How to Take a Photo With Your Cat That’s as Good as Taylor Swift’s “Time” Cover · The Wildest

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How to Get a Holiday Photo With Your Cat as Good as Taylor Swift’s “Time” Cover

Maybe even better.

by Charles Manning
December 7, 2023
Taylor Swift is TIME Person of The Year.
Photo Courtesy of @Time

Did you hear? Taylor Swift ’s cat Benjamin Button is on the cover of TIME! Taylor is there too, of course. She is TIME’s person of the year for 2023 and brought Mr. Button along on the shoot, where he did what cats can’t help but do and completely stole the show with his majestic, fluffy fur coat, soulful blue eyes, and oh-so-boopable nose. No doubt he is used to having his picture taken — Swift is, after all, a dedicated cat mom, which means at least half her camera roll is almost certainly pictures of Mr. Button — but even so, he did a fabulous job. I mean, just look at that body language, that serene, inquisitive face. Mr. Button ate and left not a single crumb. 

Now the question is: How do you get your cat to do the same thing? After all, the holidays are in full swing and nothing brightens the season quite like a good pet photo. Sure, your phone, like Swift’s, is undoubtedly full of cat pics already, but if you want to create something really special this holiday season — and I know you do — hire a professional (or, you know, just a friend with a camera) and follow these tips.

1. Work around your cat’s own tolerance level. 

Benjamin Button clearly loves the spotlight, but your cat might be a little more camera shy — especially if you’ve recruited someone else to take the photo for you. It’s one thing to pose for a quick phone pic or us-ie, but quite another for your cat to be the subject of a full-on photo shoot, whether you’re posing with them or not. 

“If you want a ‘Happy Holiday’ feline photo, try to capture your cat doing activities they already do, adding a background or prop to make it more festive,” says feline behavior consultant and founder of Chatopia, Maggie Shuter. “You will get better photos when they are happy and in a comfortable space than when you are artificially posing them, which can cause discomfort.”

Cat behavior expert Dr. Mikel Delgado agrees that it's important to make sure the experience is not stressing your cat out. “You have to keep in mind what your cat will be comfortable with,” she says. “Do they enjoy being held? Are they comfortable with being held long enough to get a few photos?”

2. Practice your poses in advance.

Sometimes, even just holding your cat differently can be enough to turn them off and end the photo shoot early, so make sure you figure out what you want to do in advance and give your cat time to try it out and get used to it. 

After all, not every cat is comfortable being worn like a scarf à la Mr. Button. Some might not want to be held at all. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a lovely picture of them on your lap or perched on a shelf beside you. Make sure you have treats on hand to reward them for their willingness to try something new and whatever you do, don’t force them. The happier and more at ease your cat is, the longer they will tolerate having their picture taken and the more likely you are to get the shot you want.

“If you have the time and inclination, you can do some work to get your cat used to sitting on your shoulders or posing for pictures using positive reinforcement-based training,” says Dr. Delgado. “But keep in mind, training takes time and patience. So, holiday 2024 might be a more realistic goal.”

3. Skip the sweaters and cutesy costumes. 

Benjamin Button is stunning in his own fur coat and not a stitch more, and your cat will be, too. No need to gild the lily, as it were (besides lilies are incredibly toxic to cats). Plus, a photo shoot “is not the time to try something new,” Shuter says. “If you have never put your cat in a scarf or had a hat on their head before, don’t suddenly do it now.”

If you want to do something a bit more festive, Dr. Delgado suggests a holiday-themed collar or harness, provided your cat has worn something similar before and is used to the feeling. 

4. Take the photo shoot to them

Swift took Benjamin Button on set with her, but your cat might not be so adventurous. That’s OK. If your cat is a bit more on the skittish side, Dr. Delgado suggests bringing the camera to where they are, rather than the other way around.

5. Clean the house in advance. 

If you are shooting in your home, which Dr. Delgado certainly suggests, make sure to clean everything up at least one day in advance. Especially if your cat tends to be a bit more temperamental or shy, you don’t want to be running around and fussing with things at the last minute. It will stress your cat out and make them less cooperative. 

Also, think about all the places you tend to see your cat hanging out, and make sure those spots are neat as a pin, in case you end up having to bring the shoot to your cat’s locale. 

6. Read your cat’s body language. 

You’re a good pet parent. You know when your cat is unhappy. Don’t ignore the signs. “If your cat gets nervous, runs away, or struggles in your arms, they are not enjoying the experience,” Dr. Delgado says. In those cases, the best thing you can do is take a break and maybe rethink your approach.

7. Consider blocking your cat’s hiding spots.

It is possible that not having access to their hiding spots will only stress them out more, but this tip comes from cat photographer BriAnne Wills of Girls and Their Cats, who knows a thing or two about taking a good cat/human photo. Wills also suggests her clients have a lint roller on hand and plenty of treats and toys to keep their kitties happy on set. 

8. Be patient.

You know this, but even so, it bears repeating. “The truth is, getting the perfect photo of your cat is not easy,” professional cat photographer Andrew Marttila wrote for The Wildest earlier this year. “I often start [my sessions] by saying, ‘Before I begin, I want everyone to take a deep breath...and lower your expectations,” which always generates laughter from cat parents who know how difficult it can be to get a great shot. 

He went on: “Getting that perfect shot can take many, many tries. It’s easy to get frustrated in the moment, especially when you can envision the finished product and are a few milliseconds away from achieving the shot, only to have the cat suddenly bound off down the hallway...It’s essential to approach the situation with flexible, fluid ideas and a number of plan Bs. You (and your cat) will be way happier with the results.” 

Charles Manning

Charles Manning is an actor, writer, and fashion/media consultant living in New York City with his two cats, Pumpkin and Bear. Follow him on Instagram @charlesemanning.

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