I have been exploring new avenues with my camera and right now I am trying cat close-up photography. I have been discovering that this is a new way to look at my cats and it’s a lot of fun. I am enjoying myself so much that I wanted to share with you as many tips and tricks as possible.
This post aims to get you from frozen by
- I use technical terms you may not know, so I am including a Resources List at the bottom of this post.
A portrait is not just the picture of a cat, it may be a treasured memory or a funny social media share for friends. Make sure its a good one with our tips on cat close-up photography.
NOTE: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission. Clicking the links will not cost you extra money.
Close-up Pet Portraits
When I put out a call to blogging colleagues and camera users I discovered that smartphones, Point and Shoots and DSLR devices can all take an inspiring picture.
The images here are
What Camera Do You Need?
As you admire the images in this post, check out the devices they are taken with. Not everyone uses a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera for their animal
TOP TIP The best camera for cat photography is the camera you have, not the one in the shop window.
The message then? The hobby or business of pet photography does not mean an expensive top of the range ‘mirrorless’ camera. The three types of camera you are most likely to see and use are:
- Point and Shoot (P&S)
- Smartphone (SP)
- DSLR camera
Point and Shoot Cameras
Often called a compact camera, the point and shoot is a great option for your pet photo shoot if you don’t have a smartphone or if wrangling a heavy DSLR is just not what you want to do.
Compact cameras work better than smartphones in a wider range of light conditions. They usually come with a good zoom lens that is fantastic for getting close for your cat close-up without getting in their whiskers.
To find a good one do an online search for the ‘best compact camera’ type posts (until I do one!)
Many good point and shoot digital cameras have a ‘manual control’ option so it is worth checking your instruction manual to see what you can do, and how to make the most of the camera.
I have included the Powershot SX 530 in the camera recommendations for this post, as I have seen it in action and been impressed by the results. Check it out at our the link.
SUPER TIP Explore your camera. Read the manual and learn what your device can do. Do this and everything will be much easier. Even the simplest model has different options.DashKitten.com
If you have a recent smartphone, it will have a good camera. That camera will shoot images and video as amazing quality. After a lot of reading I came to the conclusion that the more recent the iPhone, say, or Android ‘phone the better your pictures will be BUT all phones take good pictures.
Your smartphone capacity – the number of pictures you can take, will depend on the model but I have never run out of space on my iPhone and I shoot lots of pictures.
Smartphone Know How:
- Smartphones can be fitted with a super close-up macro lens.
- You can change the image resolution on many newer models. This makes our images printable as a canvas or card.
I am putting my own Canon 1300D, known in the US as the Rebel T6, in the spotlight as I am enjoying my first explorations into the world of the DSLR. It’s great to be using the kind of camera used by famous photographers, although I guess these days even they have smartphone cameras too.
One thing worth remembering is this:
You will often be told when you read online DSLR how-to’s is that you need to go ‘manual’ and you need at least more than one lens to do anything worth doing. This is not correct.
The ‘go manual’ statement is intimidating for anyone new to DSLR camera. I have a Canon camera, I use a single lens and with these simple starter tools I have been exploring Av mode, Sport mode, and my camera’s other pre-sets and achieved excellent results that encourage me to keep learning.
Extra lenses come with experience. Invest in these when you have the skills to appreciate what they do. For a new camera user, expensive extra lenses are not essential to start taking pictures.
“I typically use my Canon or Nikon DSLR for the hands-down quality, but find the convenience of the iPhone fabulous”Dorothy Wills-Rafferty FiveSibes.com
I am including some of my own images in this post and these are taken with the ‘kit lens’ that came with my camera. There is no special cat photography lens, and the only extra equipment I have right now is a Manfrotto monopod for stability when my camera gets heavy.
If you want to choose extra lenses for a
Wait until you see what kind of pet photography appeals to you most. You could end up loving funny cats, dog pictures, shots of horses in motion, leaping animals, or getting exquisite super close-up shots of an animal’s eye but to know how you want to grow your skills you need to try as much as you can.
See what works with your basic camera, see what you love shooting, then decide if a macro or a spectacular zoom lens is what need. I would love to try a Macro lens and get really close to bees, or cats. That is my next goal. What might yours be?
What Else Do I Need For Feline Photography?
Apart from your camera of choice you will need:
- Stability for shooting pictures
- The willingness to crawl and climb
- A large bag of treats, because your model will expect to be paid.
What you won’t need to use your digital zoom. If you try to take pictures of a bird or dog from too far away you risk blurred and pixelated images
This comes with the territory when taking pet pictures. A manic kitten, a gracious senior cat (who won’t look at you), a dignified older hound or a temperamental bird need you to do something ordinary photographers can’t always do.
You need to be still, and quiet. A photographer you must be prepared to sit in one place a lot longer than you might be used to.
Patience helps you to cultivate a relationship of trust. You could be shooting pictures of a quirky family pet, or an animal nervous of strangers. Active kittens and community cats are skittish and they may not welcome the attention of a stranger – so you must build trust.
Everyone takes blurry pictures and even the experts don’t get it right every time. You might need extra help keeping your device from shaking and spoiling a shot.
This does not mean fancy equipment. Brace yourself against anything handy. This might be a door frame, a pile of books, resting an arm on your knee, or elbows on the floor.
If you do get camera shake, a small tripod for smartphones, DSLR’s and P&S can be a simple and effective solution. I have also been told that using flash can remove some camera wobble, although I have not tried this myself yet.
