It sounds a silly question for me to ask “is your camera ready to take great cat photos”? You can pick your camera up, point it and shoot it can’t you? Yes, you can but let me share some quick and useful tips that will help you make even better friends with your camera and help you take more successful photos for social media and family sharing, with a lot more confidence.
Table of contents
Setting up your camera
This advice applies to all kinds of DSLR and compact cameras. A little bit of time adjusting your tools and settings before you take pictures means you will spend less time rescuing a photo later in Photoshop Elements, GIMP or Affinity Photo.
To find your settings, or navigate to them, check your manual, or a tutorial video for your brand of camera as each is different. A lot of keen enthusiasts have created fantastic and informative help videos on YouTube just for you. The more you can use the basic settings of your camera, the better your cat photos will be every time.
- Changing settings is not hard to do.
Set Your Camera’s Date and Time
Of course, you are going to remember the day, date and time of every cat photograph in your photo library, aren’t you? If you are like me, I don’t think so. So I suggest you find your camera’s settings and set it with today’s date and time.
Look for a setting like Date/Time, Setup, Settings or Tools. The adjustment isn’t a huge one but it is helpful. You will find your camera stores this and any adjustments you make in an attached file known as the ‘Exif file’. You can often find this file with a right-click on a photograph.
- EXIF DATA: Exchangeable image file format is a standard that specifies the formats for images, sound, and ancillary tags used by digital cameras (including smartphones), and other systems handling image and sound files recorded by digital cameras. Wikipedia
Don’t hesitate to email me if you feel you need extra help.
Try Automatic Mode To Start
Photographers might be horrified because I recommend ‘Auto’ (Automatic) mode but there is a reason.
If, as an inexperienced photographer, your mind freezes in a panic about settings and adjustments, automatic mode is a life saver. As long as the light is reasonable, your automatic mode means you stand a chance of getting the photograph you want as a new camera user. This is what matters. Don’t worry about the judgement of others – if you got the shot you win.
Practice is Key. You can’t damage your camera by trying out all the options, variations and settings.Tom Ang – New Zealand-based Photographer
Know Your Shooting Modes
You may be familiar with names like Landscape, Portrait, Sport, and Close-ups or know their icons (see the photo below). Knowing this dial can speed up adjustments if you are short on time. TIP: the speeding athlete is all you need for a fast cat photo! These suggestions work for a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
- Click to Sport for action shots.
- Turn the dial to Portrait to experiment with closeup pictures.
- DLSR/Mirrorless users can try Av mode (A in a Nikon)
- For a new user or a nervous beginner, when all else fails switch on Auto and get a photo. You will have something, not just an ‘I wish’ feeling of frustration.
What Do Camera Modes Do?
New camera users have to build up their knowledge in small steps, and friendly names like Landscape are a simple way of describing a collection of pre-set adjustments all bundled together. Each mode will make instantly make changes to your own camera’s ISO, aperture and resolution without you having to worry.
Why create modes for people? Well, most of us will be using those settings anyway and they are great time-saving shortcuts. I use Aperture Priority when I struggle to find a setting at the cat cafe where busy cats move around and the light is variable. I use Shutter Priority when its light and I need to capture a cat in fast motion, like Sienna here.
Compact cameras and Smartphones are beginning to adopt an increasingly large range of mode options as well. Don’t believe me? Check out this breathtaking Samsung Smartphone options list! Many modern smartphones have up to four different lenses and these all impact on what your phone can do.
Learn To Change Your Camera’s White Balance
I wrote about white balance previously. It can make a difference to your photos, especially if they are taken indoors. It is worth testing different white balance settings to see if it will make a difference to your photos.
White balance lets you avoid a cat looking an unpleasant shade of orange or blue under indoor lights. Most cameras can be left in AWB mode for day-to-day use but knowing how to adjust your white balance allows you to move quickly to take an indoor shot that works if you need to.
Your camera may have a white balance button or this may be part of a menu or both. You will see words like tungsten when you are adjusting your light for indoors.
….. reading a manual—all of it—can be one of the most effective ways to improve your photographic output. While a good camera will not compensate for mediocre photography skills, the best photographers will be limited by an inability to use their equipment properly and quickly.Tutsplus
Know How to Download Your Photographs
Download your photos regularly to a computer or to a cloud backup. This might sound obvious but sometimes life gets in the way and photos can be left on a storage disk or in your phone for far too long. Devices and memory cards go be corrupted, or worse, get stolen. Backing up photos is not hard so try to back up at least once a week. Set a reminder on a Post-It, your phone or HomePod/Alexa to prompt you.
I started by downloading photos using a cable until I was advised that my Mac has a slot for media cards! I had not realised that I could take the memory card out of my camera and slide it in the back of my computer instead. The card slot is fast which means I back up more often.
The lesson you can learn from me? Work smart and know how to download your photos either via a cable, card slot, or a wi-fi option if your camera has one. Keep your download cable in a safe place (this means somewhere your cat can’t find it and borrow it).
Download with Wi-Fi/Bluetooth – Airdrop or Nearby Share.
The wi-fi or bluetooth option is popular on newer DSLR/Mirrorless cameras and compacts. Make sure you are near your computer and follow the instructions of your manufacturer carefully until you gain confidence transferring images over wi-fi. If you are keen to try wi-fi with your smartphone too look for either AirDrop (iOS) or Nearby Share (Android).
I hope these simple first steps will help you to take better cat photos from the moment you pick up your camera. Dates matter, light matters, and having an idea which mode might work when you are unsure of the settings to use can make a big difference!
Knowing a little bit more can make taking cat photos a lot more fun and a lot more successful. Now have YOU got the date set on your camera?
New Camera User Resources
- Resolution – I recommend Picture Correct’s ‘Setting the Image Size‘ for clear insights into adjusting image sizes. When you prepare your camera image sizes affect how many pictures you can take.
- Photo Genius has a video in image settings. While it is DSLR focused, Paul explains things in easy to understand detail and I recommend his channel. I am a fan of this Brisbane-based photographer.
- Resolution can quickly become a minefield of highly confusing tech speak so I recommend this article by Photography Life. It advises you on what you can use and what to avoid.
- What is AirDrop – Apple ‘Make sure that the person you’re sending to is nearby and within Bluetooth and Wi-Fi range.’
- What is Nearby Share – Android “Nearby Share is a service to send and receive files between Android devices located at proximity. The sender and receiver should be in the same room. “
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.
She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.