Do you feel frustrated with your cat action photos? I do too but I am working to improve. Do your pictures look blurry? Let me share my tips and progress, so you see that you can do this too.
DSLR Lessons to Learn
I am not working in ‘Manual’ mode yet and, honestly, I do not recommend this to inexperienced photographers. It can be discouraging as you really don’t have a handle on your camera’s capabilities.
There are pre-sets (a group of settings where the camera is already set up by the manufacturer to cope with a particular situation), and you may have a ‘Quick’ setting if you don’t have much time to fiddle with buttons. The Q button on the Canon, in particular, is a revelation and gives a handful of good shortcuts.
What Spot loves to do when the cafe is busy with visitors is play ‘leaping like a crazypants’ and he can jump very high and I wanted to capture the dynamic dude in action.
Beginner Cat Action Photos
On a cafe visit to meet some of the new arrivals several months ago, I met the barista who was taking a turn being ‘Catler’ (cat butler) who looks after the cats in the cafe environment. The Catlers oversee the visitors and monitor cat safety, ensuring people and cats both behave respectfully to each other.
I chatted to him about my struggles to catch fast-moving pets and he pointed out the ‘sports’ mode on my settings dial suggesting I try it.
Cat Photography Settings Success
As you can see from the picture above, this setting meant I could take a much better action shot. The body shape is sharper and dynamic. You can see fur texture and a raised paw as Spot jumps.
How does this happen? When it’s explained, you will have an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment like me. You can also try this with smartphone photography too.
Adjust your settings to take pictures in fast bursts. That way you have a chance of capturing a great action moment. On my Canon camera, the setting is a stylised athlete, for you have a smartphone look for ‘burst mode’ in your manual.
“The key to really great sports photography is separating your subject from everything else around them, so you need a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field. For this, you could start off in AV mode, which controls the depth of field” – Phil Hillyard
Phil Hillyard on the Canon camera website has written a helpful post that is not too technical and reassures photographers that we do not need fancy equipment or expensive lenses. It is an encouraging read for you if you want to take shots of rapid movement.
TOP TIP for Action Photos
Focus on the cat (or figure) at the centre of the action.
In an ideal world, I would crop the picture to focus on the active subject without a busy background, and make it look tidier for you. But I am sharing my learning journey so you see the picture I took.
My pictures have a way to go but I hope you are inspired to try different settings on your camera or smartphone too.
Making Progress with Cat Action Shots
The photos above are several months old so I am including a couple of shots I have taken this month of one of the Cat Cafe’s most popular residents Connor.
Any cat lover will appreciate his ability to snooze uninterrupted while people and cats chatter, sip coffee and move around him. What people might not know is that Connor can be a demon with a wand toy.
If you compare these pictures with your own, or even those pictures earlier in this post you will find the following tips helpful:
- I am using Sport (burst) mode on my Canon DSLR
- I am much closer than I expected to be, then I cropped the edges a bit in a photo app later. This is always an option for you to consider. If the experts can crop, so can you.
- I tried to focus on Connor and his eyes. I am not 100% successful but I was conscious of the need to focus on one specific point. This is something that will help you take much better photos.
- I was not worried about getting everything in focus. The wand toy was moving super fast!
As you can see. For a beginner, the key is to explore your camera and see which settings will work for your specific goal. Cat action photos take a bit of practice, don’t they!
Here the cat action shots show the kind of improvement you will see if your own cat photography because of practice and the fact I was advised to use a specific (faster) setting on my camera.
Will these tips help you take better action shots of your feline family? If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.