Taking great black cat photos

Black cats can take longer to adopt, fading in to the shadows in a shelter or in online listings. Highlighting their beauty with amazing photos posted online can be just the trick to finding them a magical home!

These tips below have been captured from our 20+ years of photographing black cats in shelters and foster homes. You don’t have to be a pro photographer or have a fancy camera to take great black cat photos.

Tip#1: Look at black cats listed online near you

Go to https://www.adoptapet.com/cat-adoption put in your zip code, click search. Once the cat results load, under the Color filter in the left column, check the box for “black”. Scroll and look at everyone’s adoptable black cat photos.

What do you see?

You could have the best photos of your black cats as their 1st photos in their online listings, but if they look like all the other black cat photos, your cat may get lost in the sea of similar black cats. So if your local shelter uses a blue wall for their photo backdrop, don’t use a blue background. If a local rescue has all their cat in adorable bow ties, maybe you use bandanas or stuffed animal props — or seasonal ones like flowers or pumpkins or wrapped holiday presents. One of the biggest factors influencing black cat “clicks” (which lead to interest and adoptions) on pet adoption websites is using a 1st photo online that stands out. 

Here’s a real-world example:


These are all pretty good photos! But guess who was getting clicked on the most — right, Ace!

Also notice the photos in the results are SQUARES. Adopt-a-Pet.com takes your pet’s first photo and crops it automatically in to a square (crops equal parts off the longest sides) to display on the search results page. Keep that in mind for your pet photos composition, especially if your camera or phone takes really long or wide photos.

#2 Prepare Backgrounds & Props

After you’ve done your online research, you’re ready to get color backgrounds and fun props to make your black cat photos stand out from the pack.


Cage/kennel photography: If you’re photographing cats in their kennels generally you’re limited to that background but if you can, swap out darker colored towels for lighter color ones. Also if you can, for the few minutes you’ll be actually photographing the cat in their kennel, pull out the litter box so it’s more easily not in the photo.

Foster home/community rooms: Often you have the freedom to change the background.  Light and solid colors are ideal, and big — like a bed sheet, blanket, huge towel, table cloth, shower curtain, bath rug — doesn’t have to be fancy, can be used from a thrift store. I like to spread it across the floor, couch, or where ever the cat will be most comfortable.


Props can make your black cat photo pop! Consider colorful collars, big bowties, or tiny bandanas which are inexpensive to make from scrap fabric cut using pinking shears. Colorful cat toys or stuffed animals are adorable cat photo props too. Your hand or your helpers hands can be excellent props as well  – if the cat is good about being held and you have a helper, have the person hold the cat. Or put your hand in the photo like petting them under the chin if the cat enjoys petting.

#2 Setting up

StudioFX 800 Watt Large Photography Softbox Continuous Photo Lighting Kit 16" x 24" by Kaezi H9004S-1

No matter what camera you’re using, bright indirect natural sunlight generally makes the best photos. Open up all the window shades and turn on all the lights. If you photograph kenneled cats regularly, consider investing $40 in a “continuous softbox” that’s the light on a stand pictured to the left– especially if you are photographing in dark or fluorescent-lit indoor cat kennels. If a softbox isn’t an option (like you don’t have the room behind you in the kennels) there are also LED handheld lights specifically meant for phone photography and they generally are less than $30 online too.

Kennel photos: If you’re photographing multiple cats in a shelter, you will need one prop per cat so you’re not cross contaminating. You can make a bag full of prop cat toys out of different colored tin foil or colored paper, crumpled in to balls.

Foster/community room: Spread your backdrop across the floor. If you have a big room, you can lay down multiple backdrops all over the floor so you can get photos no matter where the cat walks! Stand with the windows behind you if that’s possible.


#3 Taking photos

Ideally you get the cat on to the backdrop — lure with treats, have a helper place them there, use a feather or laser toy, and you’ll likely need a lot of patience because you are literally herding cats! (Sometimes you just have to take the cats photo where ever the cat is, see our bonus tips below that can help with this option.)

Position yourself so you are above the cat slightly and dangle a toy or crinkle the treat bag above your camera/head so they look up at you. This helps the floor backdrop fill your camera frame — without trying to tape it up a wall or avoiding a cluttered background. In this example below, I used a scrap of fake grass:


Use the “burst” setting if you have that, which lets you take many photos at once. It often takes 30 or more photos to get 1 or 2 that are good!

If you have photo editing software, great, but even many smart phone photo apps have a built in “magic wand” or other tool or filter that can enhance the photo’s colors and brightness, too.

Bonus tips

1. Sometimes you already have the photos, or have to use photos given to you. If you can get the photos on to your smart phone, you can use Instagram’s built in “stories” or other photo apps to add fun colorful stickers and words to your pet photos. Like this:




2. Try upside down cats….


3. Belly up! The example below is not the greatest photo technically by any means, but his adopter told me she thought it was hysterical and adorable…



3. Easy handmade colorful cat collars (cut fabric strips tied to an elastic, no sewing needed)…


4. Even just a purple towel and portrait mode to blur the background…



If you try these tips (or have others to share) share with our community on the Adopt-a-Pet.com Facebook Pro page.

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