Photography has plenty of guidelines to help newcomers get their pictures sharp, clear and successful. But, ‘rules’ are meant to be broken so, let me show you the one photography rule you can break with your cat for great photos and the best way to do it. For my dog-loving readers? The same rules apply – enjoy!
Only One Photography Rule You Can Break?
Sure, you can break all of them and take a reasonable picture but the one rule I want you to break is the one I focus on here.
- THE RULE: Don’t take a photograph looking down at your model, it dimishes them. It makes them look or feel smaller.
Why break this rule first? Because you can take surprisingly good shots of your cats this way, in fact, you might already have done so. Looking down at a person or animal is meant to diminish them, but cats don’t see it that way at all.
Tigger had just appeared from under the cafe table and hopped up onto a chair. I was lucky enough to grab a shot as he turned towards me with a “Whuuuut?” expression.
Tigger setting notes
The weather was very overcast, and the light within the cafe was slightly limited, so I was experimenting with an ISO of 3200. This is much higher than I might use on a bright day (ISO 200). I was also using a faster shutter speed of 1/500.
NOTE: Your Beginner’s Comfort Zone is a useful starting point when you explore indoor camera settings. These are Aperture Priority/Automatic modes on a DSLR, and Indoor or Night mode on a compact or smartphone. There are helpful setting up camera tips here.
Looking Down at Your Subject
Imagine if you were taking this group cat shot yourself. If you were positioned near the ground you might have a forest of legs, paws, tails and bowls to focus on. Would you focus on the cats near you? Or risk a wider shot getting a bit of every cat in? I tried the wider shot but it didn’t work for me.
My aim was to capture the enjoyment of each cat as they tuck into their lunch at the cat cafe. Looking down allowed me to capture everyone. A community of gingers, black cats and tabbies all enjoying their food. I believe that the downward-looking shot works really well here.
Cat Closeups Work So Well
Taking a cat closeup photograph means you set out with one intention – to fill the frame with your cat and keep the composition interesting. Your photograph has one aim – grab your viewer’s attention.
Check out these two cat closeups of Fang and Phoebe.
Fang’s closeup was taken at Neko Ngeru Cat Adoption Cafe and while he is looking up, the impression you get is of a questioning but confident expression “Hi, can I help you?” I worked hard to keep Fang’s eyes sharply in focus because people are hard-wired to check the eyes in a photo first. You will find your best photos have sharp eyes too.
Phoebe’s photograph is a super closeup cat shot and, no I didn’t quite succeed with the sharp focus on her eyes. This photo is a couple of years old and I was still learning how to take photos and, honestly? She never sits still.
But, I am happy I took and kept the photo because this shot perfectly captures our curious Princess who is bright, active and curious. I hadn’t discovered Sport/Burst mode at this point so a lively youngster like Phoebe was a real challenge. She is close to the camera and looking up with a curious look on her face. Not 100% sharp but she is looking up and the photo works for me.
Tweaking the Rules with an Older Photo
Nemo was a fospice care kitty we took on and who I was honoured to escort to the Bridge when his time came. He was a characterful cat and knew his heart and mind. I do not have a huge number of photographs (this one was taken on an iPad) but this one is a great example of how an older photo breaks the looking down at your subject rule too.
Let me share a before and after shot. It’s a sweet but cluttered shot of a wonderful senior cat. But you see a mug, part of a person and…. Oh, it’s terrible – admit it – even with that sweet face looking up. So what could you do to rescue a loved but slightly disappointing photo like this?
Rule Breaking Options For Your Older Digital Photo
If your cat is looking up, like Nemo, you want to keep the focus on them. This means removing a lot of your background which might not be as cluttered as mine is. The simplest method is to crop out as much of your background as you feel happy with.
My crop means Nemo is the central focus of the shot, and his look holds you, even though he is looking upwards. Is he diminished? Not in the slightest!
If the image is for a WordPress blog you can try a Gutenberg block to round the edges.
If you can’t crop out too much background try gentle image editing to focus attention totally on your cat. To remove small elements try cloning them out or see if your photo editing software has an ‘image interpolation’ tool like the Affinity Photo Inpainting Brush. This tool removes wires, leaves or stray hairs which can make a difference.
Now go and check your digital photo albums to see if you have taken any successful rule-breaking shots or any you can crop or edit to make them look amazing.
Rule Breaker Cheat Tips
- How to use the Clone Tool technique post.
- What is Affinity Photo’s Inpainting Brush aka image interpolation.
- Be ready to take your cat photos
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