Beginner Cat Photo Skills

One Photography Rule You Can Break With Your Cat

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.

One Photography Rule You Can Break
Tigger Looks Up – ISO 3200 55mm F5.6 1/500

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.

One Photography Rule You Can Break
A fun shot! Lunchtime at the Cat Cafe – ISO 3200 F 25mm f 4/5 1/50

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.

One Photography Rule You Can Break Super Closeup Cat Photo
Lunchtime at the Cat Cafe FAIL! – ISO 3200 F 25mm f 4/5 1/50

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.

One Photography Rule You Can Break Super Closeup Cat Photo
Fang – ISO 3200 55 mm f5.6 1/400

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.

One Photography Rule You Can Break Super Closeup Cat Photo
Phoebe – ISO 125 42mm f5 1/60

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?

Nemo Breaking the rules with his photo
Nemo Looking Up – iPad 2 photograph

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.

Older Smartphone Photo One Photography Rule You Can Break
Cropped version – Nemo Looking Upwards

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.

Older Smartphone Photo One Photography Rule You Can Break
Gutenberg Block Rounded Edge Image Nemo

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


15 thoughts on “One Photography Rule You Can Break With Your Cat”

  1. Good point! I love photos looking down at pets, especially if they’re lying in their furry bellies.

    Reply
  2. Great shots and great hints! Thanks so much, I know that my shots of the animals here are better since you started your columns.

    Reply
    • Thank you Marv and Mom,

      Dash Kitten’s readers continue to inspire me. Questions, puzzles and how to do things are queries I do my best to answer.

      Reply
  3. I love the close-up shots! Great tips for older photos too. I’ll have to try that cropping option.

    Reply
  4. Great photos! I love the shots of my Ricky looking up at me with those beautiful, sea-green eyes. Agreed, this rule can, in fact, should be broken.

    Reply
  5. I have learned so much from you and your photography and look forward to your posts every week, thanks for the tips today and I seriously need a better camera. Thanks for the blog hop

    Reply
  6. Great post. If I got down on the floor, I might have to ask my felines for a paw or two to get back up. But you are right, the closer we are to their level, the better the photo looks. I like the photo of the tails, a very unique angle.

    Reply
  7. We need so much education we didn’t even know this was a rule MOL! Thanks what a great post and wonderful photos! I take my photos out of my wheelchair and often want to try different heights for the camera and forget. This post helped me see the light of trying Purrs

    Reply
  8. So, believe it or not, my computer wouldn’t load any of the images on this post. All I got to see was the alt text and description. Sigh. Our Photo Fails post this month is gonna be pics TW took of me recently from above. They just didn’t do my justice. We still love the healing brush for editing out wires and pieces of litter but when that doesn’t work, the clone does.

    Reply
  9. Awesome and helpful tips, Marjorie! I find I have to break the rules when photographing the PAWS cats, as the angles and backgrounds are limited. But they are great models. 🙂

    Reply
  10. Fantastic cat photos and interesting discussions of the techniques!
    My kitties are so active I have to catch pictures any way I can.

    Reply
  11. Those are all such terrific and fun photos, really nice indeed! Thanks for joining our Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

    Reply
  12. Those are all amazing pictures taken by ‘breaking the rules’. I have some of Pipo looking up, and i have always loved them. My fave was from a Valentine’s Day set up, and he was not terribly interested as usual…then I stood on the table (!), and got his attention and voila a great picture. I should look it up, and send it to my blog sometime…a good flashback!

    Reply

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