Written by Marjorie Dawson

Confidently Use Your Smartphone for Cat Photography

Confidently Use Your Smartphone for Cat Photography

OK I know this might seem a silly suggestion, because every aspiring photographer wants to master a DSLR (or mirrorless camera) but, let me ask you something. Have you seriously considered mobile phone photography for your pets?

Can you confidently use your smartphone for cat photography? What lenses does your smartphone have? How can they make your photos look better?

Not sure? Let me share some tips to prove that your a smartphone can be a real asset to help you take better cat photos with just a bit of exploration. The bonus is that on your ‘phone they are easy to share and show off and the tips apply to dogs and puppies too.

Portrait mode snapshot of ginger cat. Use a Smartphone for cat photos
Jack – iPhone Portrait Mode

Get to Know Your ‘Phone

Even if you also have a DSLR there will be plenty of times when your smartphone will be your go-to camera to record an unrepeatable cat pose or an fascinating moment at a cat show.

To make sure the pictures you take are the best they can be, build your smartphone cat photography confidence by exploring exactly what your camera can do.

Not sure where to look for help with your smartphone?

Check out online blog posts and video tutorials about your model. Don’t spend time on reviews, you have decided on your phone and purchased it. Even budget phones have respectable firepower and with the iPhone SE and Google Pixel 5A both under $500US there are some great offerings from quality brands to consider.

Confidently Use Your Smartphone for Cat Photography. Samsung Smartphone Lenses Photograph
Samsung A12 Showing Four Lenses

How Does The Camera In My Smartphone Work?

The technology is concentrated and complex but let’s try for an outline to help you appreciate your phone even more.

Start by imagining you are holding a DSLR or mirrorless camera. They are much bigger than your phone, and heavier, aren’t they? The space within the camera is where the technology performs its magic. Even modern mirrorless cameras are far from flat. The lenses and electronics take up space.

Imagine the challenge of squeezing all of this ‘tech into an almost flat smartphone. Techno-ingenuity is stretched to the absolute limit.

Now look at your smartphone. For you to take your fabulous cat photo in ‘portrait’ mode, your smartphone has a series of tiny lenses and even tinier sensors. It uses something called computational imaging (C.I.) to adjust for your phone’s shortcomings (compared to a digital SLR) and produce a high quality picture. Imagine a tiny figure throwing algorithms at your photos to make them work and you have C.I. in a non-technical nutshell.

Confidently Use Your Smartphone for Cat Photography. Cat posing in front of a smartphone
Ready for your closeup?

These Lenses Help Me Take Cat Photos?

Remember, smartphones started off with one lens that pointed forward that you turned around to create a selfie. Then manufacturers like Samsung, iPhone and Lenovo, seeing the wild explosion of selfies on Instagram, added a second lens (facing the other way) for selfies.

The demand for lenses to cope with different demands like landscapes or taking photos of small flowers increased more and more, and now you find up to four lenses on you smartphone. They are all different, and cope with different demands so let’s take a look at some of the most popular and how useful they might be for your cat photos. (Lens types are model dependent).

Primary Lens

This is the lens that does all the hard work. You lift your smartphone to take a picture – this is the lens your smartphone goes to. It usually has the most MP (megal pixels) allocated to it to make sure you get the best photographs of your cat. This lens looks after the Optical Image Stabilisation of your phone, if your model has it installed. If you look at the technical information on your device you will see each lens with it’s MP size beside it. Still confused email me and I will see if I can help.

Telephoto

This lens is good for sensitive, nervous cats, or community cats you cannot approach. If you can’t get close, this might be the lens to try. The subject is magnified without you having to use digital zoom. Why does this matter? Digital zoom reduces the quality of your photo, and magnifies wobbles significantly so the ability to focus and take a quality image with a telephoto lens from further away can make a difference.

Macro

If you are curious how effective a super close photograph can be try your phone’s macro function. Maco lenses are all about magnification and taking photos of small subjects. If your cat is confident enough for you to get close you can experiment with eyeshots, or fur and whisker texture.

Wide angle

A wide angle lens lets you zoom out for a much wider field of view. With this lens, you could capture a lot of more of your environment, like a pair of cats (or more) striding through a garden, a gathering of community cats, or the layout of a cat show including show cages and exhibitors.

