Mastering Cat Lighting for Insta-Glory

Cat on blue background

Forget catnip and fancy costumes, the true secret to captivating Instagram photos of your cat lies in harnessing the power of light. Think of it as your secret weapon to transform your grumpy cat into a glamorous meowdel, sending likes and followers your way as people fall in love with your cat.

When posting on Instagram some people work hours to find the correct time for maximum engagement. For some of us this can be a struggle so I suggest you learn as you go and post (or schedule) at different times and on different days to see what works best for you, wherever you are in the world; Europe, New Zealand, America or maybe Australasia.

  • Research popular hashtags in your niche. What will give you that winning hashtag or shot idea?
  • Use relevant hashtags to your photos (seasonal, birthdays, events).
  • Change up your hashtags for each post. Don’t rely on the same ones every time, add new ones to your favourites.
  • Adopt a single hashtag that is not overused and make it your own. My friend Henry and his Mom use #TailWagWisdom, the name of their blog. This also speaks about what they do. Others use it but a lot of their images will be seen at that hashtag.

Embrace the Natural Glow

Mother Nature knows best when it comes to making your cat look perfect. Soft morning light filtering through your window will wrap your cat in a warm, ethereal glow. An early trip into the garden will do the same thing. This light, often called the ‘golden hour’ highlights your cat’s best features and fur. Think sunbeams dancing across whiskers or a golden halo around your cat’s soft fur.

A bright cat photograph would be the perfect #MondayMotivation or #MancatMonday #GoldenHour.

Pet Lighting for Instagram. Tabby kitten looking out of a window
Kitten by a window – natural light

Master the Art of Backlighting

Turn your cat into a magical silhouette and you might catch a lot of attention on Instagram. A simple square format image would be a stunning addition to your Instagram feed.

Remember that not every portrait has to be full face and by positioning the light source behind your cat, you’ll create a mesmerizing rim of light around their fur, adding depth and drama to your shot. This technique works especially well for those lucky enough to be owned by a black cat but every cat makes am awesome subject.

You can use #silhouette #catphotography #magicalcats #shadow #shadowcats.

Rest In Peace Cat Banner
Cat Silhouette used in a graphic.

Spotlight Stunning Cat’s Eyes

A cat’s eyes, like those of every human, are mesmerising windows to the soul. The best way to capture your cat’s eye is with a closeup such as a 50mm DSLR/mirrorless lens, or from further away with a zoom lens. This is great if your cat dislikes you getting too close with the camera. If you look closely at the image below you can see the white house and silhouetter of myself taking the photography.

On a smartphone you can use a macro facility. Check your smartphone camera to see if it has this function. If not, you may be able to use a clip-on lens for your smartphone this can be a zoom or even a macro. Yes, clip on smartphone lenses exist!

What you are looking is to capture is the ‘catch light‘ the small sparkle that makes every cat’s eyes come alive.

Macro Cat Eye Photo
Cat’s Eye Catchlight – ISO 200 50 mm F/3.5 1/400

Catchlights are the bright, specular highlights found in a subject’s eyes that are reflections of the light source or sources.

SLRLounge

Fun Instagram Hashtags for Cats

  • #catphotography
  • #instacat
  • #meow
  • #purrfect
  • #kitty
  • #feline
  • #cutiecat
  • #catsagram
  • #mainecoon
  • blackcat
  • #bengal
  • #catjump
  • #derpcat

As a bonus on some ‘phones, you can shoot in RAW format which gives you more opportunity to adjust your smartphone photos much more later on.

A Final Note: Smartphones and Light

I need to add a helpful reflection on how recent smartphone camera technology has raced ahead to make cat lighting so much easier. In fact, its even better than a DSLR at times. Recent developments for both iPhone and Android mean they are more capable of using low light.

You can see in this sample image of Toulouse where the only light is a single lamp lower down on the left-hand side. With my old iphone 6S I would have struggled and probably failed to capture an image like this but, with the newer iPhone 12, I tried and succeeded in an atmospheric shot that looks really good.

Cat in dim smartphone light. Pet Lighting for Instagram
Smartphone Low Light

The Beloved Pet Furniture Cat Tree

Cat on brown background

Ever look at your cat tree and suddenly realise it is looking a little bit rough around the edges? The scratching poles are unravelling due to enthusiastic play, the platforms are looking threadbare after being the favourite launchpad for your cat crew. It’s all looking a little bit raggedy and tattered.

You realise that, maybe, the time has come to look for a replacement cat tree. Something that might, with luck, last a lot longer even if it means budgeting to spend a little bit more than you expected. Let me show you the value of a slightly more expensive cat tree that could be perfect for you.

