Professional cat photographer Nils Jacobi has built up a following of millions for his feline photographs and videos. Known as The Catographer, he has over 149,000 followers on Instagram and 3.8m followers on TikTok on his channels called FurryFritz, named after one of his cats.
His stunning photos and funny videos have shown the joy of cats and given an insight into the art of capturing cats. Based in Germany, Nils has recently won pet influencer awards. We caught up with him for a chat to ask him about his success and the secrets of taking brilliant feline images…
Nils Jacobi - The Catographer
Q: Nils, you’re known by millions worldwide through social media as The Catographer. How did you become a professional cat photographer?
A: I started photographing in 2011 after I graduated in industrial design. In the following years, I tried almost every genre of photography and a lot of photography techniques but what satisfied me the most was action photography — capturing fast movements and splashing water for example.
I was really fascinated by pictures of running, jumping, and playing dogs, and was like: ‘Challenge accepted! I will do this with cats.’ At that point, I noticed that there’s a big audience on social media for this kind of content (cats in general, but only few people that do this ambitiously), so I started my Instagram account named after my first cat Fritz.
After I started my TikTok account in 2020, things got serious and I was able to become a Catographer for a living. I create commercial content for clients internationally and see myself not primarily as an influencer, but more like an artist — a Catographer or Cat Content Creator.
I love putting effort into the content I create and I think that’s what people recognised and why they started following me. My most watched videos are my behind-the-scenes photoshoots where people can see how I produce my images and videos.
It was my passion for creating cat photos and videos that pushed me forward step by step.
Nils loves action shots.
Q What is it like working with cats in a studio? How do you manage to get such great shots?
A: My living room and my garden are my ‘studios.’ When I shoot other cats, I always do this at their homes where they feel comfortable. I would not recommend taking a cat to another place to take pictures or videos because you will see it in the results. You have to be very patient, but luckily almost all cats are corrupt! With toys, treats, or kitty highs (catnip or valerian) you can get them to cooperate most of the time!
Q You have over 140,000 followers on Instagram and over 3.8m on Tik Tok. How did your channels become so popular?
A: I started TikTok at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020 and quickly learned how to create entertaining cat videos that have the potential to go viral. I created about 70 clips with more than one million views each within a year or so. I also created some of the most watched cat clips on TikTok (40 —130million). Nowadays, the fastest way to become popular with what you do is going viral on social media. But it’s not just that — I think it’s also important that people can really see or feel your passion for what you are doing.
Q Where does your inspiration come from?
A: That’s a good question! I’ve always been a creative person and I love thinking outside of the box. There are a lot of successful people on social media that just copy ideas from other creators. Their whole success is based on copying viral videos. My videos have also been copied a lot, but I take that as a compliment. My approach is creating unique content and amazing people with my ideas and the visual realisation of them. I would miss the creative process if I just copied successful stuff.
Q Where does your love of cats come from? Did you own cats growing up?
A: I never had animals before Fritz. I was allergic to them as a kid and when I was older, I had a friend that owned cats and I noticed my allergy was gone. It was more like a spontaneous decision to adopt a cat and I’m so happy that I made the best decision ever without knowing it back then.
Nils captures cats in their own environment.
Q What would be your top tips for cat owners to take great photographs of their pets?
A: This is a hard question but I knew it was coming! I recommend trying not to follow too many rules of photography and have fun in the first place. You also don’t need an expensive camera to take great photos. The quality of light and expression of the cat is the most important thing in my opinion.
If you want to have a tip anyways: Try to capture them on eye level. Have your light source slightly above the lens and make them look at the camera with the help of toys or treats and you will start noticing a difference.
I often get asked what camera I use — 99.5 per cent of my shots can be taken with almost any entry level camera that is able to release an external flash. The more expensive your gear, the more reliable it is. That’s the only difference. Today, almost everyone can purchase used equipment to create stunning results.
His feline images are amazing!
Q How does it feel to have made your passion for cats into a career?
A: It’s an incredible feeling, kind of surreal and it changed my view on many things. I would never ever do a job over a long period again that totally displeases me. There’s always a way to monetise your passion somehow if you really want to.
Q What message would you give to all your fans and followers?
A: Thank you for all your messages telling me that my content made you laugh, helped you through hard times, or cheered you up when you were down. I read every single message and try to reply to them all! Treat your kitties like Kings and Queens, or you might be reincarnated as a mouse in your next life!
Nils recommends photographing cats at eye level.
You’ve won awards as a pet influencer. Tell us about the awards and what they mean.
Since pets are very popular on social media, there are a lot of companies that want to benefit from that and promote their businesses with the help of ‘Petfluencers.’ There is an agency (TONY Petfluencer agency) that specialises in these kind of influencers and they organise campaigns for clients from the pet industry. To show their appreciation for people like me, they started this event where the most engaged and most successful accounts get awarded for their work. It was an incredible experience for me to meet people that share my passion and also do this ambitiously. I won the Audience award and the Video Creator of the Year award.
Follow The Catographer
Check out FURRYFRITZ on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.