To get a close-up you need to get down at puppy level, or up at shelf level in your
BRIBES aka TREATS
Modelling fees are an essential part of your kit. No payment means no picture or second rate efforts with an uncooperative model. Check our colleague Summer at Sparklecat for the quality a treat based economy can generate.
If you are able to get a clicker, you will find it great for getting a cat’s attention in time to capture that moment. Our friend Kitty Cat Chronicles explain all about using a clicker for training.
Be Ready to Take Pictures Fast
It is not practical to suggest you should be constantly alert all the time, but if you intend to take pictures you need to
You can make your photographer life easier if you explore potential pre-sets for your pet photography. Pre-sets can get you up and running really fast because, until you gain experience, they will do the hard work for you.
The right camera settings for cat photography change with each device – check the manual.
Our colleague Sidewalk Shoes has the following to say about the AV (aperture priority) pre-set on a DSLR:
“Aperture priority just means that you are setting the aperture (the f-stop) and letting the camera choose all the other settings.
The lower the number of your aperture, like f1.8 or f2.8 will let in the most light and have a narrower depth of focus. So, your subject will be in focus, but the focus will drop off quickly and become blurry”.
- See if you can set focus lock. This allows you to focus then recompose a close-up shot which might be a help with a restless cat.
- Check your camera for special functions like ‘Sport mode’ for fast movement, or close-up Macro mode. These are often shown as a graphic like a running athlete or a flower.
- On a DSLR you can select one of the semi-automatic options such as Av mode – for a soft focus background, portrait settings or macro. Know
yourown pre-sets and get off to a flying start.
- See what you need to adjust on your device to ensure you can use ‘Burst’ mode or ‘Sport’ mode. This allows you to take a series of pictures very quickly.
- A P&S compact Camera may only take a limited series of burst shots so check your manual.
- A smartphone should continue to take pictures in burst mode as long as you are touching the screen. Be warned, it can take dozens very quickly. Be aware of the fact you have a lot of very similar images on your camera. Review them as soon as you can. Find the best and delete the rest.
P&S and DSLR cameras both have a ‘manual’ mode and a variety of
Modern smartphones take a good picture but a point and shoot or a DSLR might give you the ability to cope better with a low light situation. If your wonderful image is too dark, always remember the option to lighten an image using a smartphone image app, or software like Photoshop Elements.
Focus and Exposure Tips
Being ready to take pictures gets you a long way towards your cat photo goal. There are two of things you can do to fine-tune your success.
- Focus for Sharpness and
- Exposure for good light.
Focus can seem intimidating, especially if you explore ‘manual’ functions. The upside, until you learn how to use your camera’s focusing capabilities you can use autofocus. Don’t let anyone intimidate you into feeling this is not an option. It is, because it gets you taking pictures.
If you are not sure when autofocus happens, it often kicks in when you press the camera shutter half-way down. There is a pause then you can take your picture. Check your manual and any YouTube
Smartphones can auto focus, you just press lightly on your phone screen and an autofocus option should appear. This works for iPhone and Android. Use it if you need to.
To make the most of your focusing skills, learn just how close your camera can get before it cannot take a sharp image.
Exposure can be a minefield for the inexperienced photographer. Your pictures can be overly bright or too dark and it’s not your fault. Natural light is one of the best solutions for many dark problems, so shoot feline portraits in a catio, or near a window. Take a dog for a walk outside.
For a beginner, I suggest pointing your camera and taking pictures in ‘Automatic’ mode. Take plenty of pictures in different situations then download them to your computer or tablet and asses what worked and what didn’t.
From the basic ‘we look after everything’ mode move on to use your camera pre-sets then when you are confident, try manual mode. Remember, there is no obligation to rush to be an expert at taking masterful close-ups. This is a learning journey you are meant to enjoy.
Achieving Pet Picture Success
For a successful animal close-up as a beginner or experienced camera-user a good place to focus is the eyes.
If you look at the close-ups in this post, many have the eye as a focal point. The depth of emotion or trust the eye can portray is limitless.
This is a great fall back if you have a short time to take a picture. Other parts of the picture may fade out of focus but this is often what you want to happen. This is why Av mode on DLR cameras is so popular. People are drawn to look at eyes.
If you don’t want to focus on your pet’s eyes you can spotlight any part of your pet. A paw, an ear, an over the shoulder look can give people a new appreciation of your pet.
For cat close-up photography, ‘toe beans’ or paw pictures are always popular. For reptile fans, a close-up of scaled skin or spikes can give people a new appreciation of your favourite animal.
What to do if you don’t get close enough
If you have not been able to get very close to the cat you want to photograph, and you got as close as you can, don’t despair. You can crop the image in an editing program and it’s perfect.
Everyone can take a good close-up with your own camera and you will take good pictures. The pictures here show every type of camera and this should give you all the inspiration you need to get close to your pet and take pictures.
Let us know how you get on and if you have any questions let us know in the comments!
Sources for Camera Information:
- DSLR Basics at Dash Kitten for cat close-up photography and everything else.
- Join our Mailing List and keep up to date with camera and movie news.
- Point & Shoot Some Limitations/Improvements
- What is a DSLR Camera? Wikipedia
- Mirrorless Camera – A digital camera that accepts different lenses on the front such as a zoom lens or a super close-up macro lens, but does not use a mirror to reflect the image into the viewfinder.
- The finer points of Focus Lock