If you have been relying on stock photography for your cat images or dog snapshots? You might find yourself out of step with Google’s latest algorithm change. They want to see you and your pets on your blog. Visible authenticity is now key for every pet blogger aiming to showcase everything from dog bowls to cat fountains and kitty couture to bespoke leashes. Let’s take a look at a few fast skill boosts you can use to make sure your photos have a touch of quality.
No you don’t need fancy professional photography equipment (but if you have it start learning to use it). Today’s smartphones shoot images of outstanding quality, and many even shoot in RAW format which you can adjust using Affinity Photo, Photoshop or a smartphone app.
- Bookmark my Camera RAW for Beginners
Better Pet Photos? Try the Rule of Thirds
Let’s start with something you might have heard about, and which can immediately make your photos look more pleasing to your viewers. The Rule of Thirds.
You don’t need to be a slave to this ‘rule’, but it’s a good guide to begin with and when your photos start to improve (which they will) you will gain confidence. Use this as a starting point and, when you feel like it, break the rule and take lots of photos without it. It’s obvious to say this but remember that taking lots of photographs really does help you improve.
The rule of thirds is a principle that states that a photo is most appealing when the points of interest of its subjects are placed along lines which divide the image into thirds, both horizontally and vertically.Beginner’s Guide
The points don’t just indicate good spots to position your cat, they also help you balance your composition. Wherever you are taking your cat’s photo at home try to keep this concept in mind. Here’s an example of how it works. Had Salem the black cat here been in the centre of the fame I would have lost the ‘leading line’ of chairs going towards the back of the cafe.
Points of interest placed in these intersections help your photo become more balanced. They creates tension, energy and interest.ExpertPhotography.com
Don’t Cut Off Your Cat’s Ears
This is so easy to do. Yes, this applies to dogs as well!
If you are in doubt about your cats position in a frame, pull back a bit. The number of half eared cats I took photos of when I started must run into the zillions so let me save you a lot of frustration. You can always crop closer to you cat later and make the photo look better so give yourself a bit of space around your cat.
This silly photo of Phoebe emphasizes the point ‘stay back’ advice. You think your picture is carefully framed but this happens. Phoebe was not happy to be the victim of such a disaster from her favourite pet photographer. I made up for it later with some cuter shots, honest.
What went wrong with my photo?
Here’s a quick analysis of a commn mistake.
Instead of zooming in with my lens, I thought I would be clever and I tried physically to get a bit closer to take the portrait. As you can see I got too close and Phoebe’s ear tips have disappeared. Not my best moment, so don’t make the same mistake.
Maybe she sensed it, from that suspicious look. I am including a successful photograph of Phoebe wth a lot of space to crop closer.
Fill The Frame
The frame means the edge of your photograph. Filling it means getting really close to your cat so nothing else is visible. You can do this by zooming with a DSLR, a point and shoot or a smartphone digital zoom – but you need to hold your camera steady.
Digital zooms will magnify every small shake, so support or brace yourself as you shoot. Be brave and fearless and make sure you can’t see anything else but your cat (not even the family member who may be holding it at the time!)
Filling the frame can transform a good photograph into a Cat Writers Association Certificate Winner like our friend and colleague Sweet Purrfections. Taken with an iPhone the camera focuses on the gorgeous Persian face and removes any risk of background distractions. The lesson from this lovely photo? A good eye can improve a photo as much as the latest technology.
Know Your Camera Pre-Sets
Digital cameras support the ability to choose among a number of configurations, or modes, for use in different situations. These include Aperture Priority (A/As) Shutter Priority (Tv/S) Landscape, Portrait and Sport (Burst) modes.Tuts-Plus Full List of Pre-Set Modes
This picture of Sparkle the tortie is completely different, and more successful than my earlier shot of poor Phoebe and uses one of my Canon camera pre-sets (or modes) – Aperture Priority. Yes, the photograph ignores the Rule of Thirds, but it is sharp and clear and Sparkle has two complete ears.
I hope you can see with Sparkle’s photograph, just how effective a pre-set mode can be on a DSLR camera. I always say, never be afraid to turn the dial to A/Av or Tv/S or even something like Portrait or Landscape. Unless you push your camera to the limit you will never know what works for you. I had little time but still managed to achieve a lovely background and a sharply focused cat.
- Break the rule of thirds when you have good reason too.
Sparkle’s picture is not edited, although it can be improved (with some sharpening and lightening) but Av mode has given it a lovely soft bokeh background. It is fuzzy and soft focus which doesn’t distract too much from the cat.
The pre-set Av/A in particular can really soften your background which is useful when you can’t avoid photographing a room or location that is be busy or untidy. Smartphones now include a portrait mode that gives you a faux bokeh effect and there are dozens of free and paid apps that create the effect if you need it.
- I zoomed in as much as I could and left the rest to the camera. I had just moments to take the picture – it worked.
TOP TIP: If you are worried about adjusting camera settings and composing pictures at the same time, set your camera to AUTO or pre-set AV/A mode and concentrate on composing your photo. The composition practice you do helps you develop an eye for what works and what doesn’t.
Always give your camera modes a try – they might surprise you especially as a newbie.
Sometimes Blurry Happens
As I take lots of closer cat pictures I leave my camera in Av/A mode most of the time but this next picture is not composed and definitely does not have not in the right settings. Honestly? You will find the same thing with your pet images! Blurry happens but it’s is not the end of the world for your photoshoot. In my photo, Miranda was leaping a gap nearly 2.5 metres (8 ft.) wide so I felt blurry worked and this is an important point to remember.
If you have a pet and a product that needs movement, or action photography then sometimes your leaping fuzzy feline or blurred dog chase tells a story more effectively than a cat posing or a dog in a calm drop pose. It sends a message of a pet enjoying life at a fast pace. See how much you can capture and be prepared to delete a lot of failures but you will grab a successful action shot.
Blog Photography Resources
- We all need guidelines before we cut loose and explore new territory with rule breaking like this: looking down at your cat.
- What is Bokeh and how can I use it?
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can create impressive cat photographs and fun movies with the camera they carry.
She is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.