Written by Marjorie Dawson

Capture Your Special Cat Moments

Capture Your Special Cat Moments

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We are nearly at the end of 2020, wow where did the year go? Time is flying so I wanted to share a special post to help kickstart your inspiration and help you capture more of those special cat moments in 2021.

How will you choose that special memory from a whole camera full of almost identical shots? How do you decide which is best? Where do you start?

Let me inspire you to take your very best portraits so read on and share the fun.

  • TIP: I have created an entire page of inspirational How-Tos for newbies if you need them.

Taking Those Special Photos

Let’s get the first adjustments to your camera right and everything else will be so much easier.

You will need to operate burst, sport or continuous shooting mode on your camera. With this setting activated, your camera will keep taking photos until you either lift your finger off the shutter or you fill your memory card. For a smartphone, burst mode can be activated by pressing your shutter, on a compact or a DSLR check your manual as each brand of camera is different. Once you have set the fast shooting mode you will be able to take a series of fast shots much more easily.

You might notice that I have not noted the specific camera settings in this post, and there are no ISO or F-stop numbers. I tried adding these, but, decided that adding the settings overloads the photos with ‘too much information’. I want you to enjoy taking your own special images not spend time hunting for the ‘right ISO setting’ or the best ‘shooting mode’.

Camera Model Canon EOS 1300D or the Rebel T6
My Canon 1300D

Camera Settings Tips

Use Auto on your camera if this keeps it low stress for you, Av (A) or ‘sport’ works on a DSLR and compact too. The aim here is to explore and focus on one skill, capturing a special photo using Burst or Sport mode and having fun. This is your photo shoot and your cat(s), so enjoy yourself.

By pressing and holding the camera shutter for a short period you will find yourself with approximately 6 – 24 photos and each of these photographs will be slightly different. It is these tiny differences that can give you a winning shot letting you capture a special moment and celebrate your cat’s quirky character.

TIP: If you are using sport mode on your DSLR and usually take photos in RAW mode, please turn it off. The RAW type of image is processed much more slowly than the usual JPEG cameras shoot in.

  • See my RAW post for a detailed explanation of the how’s and why’s of RAW.

Can I Use Fill Flash On My Cat Photographs?

A reader asked about using ‘fill flash’ because they had read about it but were confused by the term. Flash is flash, isn’t it? I write about in it detail in this post here. But, briefly, unlike the pop-up flash of your camera which makes your photographs look washed out and colourless, fill flash does exactly what it says. It fills in just the darker corners.

If you want to try this yourself take your cat into the garden, or a catio, and find an area of dappled shade or contrasting light and shadow. Then practise using your own fill flash. Let your cat become accustomed to the camera sounds and lights and the flash will not be too intrusive because it is happening in daylight.

Prepare to be surprised as your photos transform from ‘dark blobs’ into real photos of cats showing depth and detailed features like this photo of Natasha, one of the Dash Kitten Cat Crew.

Tuxedo cat taken with fill flash
Natasha taken using fill flash on my Canon 1300D

Selecting Your Special Moments

Let me give you two examples of how I chose a special moment from a series of photographs. I hope these examples will show you how to approach a challenge like this.

  • The thing I realised that matters as much as camera settings or location was patience.

I had to be prepared to wait until I hit the right moment and, especially for Dot’s portrait, took some deep calming breaths to help myself sit still and wait. You know your cat or cats, and will be able to anticipate some of their quirks or actions. These are perfect times to capture cute moments so think about the best location or position you might need to be in if this is your goal.

TOP TIP: If you wonder when you are going to find time in your busy day to take pictures take a breath. You can’t be ready every minute of the day, so set aside time when you feel you can focus on taking pictures of these quirky moments. If you have your smartphone with you more often never be afraid to use that instead of a compact or DSLR. The kind of Android or iPhone you might use is now part of many serious photographer’s camera kit and creates images of such quality they can be printed as large pieces of wall art.

Almost. The sweet face but Tiger Lily turns away.

Lots and Lots of Photos

To have a good chance of catching that perfect cat moment remember that you will need to take far more photos than you think at first. Don’t be afraid to take dozens and dozens, if not hundreds of shots, when you feel something special could happen. Working in burst/sport mode allows you to take photos moments apart and it is the perfect capture of these moments that I showcase as examples.