  • Please note this is NOT a sponsored post.

Choosing Your Cat Tree

This is what I did and I recommend you do the same. Start with a plan – this tree will be with you for a long time. Look at your space, the size you might need and how it will look when it’s set up in your home.

I checked online, and reviewed the many models available (lots made in China but these are limited in style and size). I had a budget, slightly more than usual as this was part of my Christmas present from the cat dad, but set one yourself and try to stick to it, (or near it).

I also visited our local pet supermarket. Their scratcher selection did not appeal to me personally. Many of the scratchers were plush carpet and would look out of place in our chaotic and busy cat filled house. Most importantly, none of them seemed tall enough to fit our very specific location.

Cat tree with carpeted centre  posts and wooden platforms.
Tree Showing Base
  • Then I had a lightbulb moment. The local company that created Jack’s custom made senior cat steps, Beloved Pets, might be able to help.

It turns out that Beloved Pets don’t just make pet stairs and fine dog crate covers (that look gorgeous in any living room!) They make a large range of outdoor catio climbers and, exactly what I was looking for, a tall cat tree! Not only are they already trusted suppliers to Dash Kitten, they are a helpful and friendly company so I could ask questions without feeling silly.

If you are looking for a cat tree built to last, I suggest, wherever you are, you check out local craftspeople. Our tree was made to order for our 3 metre (9 ft approx) ceiling space.

What is in the Cat Tree Package?

You will find a sturdy base that the carpeted poles are attached to as you build the cat tree upwards. The base is plain wood and can be finished with a sealant that fits in with your decor [if this is something you need to take into account].

There are three broad, sturdy shelves that make comfortable perching spots and these are a popular look out point for our cat family. We have one low shelf positioned towards the window for Bird TV and the other shelf points into the living room. This second shelf is useful for watching out for first signs of supper and acts as a strong jumping off point for the cat bed on the next level up.

Ceiling Support

One thing I was worried about. Would the cats find the sleeping area too high to reach? It seemed very high to me and I thought it would take a long time for anyone to jump to it, but I was wrong. Our senior cat Sienna is more than happy to be queen of all she surveys by leaping up with total confidence to the cat ‘sleeping cup’.

Cat Tree Assembly

The tree fits together easily with strong metal rods connecting each section and the pillars screw neatly into place. For those who are unsure of assembly Beloved Pets email a clear set of instructions for you to follow. The instructions advise that you ensure the poles are firmly screwed into place, so cat dad strength came is useful here.

Cat reaches up while climbing a cat tree
Senior Cat Sienna Climbs Confidently

In fact, I would suggest that an extra pair of hands to assist with assembling the tree is helpful. This is especially important when you add the final ceiling brace, (which has a degree of flexibility to fit different ceiling heights).

A second pair of eyes helped me get the cat tree straight and then Paul’s height allowed us to tap the ceiling brace upright into place with a hammer (as the interior spring of the brace is very strong).

It is worth noting that the cat tree is a bit more flexible than you might be used to, simply because it is so tall! However, our cats fly up and down at speed and ignore the slight flex of the tree which you can see from the video when Toulouse leaps up to the top.

View looking down at cat tree platforms from above

Who Was First To The Top of the Tree?

Our old cat tree was about 2 metres (6 ft. Approx.) and no-one ventured up high until Toulouse joined the Dash Kitten Crew about two years ago. Once he ventured right to the top others followed so, I was not surprised that he has been the first to scramble right to the top platform. After this I saw Thomas watching with a calculating look in his eye and knew he would venture up soon after.

If you a supporter of small businesses here in New Zealand or around the world, do not hesitate to explore the world of artisan pet furniture. You will find a community full of invention and creativity ready and able to help you with your own cat tree challenges, crate surround issues or wall platforms.

Effective Double Exposure Cat Photos

Ready to transform your cat photos into stunning masterpieces? In this quick guide, I will explore the fun and fascinating world of double exposure on your smartphone, using just one free app called Snapseed. Grab your sense of fun and adventure, your smartphone and some of your favourite cat photos!

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

App used here:

Photoshop Camera (free) calls its filters ‘lenses‘. Explore your own app (if you have one installed) for similar filter functions.

With the power of Adobe ‘Sensei’, Photoshop Camera understands the scene you try to capture and suggests lens effects and filters that can instantly transform it into a unique creative worthy of being posted on social channels like Instagram. It not only makes everyday photos better but also makes it easy to share.

Adobe.com

How To Explore Double Exposures

A strong central figure or motif is a great place to start trying out your smartphone app’s double exposure function. After this you will find that it takes a little bit of experimentation to make sure your cat is nicely located for the exposure or filter to work best. For my two images here, one cat is positioned on the right of the photo and the other more central.

