Beginner Cat Photo Skills

How to Create a Fun Cat Photo Portrait

Welcome to the first week of Dash Kitten’s Fun Photo Projects for Cats. I want to create a fun challenge for cat people with cameras. Beginners are especially welcome and I am happy to answer questions either in the comments or via email. So do get in touch if you need help.

I am challenging you to have some fun with your cats and your camera. You don’t need any expensive new equipment only the camera you have, and the ability to transfer images to your computer either by cable or wi-fi. Compacts, smartphones and DSLRs are all welcome. There is a Table of Contents to help you navigate your way through the post.

Photographers of all standards can jump in and have fun. No-one is ‘not good enough’.

Fun Photo Projects Week One

Cat Gazing out of a window. Soft focus background.
© Settings: AWB ISO 200 178mm F 5.6 1.40

The Fun Cat Photo Challenge

Switch off the stress button, this is a fun cat photo project. The challenge is to create some fun photographs while you are at home, and maybe missing family at Holiday time.

This week’s challenge asks you to take cat photos from different viewpoints.

How You Make A Start

Introduce us to your cat in photos. Use high and low viewpoints. Get close or try an action shot. There is no limit or restriction on your own imagination and invention. Lie down, sit down, go nose to nose, if these help you capture your cat’s personality.

What do people need to know about your cat? Does your cat have an intense look, a sleepy expression, or a fluffy paw that just begs to be stroked?

I took this challenge myself so how you the kind of photographs you can take. I include four shots of Toulouse our new young tabby. I hope they describe his personality. I have added two semi-abstract shots where I used basic filters in Affinity Photo. The photo software you us will treat photographs in similar fun and weird ways – don’t be afraid to explore.

  • I made a list of shot ideas to inspire you. It’s at the bottom of the post!
Cat sitting on a metal chair.
© Settings: ISO 200 250 mm F5.6 1/250

Where Do You Start?

Get your camera ready. Make sure the battery is charged and your lens is clean. A glasses/(spectacles) cloth will work fine if you don’t have a camera cleaning kit.

Aim to shoot in the best light you can get, which may be in the garden, in a catio or by a window. If you know how to change your Auto White Balance for inside light – try this too. Otherwise, Auto White Balance is a great place to start. There is often a button or icon marked ‘AWB’ co check for it on your camera menu or buttons.

Grab your spirit of adventure, and your camera. Don’t forget that if you only manage two or three photos that’s fine.

Camera Settings and Your Cats

Stick to camera settings you are comfortable with. This can be your smartphone’s auto function, indoor/outdoor settings on a compact, or Av (A) or Manual on your DSLR.

Decide on the kind of pictures you want to take, what kind of story you might want to tell. You are the one who knows when your cat is most active, lazy, hyper and ready for Mr Red Dot. You know when you need to have your camera nearby ready to capture your cat’s character, and the picture you are aiming for.

Tabby cat looking out to the right. Stood on a rock surrounded by flowers.
© DashKitten.comSettings: ISO 3200 124 mm F 29 1/160

Then start taking photos!

There is no time limit, you can take your shots over the course of a few days or all at once, depending on your mood and your cat. This is your photo project, only you can decide how you want to approach it. If you feel a bit stressed, set your camera down and come back in a little while. This IS called the ‘Fun Cat Photo Projects‘ after all.

Cat playing with a toy
Toy concentration from Toulouse.
© Settings: ISO 800 100 mm F8 1/30

How I took my own cat photos

Many regular readers will know our newest cat family member Toulouse. I wanted to capture his lively exploring spirit for the project. He also, on rare occasions, has the ability to be quite still when he watches something and becomes the perfect model.

The first image in this post looks ethereal. It seems to have all kind of filters applied to it. The soft background and the alert looking feline face in sharp focus look carefully staged. The photograph isn’t staged. I was very lucky.

I aimed my Canon 55-250mm telephoto lens at Toulouse as he sat in the light-filled windowsill. He was watching the birds so I grabbed my camera and the opportunity! I was in manual mode from my last photo session so adjusted my exposure using through the lens metering*.

Filtered image of a cat in a carrier.
© Original Image ISO 200, 41 mm, F11, 150.
Affinity Photo Black and White Adjustment Layer.

Creating an Abstract Cat Portrait

An abstract image is one where you are not always sure what you see, or an invited to look at something in a different way.

To create an abstract image using your cat photos you can zoom in on a particular area of your cat. This removes any visual clues to surroundings and means people don’t have a reference to work with. They see a shape or set of shapes.

You don’t need to buy filters, there are some awesome ones online for free. Smartphone apps can be amazing photo editing apps can conjure fantastical colour changes.

The first photograph shows Toulouse in his stroller. I transformed the photo into a black and white shot and then darkened it using the cool filter in my Affinity software. Most software such as Corel Paintshop Pro, Photoshop Elements, or GIMP allows you to adjust colour, as well as sharpen your photos.

Closeup of a filtered cat.
  • This image shows the Colorise Online App in action. You will need one converted black and white image and one coloured original. It is simple to use you upload the images from your desktop and select colour from the image then paint on to the image.
Comparison chart of the cat before and after.
Screen capture of the Online Colorize App.

Recap Of This Week’s Project

This week you will be taking four or five cat photos from different viewpoints. THEN A couple of more mysterious shots that allow you to be inventive and have fun.

You can submit your set of images to me by email:

Cat Photo Tips and Resources

  • *What is through the lens metering? In photography, through-the-lens metering refers to a feature of cameras whereby the intensity of light reflected from the scene is measured through the lens; as opposed to using a separate metering window or external hand-held light meter. Wikipedia
  • Using Photoshop Elements to turn a photograph black and white. This article gives a detailed series of instructions on converting an image to black and white. NOTE: There is a pop up at the start.
  • Dash Kitten’s Black and White Photo ‘How To‘.
  • To bring back selected areas of colour in a photograph you have converted to B&W try Colorise Online Converter.
  • You can colourise a photograph. This helpful article recommends several types of software to do this, including GIMP.

13 thoughts on “How to Create a Fun Cat Photo Portrait”

  1. I love this! I have just started working on having a little more fun with my pet photography. It’s an area that I know that I can improve – and this is inspiring me to get moving and start experimenting!

  2. Great photos! If I wasn’t so busy with CWA right now, I’d try to participate in this one!

  3. Gorgeous photos! I need to do this challenge with my dogs, it has been too long since I photographed them.

  4. I’m very proud and my dog is very pleased with me; I got some photos and footage of her munching on fresh moose poop. LOL We tracked it down. She couldn’t have been happier.

  5. This looks like a fun photo challenge. I love the black and white photo with Toulouse in the stroller. I actually thought it was some type of fancy filter at first. Nice job! Will be sharing and pinning this post! Great tips!

  6. Fantastic photos and you really caught him amazingly. I always love seeing your new pics and info. Thanks for the blog hop

  7. Goodness knows I have enough pictures of my cats to enter the challenge 291,222,902,304 times. I just got my first smartphone … so I’m excited to see what tips you have next week on editing (and now I can use all your advice on movie editing on a smartphone!!!).

  8. That sure sounds like a fun photo challenge, Marjorie! I will get my thinking cap on, and my camera ready. 🙂


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