Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Learning Cat Photography Takes Time

Learning how to take better photos of your cats doesn’t need to be a frustrating experience. If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, or like it’s all your fault that the pictures aren’t working, don’t worry – the good news is that things can get better. With a determination to learn and practice, you can take amazing cat pictures!

This week’s post is meant to encourage your journey learning cat photography, no matter how far along you are. Especially if things have been going wrong for any reason.

Don’t stress. I think every one of us has been there (even if some wouldn’t admit it). Learning to use your camera is learning skills and balancing a lot of things at the same time. No wonder you can feel stressed.

Don’t Give Up Your Photo Journey

Here’s Why. You are on the inside looking out so you measure yourself against people who you feel take much better photos when you need to look at the good photos you took and look back to when you started and how your skills are building over time.

Let me show you a photograph from August 2019.

Four feet off the ground cat but still not a clean photo capture. learning cat photography
© Dash Kitten

This is me. I am making my first attempts at action cat photography. I don’t have a clue but I am keen and ready to throw myself into the creative excitement of taking new (to me) pictures. I don’t even remember the ISO and shutter speeds and can’t find them. (I need to be more organised!)

Skill Building Step by Step

Epic right? Marvellous athletic cats captured as speeding blurs. I bet you can relate to the feeling of frustration and disappointment?

Faced with my artistic blurs I know my ambition got the better of me. I am still learning cat photography, so the solution? Online courses and reading up on fast-moving cats, how to shoot action dogs, and magazines.

Did you know this…..?

There are a lot of dogs in almost every web site post about photographing pets. Most photographers seem to think that is all pet lovers want to photograph only dogs – weird right? Does no-one photograph their bearded dragon, kitten or rat? True!

I have taken one good basic online DSLR course, then a locally based tutored course to learn about manual mode. These have been really helpful at building confidence.

Jumping Cat Photograph. Learning cat photography as a beginner
© Dash Kitten

The Next Step With Your Cat Photos

Alongside skill building you are getting to know your actual equipment better. You will find yourself more comfortable with rotating dials, selecting menus and then, wondering about another lens.

You will probably start with a kit lens that came with your DSLR camera. These are great for starting out because your camera manufacturer is not going to sell you rubbish and the kit lens is a great basic tool. I still love mine.

As you take photos and your skills grow, you will discover that you have a preference for different types of photos which need different lenses. Does taking kitty close-ups resonate with you? Or are action shots more exciting? You will find there is a lens that fits your personal preferences, and if you can take great pictures with your lens you will be happy and take even better pictures.

Yawning tabby cat action shot.
Toulouse Yawning ISO 200 211mm F5.6 1/125

If you want clear sharp portraits of cats then, for the budget-conscious photographer, a 50 mm Prime lens is a great lens to try. For a longer reach with your lens, you might want to check out zoom and telephoto lenses like my 55-250 mm. When you are looking, go with your preferences, ask around, read lens reviews, get opinions to help you form a clearer picture of what you want to take your kind of photographs.

Manfrotto

I have two lenses that will keep me going for some time and that sit within my budget. These are the two lenses I have blogged about on my learning cat photography journey:

learning cat photography. Curling cat having fun on the grass.
Twisting Toulouse © Dash Kitten ISO 200 70 mm F8 1/125

Practice Makes (Nearly) Perfect

You will find that your skills take time to build but it is happening, bit by bit, shot by shot as you practice.

Since August 2019 I have been taking small steps towards sharper action shots. I am keeping a note of ISO and shutter speed so that when a photograph works I am remembering the settings for next time. The later pictures of Toulouse and Silver were taken with my Canon 55-250 mm lens are a big improvement on my first efforts.

Persistence and practice will hep you achieve your cat (or dog) photo goals. One successful photo is all it takes for you to know you have moved on. Then another and another.

So have you taken your next step yet?

Leaping cat. Silver tabby runs towards the camera.
Silver Chasing a Wand Toy © Dash Kitten
ISO 200 89 mm F4.5 1/250

15 thoughts on “Learning Cat Photography Takes Time”

  1. Hi Marjorie,
    Is the course/seminar you ran last year available online, or will you host it again?
    I’d like to share it to a few cat groups I’m in as well as on WherePetsAreFound.
    Ax

    Reply
  2. I fully believe Peepers doesn’t deserve to take pictures of me. I mean… I mean, a cat can look at a Queen, right? Well Peepers isn’t royalty, and she CERTAINLY isn’t as good as a cat. Not even close. Best thing for her to do is take pictures of my used litter box. Now THAT is more her level, for sure. MOUSES!

    Reply
  3. I love everything about this! I know that I have definitely been guilty of comparing and coming down on myself for not measuring up when I was just starting to learn a new skill… I think we all have at one time or another. That being said, you’re right, we all have to start somewhere. Thank you for sharing an example of where you started, it is great motivation to keep plugging forward. I have specifically wanted to do more action photography with my pets as all my best photos tend to be still photography at this point.

    Reply
  4. Photography takes a lot of practice. It can be frustrating and disappointing at times, but the successes last a lifetime. Few things are as precious as a photo of a loved one.

    Reply
  5. Learning to do anything well takes time. It seems that to become fantastic at anything needs ten thousand hours. That’s certainly a lot.

    Reply
  6. Photography is a craft and takes a lot of time and patience to get better. This is often where I fail – I want instant success. Thanks for the reminder that the skill of photography will require practice – and I do agree it’s best to photograph the same general type of subjects or setting. It helps you build on skills versus continually adapting to learn new ones. Get good at one and then allow that to sink in before moving along. Now, if only I could practice what I preach!!!

    Reply
  7. Our mom still can’t figure out how to use her new camera, and it’s not a DSLR! Sigh… one of these days.

    Reply
  8. I still am trying to get good action shot of the hooligans…sport mode does help…but then I lose them in the viewfinder, LOL!
    I haven’t dared to use manual mode…though if I use ‘program’, I can do a few more things, but then I seem to have lighting troubles. That must be the ISO? Not sure if I can change the f stops manually.

    Reply
    • I usually have to fish out my manual to find out stuff, or I lurk on YouTube! It is worth experimenting with ISO. Don’t be afraid to do up to maybe 400 or even 800. At some point you will get digital noise but unless you push your ISO you won’t find out when. Give it a try.

      Reply
  9. You are so right, Marjorie! Sticking with it, and learning and trying new things, leads to improved photography skills. I know I have gotten better over the years. As for my favorite lens for the shelter cats, I mostly use a fixed prime lens. It’s fast and I love how well it works in low light. For the shyer kitties, I often use a telephoto lens, from across the room, so they don’t feel I am threatening them.

    Reply

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