Taking a portrait of a fierce and ferocious cat may seem like a challenge but, with some preparation and patience, it can be fun and rewarding. The images here showcase cats tapping into their inner wildness and I know that if I can capture these intense looking portraits, with a few helpful suggestions and some cheeky tricks, you can do it too.
Grab your camera and get ready to capture your own cat’s untamed spirit!
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Two Types of Fierce Cat ‘Looks’
- The genuine fierce snarl
- The sneaky snarl
The first, truly fierce, cat expression can be a challenge to capture as most of us don’t face a truly angry cat very often. The good news is you can grab the shot if you are ready, and you are able to use a combination of your quick reactions and a zoom to get you closer. This can be with your smartphone digital zoom, a DSLR kit lens, or a more expensive zoom/telephoto lens.
The second ‘snarl’ is a sneaky cheat because you capture a cat when it bares its teeth, not with a snarl, but with a totally abandoned yawn! This is much easier but just as effective when you capture your cat captured mid ‘yowl’.
Reduce blur by keeping a firm grip on the camera if you use your digital zoom.Top Tip
The Almost Fierce Snarl
This is easier to achieve because it is more predictable. You just need to be ready for the moment and you can do this by observing when your cat seems to yawn more – maybe after a meal, or after some frantic playtime.
Here are some of my favourite fearsome yawns captured with a DSLR, and a smartphone.
Jack’s portrait was the winner of a Cat Writers’ Association Certificate of Excellence and you will understand why when you realise that not only is his ferocious yawn expressive, but one of his incisors is missing! I was aiming for a fun ground level shot of a ginger cat basking in the summer sunshine then Jack gave me a perfect Tongue Out Tuesday wrapped in a tremendous yawn. I am glad he did, as the camera and zoom lens were getting heavy and I would have needed my tripod!
DID YOU KNOW? …. a cat’s yawn doesn’t last quite as long as a human’s, which scientists chalk up to brain size and gray matter. The theory is that yawning delivers additional “cooler” blood to the brain as a way to keep the temperature optimally balanced.Great Pet Care
This photography of Oscar the ginger tabby from Neko Ngeru Cat Cafe was a lucky shot. He had just risen to his feet from a nap, had a stretch and yawned as he began to move forward. He looks totally ready to chew someone out doesn’t he?
Smartphone Capture Magic
Phoebe is our free spirited longhaired cat who rarely stands still long enough for a good photo, so I only have a few, including this one.
This spectacular mouthful of teeth was taken with an older iPhone 4S. I had time to raise my smartphone, and take one photo as Phoebe yawned right at me. So, no fancy settings just me going ‘This is IT‘ pointing and shooting. My smartphone took the photo using its auto mode wthout my help. I have learned never be afraid to just point and shoot if it’s the only chance of capturing an image. Go for it and hope.
SMARTPHONE TIP: If you use digital zoom like the pinch/slide on your smartphone, keep your camera steady and supported.
The Genuine Snarl
This genuine hissing snarl is of our next door neighbour cat Honey!
Honey is quite cautious and rarely ventures into our garden but she does observe from higher up the slope near her home. In this photograph she had ventured lower and was walking along our high fence when she spotted one of the Dash Kitten cats below her and expressed her displeasure.
Honey was high enough for me to zoom in, and look upwards with my telephoto lens for added drama. I was able to focus on her angry snarl and grabbed a dramatic moment.
My DSLR camera set up for the shot was as follows:
- Continuous Shooting mode,
- with center-weighted average metering and
- Aperture Priority mode. Canon-Av or Nikon-A.
I kept the image sharp by focusing on Honey’s eye and there is enough contrast to show the fierce drama of her expression. I did not have the opportunity to adjust my setting in detail so chosing Aperture Priority mode which works very well for so many cat shots.
It is always worth check your camera manual if you are not sure where to find a setting. Manuals may look boring but they can be a fast way to find camera information if you can’t locate it online.
……..continuous shooting modes and fast shutter speeds (1/125 sec or faster) will let you freeze the moment. If you’re indoors with low light, you may want to use a higher ISO setting so you can shoot with a faster shutter speed.Get Olympus
Spotting The Snapportunity
With some quiet relaxed observation you will find out when is a good photo opportunity for a snarl or yawn of your own.
It may happen after eating a tasty Churu, or Lick-e-Lix or before settling down to post-lunch nap. The stretch, yawn then curl and nap manoeuvre will become familiar and you will find that yawn hunting is a skill you can pick up quickly. The more you observe, the more action you will see and yawns and snarls will be everywhere you look!
Your next steps
Inspired by my crazy cat shots are you ready to grab your camera, and start stalking your cat ready to grab that fierce moment? I would love to share your gnarly snarly captures with me at Dash Kitten.
Helpful Photo Posts:
‘Drama At Dusk’ is an award winner at the Annual CWA – Cat Writers’ Communications Contest for the year 2022
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can create impressive cat photographs and fun movies with the camera they carry.
She is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.