As a cat photographer finding your own unique voice helps your images stand out from others and resonate with your audience who will identify with a sweet kitten, or a cat with a story to tell.
You don’t have to be an expert, or have bucketloads of experience and your trusty smartphone will succeed as well as a more expensive DSLR or mirrorless camera. Why? Because it is not the camera that counts most, it is the message of the cat photographer – that’s you!
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While the world of cat photography is brimming with talented people, it doesn’t mean you can’t carve your own unique niche. Your view and the personalities of your cat muses will set your work apart because your images don’t just capture the beauty of your cats, they give people an insight into your own unique relationships.
- Remember: There are a number of important ‘mobile photography’ awards acknowledging the importance of the smartphone in the world of photography. Finding a voice also boosts your confidence and makes your cats special.
Finding Your Voice in Cat Photography
Finding your voice and your direction, even if it’s just to take the most awesome closeup’s you can, can seem challenging. I admit that I am still finding my unique voice as a cat photographer but I am having a lot of fun experimenting and finding the kind of photos I really like to take.
I believe that you should do what feels right for you, not follow what others suggest is the best way. This means not being afraid to experiment with lenses and camera or smartphone settings regardless of the results you might get. Your first ideas might not succeed but you will learn the direction you want to explore and which areas you just don’t like.
- Don’t like? I struggle to capture good sharp moving cat photos and sometimes I don’t like that I fail but I will return to the challenge when the time is right.
You are not always aiming for fine art or perfection but you are finding the way that resonates with your heart. One of the world’s most famous cat photographers is Walter Chandoha whose cat career began when he picked up a stray kitten on a bitterly cold winter’s night. He didn’t aim to become a cat photographer but he became the ‘go to’ cat photographer for a generation.
I remember exactly when I found a good direction that worked for me! I was excited at the successful cat portraits I created using a simple and not too expensive ‘nifty fifty’ 50mm DSLR lens, like this image of Toulouse. Suddenly I could show a wonderful cat with a lovely soft background (also known as bokeh) and I was hooked.
- If you find a cat photographer you enjoy, see how they use light and cat poses. They may work with natural light like New Zealander Jo Moore, or more controlled environment like American photographer Larry Johnson. Both take amazing photos, and have unique approaches.
Finding Out What Works For You
Be yourself and let your own personality and love shine though in your cat photos. Cats, as you know, are very intuitive and know when you are trying too hard. They will walk away or be totally uncooperative, as we all know!
Become familiar with your camera and what it does best. My Canon 1300D can’t take super fast photos but, like you, I am learning what I can do with my own camera and my smartphone. I suggest, you take chances, make mistakes; a slightly blurry image may capture something fantastic or your quickly taken shot might catch the perfect look.
TIP: If you struggle with indoor lighting (or the lack of it), try using your smartphone rather than your mirrorless or DSLR to see what happens. Modern smartphones are very successful in low light.
The point is to have fun when you are shooting cat photos. Try to be less tense and let your love for cats take over. I know it takes me a while to relax into a good frame of mind for cat photos and, most importantly, I ease off on the judgement voice that might niggle away at the back of my mind. Be prepared to take photos that don’t work – I take lots!
Your Cat Photography Vision
Finding your own focus will take time so don’t stress if you don’t feel you are making progress. If you are unsure where to start, look at the kind of photos you enjoy and the images that inspire you. Explore the works of other cat photographers and see which you feel you would like to try.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- How do other cat photographers use light?
- Do they (and you) prefer colour or black and white?
- How are their cats posed? Do you, personally, prefer a formal look or informal ‘lounge’?
- Do other photographs look very natural or staged with a background? Which do you prefer?
- Do they capture movement or stillness?
As you explore with your cats and camera, look for different angles, use the rule of thirds, or ignore it! See what kind of compositions you enjoy capturing. Do you enjoy the brief period of charmed light during ‘golden hour’, or do you like the dramatic shadows from the middle of the day?
As you review your photos, note which ones give you a lot of satisfaction. They don’t need to be perfect, they should be photos you are happy with. These images are the beginning of your own personal cat photography journey. They can combine, affection, humour, fun or silliness. You want to tell stories or capture a personality, like Teddy (above) and create photos that have meaning for you.
As you practice you will develop preferences for settings, lenses or even software, and you will begin to get more confident about the photographs you take. You will spend less time worrying about settings and more time exploring ideas and discovering which style of photographs you enjoy most.
Develop Your Photo Editing Skills
You will edit your cat photos at some point, even if you only lighten them in Snapseed, but, did you know that editing can add a unique flair to your images? Never be afraid to play with a copy of your digital images because it is part of your voyage of discovery.
Editing is an important part of your workflow even if you are not an expert. It is a skill that can help you enhance your cat’s natural beauty so let me give you an idea what editing means to you are a photographer.
Editing includes the following skills when adjusting your images:
- Colour adjustment
- Colour removal (black and white)
- Use of overlays
I love using overlays and find them a lot of fun. They can help you adding a little touch of sparkle or fantasy to a photo if it fits in with your ideas. This image of Toulouse was originally posed on a bannister rail and I erased some of the starlight layer.
Sample of Overlay
Sharing Your Cat Photography
Cat photos power the internet so as you develop your skills, share your work with the world. You can either share on one social media platform like Instagram or Facebook, or showcase your work on a blog. The more you share, the more you can connect with other cat lovers who will appreciate your unique perspective and voice.
Building your identity is not a one and done idea, it is something people will develop over time, so don’t feel you have to rush out and ‘be a cat photographer’. You will all get there, each at your own pace.
I am having a lot of fun and enjoying my craft as a cat photographer. I am still finding my voice. Right now portraits and layers are firing my creativity and they can do so without the expense of new lenses or cameas, both of which are expensive. Oh for a camera sponsor for Dash Kitten!
Do you dream of taking one kind of photo well? Or, would you be happy to explore photographs in series, like the set I shot of our foster Sam? Let me know in the comments!
Yes, there are smartphone contests!