Written by Marjorie

Compose Your Perfect Cat Photo

Compose Your Perfect Cat Photo

One of my favourite ways to improve your cat photos is absolutely free and available to everyone with any camera. Using it will transform the photos that challenge you and you will feel a real sense of satisfaction. What is this wonderful trick for taking the perfect cat photo?

Composition

Composition is the smart way of taking that extra moment to get your photo just right. Join me and check out five of the best tips for new cat photographers to capture your best image.

Taking The Perfect Cat Photo
Sienna – ISO 200 180 mm F 5.6 1/125 © Dash Kitten

Composing Photographs

Your composition is mostly visual, but the intention behind your picture is an important part of the equation too. Make a conscious effort to frame your photograph with that intention or goal in mind.

I am including a formal definition of composition from one of the many photography sites online. It helps you to get an idea of what the word means.

Photo composing definition: Composing an image means arranging elements within it in a way that suits the core idea or goal of your work best. Arranging elements can be done by actually moving the objects or subjects. A good example for this case is portrait or still life.

Photography Life

NOTE: I am not including actual camera settings for cat photography. There is a lot to learn to build your photographic skills and becoming familiar with each element on its own allows you to focus on building that skill with confidence. Let your ‘settings’ mentality go for a while.

One photo and one step at a time.

Taking The Perfect Cat Photo
Sunlight and golden fur © 2007 DashKitten

Types of photographic composition

To research this post I started a list of composition types but the list grew and grew until I finally stopped at 30 different ideas. Whether you want to take product pictures for a blog or funny kitten pictures for social media, mastering 30 ways to compose your photograph is not the way to go.

Keep it simple.

You want to enjoy taking pictures even as you keep learning.

Five fun ways to compose cat pictures

For beginners looking for cat or kitten photography tips, some of the terms here might be unfamiliar, but they tell you what happens in photography quickly and clearly.

Check out our five great composition tips for cat photographers here:

  • Leading lines and diagonals
  • Frame within a frame
  • Reflections
  • Colour, pattern or texture combinations
  • Simplicity

I have included one or two images by professional cat photographers alongside my own pictures as, sometimes, these get the message across successfully, and they are so inspiring. Let’s jump in for some great inspiration.

Leading Lines and Diagonals

Leading line demonstration of technique
© Bus Station

A leading line or a diagonal allows the viewer an easy way to look into your picture and lets you guide their eye towards something specific. You can ask a question or lead in towards a specific point.

The first image shows how a simple leading line guides the viewer’s eye further into the picture of a bus depot in Middlesbrough, England. I took this photograph when I visited my mum.

Leading lines in composition. Insta-Perfect Cat Photo Tips
© Phoebe in Motion – Marjorie Dawson

This image of Phoebe shows a diagonal line that gives the photograph a sense of direction and visual interest. The line draws the eye and also provides an attractive diagonal that contrasts the soft grass and paving. I can’t decide if it’s a leading line or a decorative diagonal. What do you think?

Diagonal Cat Composition

The branch in this kitten picture is a strong diagonal and you wonder, is the little mischief maker climbing up? Is the kitten on an adventure or just a tiny bit worried that it might have gone too far? The perfect Insta-perfect photo!

Either way, you have your viewer’s attention and you have them wondering. Something like this would make cute kittens wallpaper for your computer.

You find Leading Lines everywhere. Check this photograph.
© Receding Lines – Marjorie Dawson

This photograph shows Dash Kitten dad Paul walking across a bridge in one of our local parks. The leading lines of the bridge recede into the distance and there are two strong sets of diagonals in the wires and posts of the bridge.

Frame within a Frame with Cat

Cat Framed within a frame

The frame within a frame or ‘sub-framing’ technique allows you to focus on something very specific. It might be a cat framed in a window or your frame could be foliage you see your subject through.

Framing can be lots of different things. I am including this fun ‘framed’ photo which is definitely not pet related.

Doesn’t this Halfpoint shot inspire you to try something fun with a pet product? Framing can be something moveable, and small and give your picture impact, or raise a smile.

Framing composition

Using a frame within a frame is a great way to lead your viewers’ eyes into a photo. This can add depth and context, as well as drawing their attention to a defined point.