You will delete plenty of the images but remember they are digital and you are not wasting paper. Don’t stress, try to have fun and if you feel like it explore your camera settings a bit too.

No-one is standing at your shoulder judging your photography, you have a goal a precious moment that you will keep forever.

Take a Moment to Step Back

I recommend that you wait a while after downloading your images before you sit and review your images. Let your mind clear and the excitement of taking your photographs settle a little.

This might sound like odd advice but, think for a moment. You are very close to your cats because you love them, and close to the photos you take because you are trying hard to catch something special. You can find yourself slightly overwhelmed and worried in case the whole adventure didn’t work as you hoped.

Take a break to clear your head. I learned to do this after deleting one too many great photos because I was tired and grumpy. Thankfully I was able to grab the shot out of the computer rubbish bin, but I had a few frantic moments until I got it back!

Special Moment Showcase

I know you will be sat there thinking ‘it’s easy for her to say but how does this all work in practice?’ So I have two special cat photos that catch a special moment, and I let you know how they happened and what I had to do to get them. I tell you now that if I can take photos like these, you can too. I will not listen if you try to tell me otherwise – OK? Let’s take a look at the photographs.

Ginger tabby cat closeup

Connor Gets a Clean

While visiting my favourite source for good photos away from home Neko Ngeru Cat Adoption Cafe, two of the resident cats were doing some gentle grooming.

Tiger Lily is the golden tabby on the left, felt that Connor the grey tabby needed a spruce up so she set to work. The two cats were sat in a spot of bright sunshine so the pair caught my eye. The sun also darkened the background of the cafe so, I crossed my fingers, lifted my camera and began shooting. I used Aperture Priority on my Canon DSLR.

After shooting, I had a series of about 20 photographs before the cats moved apart. Nine were good enough to keep for review and most of the others were bleached and overexposed due to the sun. I sat down at home and, after a break, looked carefully at these images. The differences in the photographs seemed small at first.

The first photograph is ‘almost’ the cute shot, several look sweet and appealing and make you smile but the last in the burst of photos is the cutest moment ever. Connor’s eyes close in sheer pleasure as Tiger Lily grooms him. After cropping the photo in close – it’s the perfect happy capture.

Two grooming cats showing affection

Action Moment With Dot Kitten

This second spotlight might look familiar. The final shot won me a Muse® Medallion at the CWA awards. It was one of a series I took out on the front deck. Dot was a chatty cat and loved to vocalise and this is exactly what she did when I was taking her photo outside. She began by looking thoughtfully and then

A cute and memorable portrait – but….
Then Dot looked away. I had to be patient…

The third shot is the charm. Dot opened her mouth and meowed, right on cue! Right in the middle of a blizzard of photos taken in sport mode.

She was the best chatty tabby ever and I am glad I captured some special moments of her outsized personality.

Cat photo of tabby shouting loudly
JACKPOT! A wonderful shot and that captured a special moment.

Summarising Your Top Tips For Capturing a Cute Shot

  • Set Burst or Continuous Shooting mode. This may already be set up and once its active you don’t need to worry again. Check your manual.
  • Be patient but ready to fire off a burst of shots as quickly as you can.
  • Don’t stress if your photographs are tilted, crooked or your cat isn’t perfectly placed. You can edit later.
  • Keep trying. My sample shots are a small selection of the dozens I take and the hundreds of ‘not quite right’ photographs I delete.
  • Keep Trying, and have lots of fun.

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Marjorie Dawson

Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.

She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

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12 thoughts on “Capture Your Special Cat Moments”

  1. Great advice ! It’s so true, you often have to shoot 38927854 times to finally get 3 beautiful photos, MOL ! Purrs

    Reply
  2. Love these photos, Marjorie. That last shot is SO special!

    Happy New Year to you and the gang.

    XO

    Reply
  3. Beautiful photos. I used to use the burst mode a lot when I was out with the boys and got some good photos of Flynn. My favourite was when I caught him in a mid air leap after a mouse. I think I used it for a Wordless Wednesday on my other blog some time ago. I will have a look.

    Reply
  4. Loved those pictures and the tips. On my camera there is a sport mode, is that the same as burst on a smart phone?

    Happy New Year to you and yours!

    Reply
  5. Happy New Year! I used burst for my niece’s wedding in October and got some great pictures. Thanks for all your tips.

    Reply

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