If you look at the Window Reflection experiment below, you can see that a lot of the image was originally included is removed. I am guessing that you, like me, will have spotted the alert expression from Candy the cafe cat’s face as he sits upright, and I wanted to focus in on that lovely expression!

The ‘Window Reflections‘ Lens

If you look at the original image it is quite ordinary, a cat cafe customer enjoys furry company. But, Candy’s alert and focused expression caught my eye and I experimented with a bit of cropping to draw our eyes to him before I tried a filter. There was still some busy background but, with a layer of refection all of this background vanishes.

  • Tip: Don’t stress about your background too much until you try a filter. This can successfully obscure your busy background.

Candy is transformed into a cat who appears to be behind a colourful glass window in a busy metropolis with a whole world on the other side. The image creates, for me, a touch of kitty Blade Runner mystery.

Original image – with potential!

The second experiment I tried was a double exposure surprise. It looks like an amazing book cover you might see on the best seller lists. Just add your own title at the top – right?

The Double Exposure Lens

This can transform your double exposure as it did to mine. Each of the four lenses uses a different background and this changes how your image s changed. Miranda is reversed behind the cityscape.

  • Cityscape
  • Forest Landscape
  • Industrial Landscape
  • Rainy Pine Trees
full face photograph of a tuxedo cat

This screenshot below shows you what Photoshop Camera looks like in use. You can see the Windows Reflection lens and the Double Exposure Lens under the main image.

Finally, a warning. You will find that a lot of your experiments will make you laugh! Sometimes your ideas are not going to work, like this experiment of a closeup of Phoebe, our dark haired cat. Sadly, the app thinks she is part of a pine forest! Let me know in the comments if you have had any triumphs or disasters with your own apps, or Photoshop Camera!

Smartphone camera screen with double exposure

See my Snapseed App tutorial here and get creative!

Bonus shot of Snapseed Filter ‘Frame’ showing edge of photographic film filter.

ginger and white cat with camera

Portrait of a Tree Climber Cat

Blue background and image of a camera on the right-hand side.

Ever had a day when every cat photo you take is a total disaster? That was my thought when I downloaded the captures of our tree climber cat Toulouse! The downloads looked like black ink – terrible. How could I put them right? Let me tell you.

Don’t be in a Hurry

I was, but to be fair, I had to act quickly as Toulouse almost seemed to fly up the tree like he had wings. I grabbed my DSLR for a chance of some potentially cute, fun shots! But this happened…..

ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000

As you can see from the first capture, the cat and the tree are almost impossible to see. But, as I had shot the photos in Camera Raw I hoped I might be able to rescue some of them when I downloaded the photos to my computer.

It is important to get the exposure within at least one stop of the ‘correct’ in-camera exposure. This is because if an image is overexposed the highlights ‘blowout’ and the detail cannot be rescued. [The same applies to under exposure – detail is lost]

Digital Camera

Why Camera Raw Saved the Day

If you look at the quote from Digital Camera, this is why my photographs were under exposed. I was more than one stop away from a good or correct exposure setting. Thank heavens for Camera RAW when I totally fluff the settings on my Canon!

RAW saves each cat photograph as data, not as an image. You can imagine it looking a little bit like computer printouts full of figures you can’t figure out. Shooting this way means I was able, this time, to adjust the images in Affinity Photo afterwards.

TIP: The one thing RAW cannot do is take photographs using Continuous or Burst mode because there is so much data being processed the camera ‘trips over its own feet’ and stops taking photos.

Check out cheeky Toulouse

Tabby cat looking down from a branch through leaves
ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000 (Edited)

To rescue this cat photo from blackness I had to:

  • Increase the brightness substantially.
  • Sharpen the clarity of the cat photo a lot.
  • But, I realised that the editing was worth it.

Look what Toulouse was doing! Not only is he surrounded by gorgeous dappled leaves, he is sticking out his tongue!

I was able to take a lot of photos but only a couple are worth sharing. I also want to share this second cat photo because it shows a cat’s intensity as it navigates along a branch using all its tree climbing skills. I had half my attention of focusing the camera and half ready to catch him if he fell.

Again, I had to edit like a crazy person as the original was sooty black but, with adjustments to exposure and sharpness a rather fun and dramatic image appeared.

Tabby cat looking down from a branch through leaves
ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000 (Edited)

Why were the photos so dark?

I had left my camera set to Shutter Priority after practising some movement shots of Toulouse the previous day.

Of course, I didn’t check to see if I had my favourite Aperture Priority on which might have helped. If I use Shutter Priority I find I need to bump up my ISO to 400 or even 800 for a decent cat photo, whether it is a tree climber or not.

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