Smartphone iPhone Modes
Smartphone iPhone Modes

How Do I Find Lenses and Modes On My Smartphone?

To access the lenses you have, open your device’s camera app. Depending on your model you will then tap or slide to navigate between modes. These modes select the lens that works with the function you choose like Portrait, Burst etc., I admit I had no idea what my phone could do until I saw a video on YouTube so if you are not sure how anything works check online.

  • To use your smartphone for cat photography start off a bit better than I did – look for help.

Open your own camera app to explore what modes you have. I did not realise that pressing Portrait>Natural Light on my iPhone brought up a sophisticated range of portrait options from elegant bokeh to stunning black and white. Each of the other options has a similar set of choices for you to check out.

Check out my table of popular smartphone modes. Some modes are model dependent and may not be on your device:

Portrait/Live – usually has a recommended distance from your phone of 1/1.5m (3/3.5 ft approx.) to allow for bokeh effect. Perfect for cat portraits.Food Mode – adjusts the colour of food to make it look vibrant and more appetising. Even premium cat food looks better!
Night Mode – recognises light levels in your scene and automatically adjusts exposure and white balance. Great for trying cat silhouettes.Panorama – lets you combine several images into a very wide photo.
Manual/Pro You adjust settings manually, such as ISO, shutter speed, exposure, and white balance. (Model dependent) Sport/Burst – Burst mode mimics the rapid shutter speed of a DSLR. You take a stream of photos quickly so your chance of grabbing an action shot is better Perfect for cat action shots.
Slow-mo This records as video. You can isolate a single shot.Telephoto Lets you to zoom in on a single subject without losing detail. (Model dependent). For getting portraits of the challenging stand-offish cat.
Time-Lapse – helps show time passing by taking a photo every few seconds. A series of photos run as video appears sped up. Crazy cat fun anyone?Hyper-Lapse – achieved by moving the camera a short distance between each shot.

Can I Attach A Different Lens to My Smartphone?

There was a time this would have sounded more than a bit crazy but not any more. There are a lot of attachable lenses that will expand the range of photos you can take and the prices range from approx. $25.00 US to over $150. You can purchase individual extra lenses, or lens collections. Just make sure you are buying a lens that fits your smartphone.

If you are looking to buy an extra lens, look for good build quality, coated lenses, model compatabiity and things like carry cases. Check out online lens reviews too.

Smartphone Lens Recommendations

Many lenses, and sets of lenses are compatible across different phone models. Please check to make sure your smartphone will fit the lens you would like to buy.

The Best Phone for Cat Photos?

Before you worry, there is no best smartphone for cat photos! Your own mobile phone will be just fine. Don’t wish you had the latest model, just remember this convenient camera is perfect for quick memories, social media shares and your day to day point and shoot snapshots. It can even shoot perfect works of art, when you cultivate and appreciate its skills.

8 thoughts on “Confidently Use Your Smartphone for Cat Photography”

  1. Great tips, Marjorie! I especially loved your table of different popular smartphone modes. So helpful!

    Reply
  2. There is a lot of technology packed into a smartphone. It’s amazing the kind of photos people can take with their smartphones. You did a superb job detailing how to use your smartphone camera to take a good photo. I absolutely love your kitty photos. I have a long ways to go, but I’m still practicing with Henry. You continue to inspire me.

    Reply
  3. I love using my phone for my pup pictures, mostly because it makes it so easy to share them online! I like to hike and such a lot too, and always find it much easier to slip my phone in my pocket than to lug around a larger camera.

    Reply
  4. Love your photos as always but with my eyes it is easier to take photos with my camera but one day will try it. I always love your posts though as they open my eyes to so much

    Reply
  5. Love the pictures, especially Jack in portrait mode. I see such astonishing pictures online every day that I think must come from phones. Lol I even get a few I like on the phone, once in awhile.

    Reply
    • Smartphones are getting as good as they can with tiny technology. In the hands of a good photographer they create amazing photos.

      Reply
  6. I truly wish I had had my smartphone when we still had Pipo & Minko. I did use my iPad sometimes but it was rather cumbersome. MY P&S Canon did the best job. I use my iPhone with the pups now…though I forget I have it in my pocket, a lot of the time. LOL! My camera thinks it has been abandoned!

    Reply

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