It is wrong to reject black cats up for adoption because they are hard to photograph

I have discovered that one reason why black cats are less likely to be adopted at rescue shelters is because adopters think that they are harder to photograph. In the modern world where it seems that everyone has a smartphone incorporating a great camera, taking photographs has become an integral activity to the average person’s lifestyle. Everyone takes photos of everything. This is in complete contrast to 30 years ago when relatively speaking very few photos were taken.

It is partly to do with social media. People want to upload their snapshots to websites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Okay, I get that but I don’t get the idea that black cats make bad photos. Yes, they are a bit more of a challenge photographically speaking because their coats absorb light but you can achieve some very special photos of black cats which are superior to photos of non-black cats.


The reason is that you can create some great shapes with black cats. This is for the obvious reason that the black body provides a natural contrast to the background which is usually much lighter. Here are two example from Pinterest:

Black cat - great shapes

Black cat – great shapes. Source: arnold-ziffel, via beth-anne2. I have adjusted the colour balance of this photo.

Black cat - great shapes

Black cat – great shapes. Photo in public domain. This is an Exotic SH.


Another reason why black cats photos can be stunning is when the eyes are the centre of focus and they are surrounded by a dense black. You can do a lot with a jet black background to stunning cat eyes.

Black cat - stunning eyes

Black cat – stunning eyes. Photo in public domain.

Black cat - stunning eyes

Black cat – stunning eyes. Photo in public domain.

For more conventional photos, the trick to photographing black cats is to think of two forms of lighting. One form of lighting should ensure that the coat is lit sufficiently well. A well-groomed, black coat can shimmer in nice light. Just make sure that the cat is well lit. In full sunshine is great or direct the light from a lamp at the cat.

Film inspires people to adopt black cats

Bombay cat – a jet black purebred black cat. Photo: copyright Helmi Flick.

Camera settings

If it is a conventional tungsten light source (a standard light bulb) make sure that you set the appropriate setting on your phone. All the smartphone cameras have settings to adjust the camera to take neutral photos, properly color balanced under a wide range of light sources from daylight to neon lights. Learn to use these settings. They are easy to find. It’ll make all the difference in image quality.

Black cat semi-silhouette

The alternative form of lighting for a black cat is to go for a silhouette light so that the black cat creates a statuesque shape. Make sure the light is generally behind the cat with a bit of fill light to provide some detail in the fur. The picture below is somewhat like this.

Statuesque MC

Statuesque MC – Maine Coon. Photo: Tim Malloy.

With a bit if technique black cats make the best photos. It is just a question of learning a few tricks.

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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