Expert Photography

Reflections

You will have seen pictures of buildings reflected in rivers and lakes from tourism brochures, but here’s a different view of reflections. The use of reflections in your portraits and product shots can lead to some lovely effects.

Can you imagine taking a picture a cat’s reflected face looking out into a dusky evening or maybe or a product like our favourite Probonix posed in a mirror accompanied with a few graceful flowers. Get the idea? A pond, river, a window or a mirror reflection can give you a different view of your subject.

Reflections of lights featuring a cat

Here’s something a little unusual in the reflection genre.

The grey cat is the centre of this portrait and is in sharp focus. This is the kind of quality we all aim to master, although this is a professionally staged photo shoot, there is a lot here to inspire.

The soft glow from a string of gentle lights (battery powered) looks lovely but you will notice that the lights don’t draw our attention away from the cat. They enhance the striking eyes. The background is pale and out of focus which allows the cat to stand out.

Colour, pattern or texture combinations

Textures are details that visually describe how something physically feels. Textures can be smooth, rough, and anything else your hand feels when it touches a surface.

Expert Photography
Textured cat composition in a woodpile

I could not resist adding this image by Mibuch. The texture of the bark contrasts with the soft fur of the rather grumpy looking cat. There is also a lovely sense of repeated pattern from the bark and sawn logs.

You can make your own textures too. Either by painting a textured background for a product or collecting natural things like shells and stones, or wood. Texture can also be the magnificent markings and fur of a cat. The picture of Dash as a kitten at the top of this post is another gentle exploration of texture.

cat closeup photography
Closeup of a cat’s eye. DashKitten.com ©

This close-up of Betty is a favourite ‘texture’ photograph of mine. I was able to get quite close and she remained calm and comfortable. The clear shiny eye contrasts beautifully with her tabby fur.

Have you taken any that you love, or even ones that surprised you by coming it better than you expected?

Simplicity Gets Insta-Perfect Cat Photos

Finally, simplicity is another great composition skill to learn.

If you know what your subject is, do your best to ensure you can take photographs without clutter in the background. Keep the focus is 100% on your subject.

Set yourself a mini challenge for this (or any) composition tip. My own aim here was to capture my cat’s character and try to compose the picture simply. The aim was an interestingly composed shot that filled the frame and tried to keep each portrait simpl

How much you know about your subject helps in deciding how you will approach your photo session. Work out when your pet is at its least active if your goal is a posed portrait; walks, garden or catio time will get you more active shots.

I challenged myself NOT TO CROP the following pictures after I took them.

The Intense Gaze of a Cat

Dot Kitten Closeup Composition
Smartphone Image – Dot light to dark © DashKitten.com

This picture of Dot Kitten is thoughtful and contemplative. She is looking away from the light and there is so much interesting texture in her fur as it transitions from light to dark. There is a strong diagonal line made by Dot’s highlighted fur.

Dot has a habit of gazing with great intensity at things sometimes, and I tried to capture that attitude here.

Sienna Cat in Profile

Tortoishell Sienna closeup
Sienna Smartphone Image © Dash Kitten

Sienna, our tortoiseshell is a big fan of Mudpie at Melissa’s blog. She loves her cattitude and aspires to her collection of toys and Cat Lady Boxes.

I have tried to get in close and catch the thoughtful and caring cat who realised Dash could not see well and made sure she only played on the side of his good eye side so he could follow a ping pong ball as they played.

Chenzou No Ears

Chenzou Closeup of cat
© Chenzou Work Cat at Neko Ngeru Cat Cafe

This goes against the rules I wrote about here, but I moved in as close as I could (with help from my Canon kit lens zoom) to capture Chenzou’s intense gaze and his whiskers. My whiskers are not as sharp as I expected but my focus was on his eyes so I am not too disappointed.

You can sense is that there is mischief afoot and ‘Uncle Chenzou’ will be happy to play with the younger rescue cats, after he has tried (unsuccessfully) to take your biscuit.

Seeing Eye to Eye with Sage

Sage Close-up Cat composition

You may have seen this picture in our recent post. I love it so much I am showing it as part of the composition series. It is not ‘just a close-up’ for me, it really captures the young and curious gaze of Sage the rescue cat.

