. This requires a lot of patience. If it takes too long, the cat will get tired of that lens in its face and all you can do is wait until your furry friend is not sick of your sh*t anymore, like this guy:
Because of this reason, planning a cat photoshoot is not really an option. Maybe they want to sleep when you're trying to take action photo's of them playing, or the other way around. You have to adapt to what they are doing at the moment when you grab your camera.
This is where you should take the advise of that Disney villain: be prepared. Make sure you have your camera near and ready, because you want to be there when your cat does something photogenic. It would be a shame if you'd miss the moment.
If you only have an afternoon, there are some ways to plan and hope for the best:
The first one is a simple box. If you own cats, you probably get this. For some reason, cats like boxes and paper bags. I used this trick when I had a paper roll background and studiolights on, ready for the cats to come in. One of my cats is a fabulous model and did exactly what I wanted him to do. The other one needed some encouragement and I got a box to help her:
If your cat loves food, you can use that as well, after they finish the treat, most cats will wash themselves and provide opportunities for great shots.
A dripping faucet could help as well, if your cat is allowed to jump on the kitchen counter. As you may know, cats want to drink water from anything except from their bowl, and the faucet is a good alternative because you can see their face, the running water adds another depth to the picture and they stay in the same position for a longer time.
The best thing about sleeping cats are that they look sweet and peaceful, and the don't move! This means you have plenty of time to take the picture you want, change some settings and take your time. There is one condition: the cat has to trust you (or be in a really deep sleep), otherwise it will get up to see what's happening.
To make sure you won't interrupt, you make sure you don't have to get too close. I used a 50-150mm lens for the picture below so I didn't have to disturb this sleeping beauty. Of couse she knew I was there; her ears moved when she heard me, but she didn't let it spoil her moment of relaxation.
When cats are active and playing, it is very difficult to get a good shot. They run around and move very quickly. If the light allows you to set a quick shutter speed, it may result in sharp photos. The problem of focus still remains. You want to focus on the cat's face, but if it moves a lot, you don't have the time to do that. The solution: leave the focus point on the place you'd want the face to be (a third usually), and wait for the cat to come in, or move the camera. It still takes time for the camera to focus, but it will be quicker.
You can use a toy they like to direct them to the place you want them to be. This means you have to multitask and hold the camera and the toy at the same time. Trust me, you won't be able to do it for very long, but if you're lucky, you don't need to.
Don't throw away pictures because they are out of focus. Pictures can still look great because it shows movement. Also, take pictures if the cat is inspecting your camera and comes too close. They may not be the most beautiful pictures, but they show the character of your cat.
I said I will focus on cats for this post, but a lot of tips also work with other animals. I used toys and food to get my grandparents' dog in the right place to photograph her. Look at her longing for a bite!
point of view
You want to think about the point of view you want to use. Most of the time, you see your pet from above. This might be interesting for some photos, but it doesn't work well in general. Like when you are doing portraits, you want your camera to be on eye hight. I lie down for pictures a lot and that includes cat pictures. Since I broke my back, this is difficult to do, but still worth it.
While you're lying down, think about composition as well. The general rules for portrait photography also go for animal photography; think about the rule of thirds, looking direction, etc. Try and create something different by only showing parts of the animal:
Animals have fur. Light shines through fur. I like to use this for my pictures by using backlight or light coming from the side. It shows how fluffy your pet is; who doesn't love that?
Special thanks to my lovely cats: Silver, Cleo and Minouche and my grandparents' dog Stippel. If you want to see more of these beautiful animals, make sure you follow my Instagram account @liekeroodbolphotography (or press the icon at the bottom of this page). I never get sick of taking pictures of them, so they regularly make an appearance.
Tell me if these tips work for you, and if you use other ways to photograph your pets!