Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Creative Cat Photos Means Getting Close

Do you struggle to take a great picture of your cat? They always seem small in a picture, or have red eyes because you scared them with a flash? It can be so frustrating.

Read on to find out how to get closer for great cat photos and have a lot of fun.

Get Close to Your Cat

While this seems obvious let me show you some examples of pictures taken here at home and at our local cat cafe.

Close doesn’t mean a metre away (3 feet) away. It means close as you think is OK then moving even closer. There are several ways to make sure you get a good image.

  • Crop your photograph.
  • Fill the frame.
  • Take a series of shots or use your ‘Sport’ mode.

Crop to Improve a Photo

Look at this picture of Connor who is one of the cat cafe’s most popular cats. His calm and patient demeanour wins him many friends which is what I aimed to capture.

Get Closer For Great Cat Photos Close-up of Connor
Connor enjoying a chin scritch but look t the black shadow on the right

You can see how cute he looks enjoying chin scritches from a customer, the picture says ‘Mmmmmm this is good’! But, there is an obstruction on the right-hand side and the background at the top looks distractingly busy.

I didn’t check the results until I got home, as it had been a great day for taking cat pictures with no time to check the results. I really like the picture, so how can I improve it now I have downloaded it onto my computer?

Get Closer For Great Cat Photos
A simple crop puts Connor in the spotlight!

Using Affinity image editing software I did a simple crop that made Connor the centre of attention. I removed the busy background and suddenly the picture looks a lot more interesting with Connor’s blissed-out expression taking centre stage.

If you are wondering why I didn’t crop the image more severely I believe the magic of the moment would disappear. Connor is getting a chin scritch, and it has to be given by ‘someone’. It is ‘his’ pleasure that is the subject of the photo.

Fill The Camera Viewfinder

In this cat photo closeup, I was beginning to learn the potential of my camera and explore its boundaries as I learned about photographing cats. It was this photo that I wanted to show you to encourage you to push boundaries with your own learning.

The photo shows how spectacular a real uncropped close-up can be.

I got close to Sage and focused on her eyes which is a tip I picked up visiting several photography sites. I got closer than I ever have had before and then used a little bit of manual focus.

I was thrilled, my first really exciting cat photograph had worked and I hope it inspires you to try and fill your camera’s viewfinder with a cat. What do you think?

Sage Close-up Cat composition
  • Your camera will have a manual/autofocus option which is worth exploring. If your autofocus dances about unable to decide where it wants to focus, switch to ‘manual focus’ and try that.

Focus on the Cat’s Eye

If you have a profile shot or see mostly one eye, then focus on that eye. Keep that one eye sharp.

Many expert cat photographers believe that unless the eye is in focus, the shot is wasted. I would not be so hard on beginners but as we all gain experience and learn to take better photograps, it is the goal to aim for. Check out this image of a young cat hugging a person shows two sharp eyes looking right back at us.

Ginger cat looking over a woman's shoulder

Close as Cat Whiskers Allow

Natasha our black and white cat is an adventurous spirit and capturing her in the garden was one of my favourite summer projects.

Black and white cat photo
Natasha complete shot

As well as getting close, it really helps if you can get lower than your cat. This will help you to remove a lot of background clutter or ensure that your background looks more softly focused. In this photograph, I laid on the grass and pointed my camera upwards.

Black and white cat photo

A DSLR camera will give you a good depth of field for a nice soft background like Natasha’s, or a more controlled background for your compact camera or smartphone.

I am pleased with the first image but saw the potential for different views so I zoomed in gently for an even closer picture taking several shots as I did so. I moved my camera about looking for different angles.

This is the question you should ask yourself every time:

WHAT IF……….

What if ……. I get really close, lie down, sit up, make a noise to grab her attention.

Post Production Improvements

  • At this point, if I wanted to enhance the photograph of Natasha, even more, I could use a ‘magnetic lasso‘ or similar tool to lighten her right eye a little. Our colleague photography superstar Glogirly did this when I asked for help with a picture of Harvey.
  • I could also use a sharpen tool to give the fur more definition. DSLR F-stop adjustment can deal with this, but see what your compact or smartphone can do.
  • If your ISO wasn’t correctly set and your image was dark, you can lighten the exposure in small increments to see if this helps.
  • Always remember you can undo. If you are concerned, work on a copy of your photograph.

Using Sport Mode with a Kitten or Young Cat

This picture is from the same busy photographic session as Connor (above) and in spite of the fact there is a person’s shoe in the way, I loved how I was lucky enough to capture Betty’s face framed by her out stretched paws.

Close-up of Betty the Kitten
Sports mode shot of Betty the Young Cat

When trying to photograph young cats and kittens and before you learn about the right settings and adjustments, or for that ‘just a moment’ cat image on the fly, a great way to catch activity and fun is using ‘sport’ mode.

This example illustrates how sometimes continuous shooting mode can help you capture a great shot. It won’t always work or be perfect, but with lively young animals (or children) you might find the perfect shot without being a professional photographer.

SPORT MODE: “Sport mode (continuous action shot mode) will usually automatically set the camera to increase the shutter speed in order to freeze the action in the frame”

Webopedia

You are not relying on your own idea of what the settings should be, you are using your camera’s own mechanism to help.

Kittens move fast and it takes practice to take good pictures so don’t be discouraged. This mode works for lively puppy photographs and other pets as well. If it wriggles, leaps, pounces or flies, you should consider sports mode, especially as a newbie.

Sport mode shot if kitten called Betty
Cropped close-up action shot

This cropped version of Betty’s picture still has the human foot visible but I have taken out a lot of empty floor to focus on the laser-like attention of the kitten who is wholly focused on capturing their toy.

I hope you will feel encouraged to experiment by getting closer if your next pet photographs, and if you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Creative Cat Photos Means Getting Close”

  1. The biggest thing when it comes to getting a perfect cat photo is just taking tons of them, because you never know when they’re going to strike that perfect pose!

    Reply
  2. I learned the trick of cropping to make a photo look up close and have been very impressed with the results.

    Reply
  3. Very good tips and you’ve done a great job capturing those sapphire eyes! The action shots are great too! Our problem with Babu is that despite being so photogenic (like all animals/ pets), he hates the camera and it is a real struggle trying to get a good photo of him.

    Reply
  4. I love the picture of Sage of the pretty green eyes and that kitten is adorable with her paws framing her face.

    Reply
  5. Nice Photos and Great Tips for taking some better photos. I would like to improve on my action shots. I liked your suggestions. (From Dachshund Station)

    Reply
  6. Great tips as always and I think I need to move to NZ to have lessons with you as whatever I do and follow your lessons I still do not get what I want LOL. Love the photos they are just amazing

    Reply
  7. Thanks for sharing these great tips! Ah Sport Mode!!! Now I know how to get those clearer images with fidgety kittens. I have to save up for a quality Canon.

    Reply
  8. More really useful tips and great action shots, Marjorie. The kitten playing is a real show stopper and better when trimmed up that little bit.
    Purrs
    ERin

    Reply
  9. These are all excellent tips!

    And that close up of Sage is absolutely stunning!

    Purrs xx
    Athena and Marie

    Reply
  10. All of the photos are lovely, but my favourite is the close up of Sage with her gorgeous eyes.

    Reply

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