I focused on her eyes consciously so the whiskers are not in focus but this is such a lovely picture I don’t mind. It also taught me that when you feel discouraged by a poor image always look back to a picture that was a win for you.

Thank you April Cat Photographers

Finally, I want to thank the many bloggers whose inspiring pet images you can find here and here for April’s close-up challenge There were some great photographs on show.

Your favourite composition technique

Do you have a favourite composition technique that really works for you? In our composition tips for beginner cat photographers, I explored the first steps with you, but did you get yhere first?

Let me know in the comments. I would love to share photographs (with credits/links) from fellow picture takers and bloggers.

24 thoughts on “Compose Your Perfect Cat Photo”

  1. Hello, these are great tips and ideas! Thank you for sharing this informative and amazing article! Keep it up!

    Reply
  2. Hello, these are great tips and ideas! Thank you for sharing this informative and amazing article! Keep it up!

    Reply
  3. Fab tips (as always)! I especially love the kitty with the lights. I did something similar with my Huskies for Christmas and also purple lights for Epilepsy awareness. Favorite composition? Hmmm…there are many, but I’d have to say getting down to my dog’s level and capturing them from that POV. I also love close-ups, and to shoot down for a group shot, and pop on a fish eye lens from time-to-time, too! Love your posts – so fun! I can read and talk photography all day long!

    Reply
  4. There are some lovely photos here. Composition is important–I always believe that less is more. That’s why I like close-ups and tight crops the most.

    Reply
  5. Great tips thanks- so impressed with your journey as a photographer and videographer. I need to get more creative. Kilo’s black face and dark eyes can be very challenging so the lighting and framing are important. He is small so sometimes barely visible in cool landmark, landcsape or tree shots. I love the portrait feature on my iPhone and take a lot of pics and crop. As Kilo gets treats for posing, he loves it when a camera or phone come out.

    Reply
  6. As a volunteer photographer I’m somewhat limited to what I can do at the shelter. I like to be creative when shooting my guys (should really say photographing), and I definitely got some ideas from this post – thank you!

    Reply
    • I am glad to be able to help a bit Sadie. I would love to see some of your results for the rescue. A good picture can steal a future parents heart.

      Reply
  7. Helpful information for all pet photographers, thanks. I enjoyed all of your cat photographs. My favorite is: Seeing Eye to Eye with Sage.

    Reply
  8. These are great tips for photographing pets and people! I’m glad to see that you included a flat lay idea for pet products too.

    Reply
  9. Great tips as always, your photography just amazes me every time and I think one thing I need to do is have more patience when taking the pics.

    Reply
  10. Great tips! I don’t have a cat so especially enjoy looking at all the cute cat pictures you share. I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind when I’m taking pictures of my dogs and various other critters. Thanks!

    Reply
  11. These are great tips. I consider myself a newbie when it comes to using camera for photography with my smartphone. I definitely am a fan of simplicity and also like your tips about using photos that include texture and framing. I never would have thought about reflection technique either. That’s clever. Thanks for sharing your photography secrets.

    Reply
  12. I love your closeup of the cat’s eye. Not only is it a well-composed photograph, but it has a reflection of the cat’s surroundings in it. That tells a little bit of a story. I use leading lines a lot because so many of my cats’ toys are wand toys and the toy makes a good leading line in the photo. Since cats prefer to do their own posing, it is a good idea to use the things that are naturally in their chosen surroundings to help create good composure. 🙂

    Reply
  13. You know a lot about making great pictures! Thanks for sharing the tips with us:)

    Reply
  14. You know, there really isn’t a bad way to photograph us cats, just many and varied ways. We love all your pictures, as each shows such a different aspect of a cat. True this can apply to all subjects but, felines add extra elements and mystery.
    Have a great week and thanks for being a host for the continuing Pet Parade
    Happy 300, and heres to the next 300…
    Purrs
    ERin

    Reply
  15. Thank you for all the good advice. My favourite photo is the kitten on the branch, but I love all the eye close ups too. They draw me in to see the reflections in their eyes.

    Reply

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