Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Mastering Cat Lighting for Insta-Glory

Forget catnip and fancy costumes, the true secret to captivating Instagram photos of your cat lies in harnessing the power of light. Think of it as your secret weapon to transform your grumpy cat into a glamorous meowdel, sending likes and followers your way as people fall in love with your cat.

When posting on Instagram some people work hours to find the correct time for maximum engagement. For some of us this can be a struggle so I suggest you learn as you go and post (or schedule) at different times and on different days to see what works best for you, wherever you are in the world; Europe, New Zealand, America or maybe Australasia.

  • Research popular hashtags in your niche. What will give you that winning hashtag or shot idea?
  • Use relevant hashtags to your photos (seasonal, birthdays, events).
  • Change up your hashtags for each post. Don’t rely on the same ones every time, add new ones to your favourites.
  • Adopt a single hashtag that is not overused and make it your own. My friend Henry and his Mom use #TailWagWisdom, the name of their blog. This also speaks about what they do. Others use it but a lot of their images will be seen at that hashtag.

Embrace the Natural Glow

Mother Nature knows best when it comes to making your cat look perfect. Soft morning light filtering through your window will wrap your cat in a warm, ethereal glow. An early trip into the garden will do the same thing. This light, often called the ‘golden hour’ highlights your cat’s best features and fur. Think sunbeams dancing across whiskers or a golden halo around your cat’s soft fur.

A bright cat photograph would be the perfect #MondayMotivation or #MancatMonday #GoldenHour.

Pet Lighting for Instagram. Tabby kitten looking out of a window
Kitten by a window – natural light

Master the Art of Backlighting

Turn your cat into a magical silhouette and you might catch a lot of attention on Instagram. A simple square format image would be a stunning addition to your Instagram feed.

Remember that not every portrait has to be full face and by positioning the light source behind your cat, you’ll create a mesmerizing rim of light around their fur, adding depth and drama to your shot. This technique works especially well for those lucky enough to be owned by a black cat but every cat makes am awesome subject.

You can use #silhouette #catphotography #magicalcats #shadow #shadowcats.

Rest In Peace Cat Banner
Cat Silhouette used in a graphic.

Spotlight Stunning Cat’s Eyes

A cat’s eyes, like those of every human, are mesmerising windows to the soul. The best way to capture your cat’s eye is with a closeup such as a 50mm DSLR/mirrorless lens, or from further away with a zoom lens. This is great if your cat dislikes you getting too close with the camera. If you look closely at the image below you can see the white house and silhouetter of myself taking the photography.

On a smartphone you can use a macro facility. Check your smartphone camera to see if it has this function. If not, you may be able to use a clip-on lens for your smartphone this can be a zoom or even a macro. Yes, clip on smartphone lenses exist!

What you are looking is to capture is the ‘catch light‘ the small sparkle that makes every cat’s eyes come alive.

Macro Cat Eye Photo
Cat’s Eye Catchlight – ISO 200 50 mm F/3.5 1/400

Catchlights are the bright, specular highlights found in a subject’s eyes that are reflections of the light source or sources.


Fun Instagram Hashtags for Cats

  • #catphotography
  • #instacat
  • #meow
  • #purrfect
  • #kitty
  • #feline
  • #cutiecat
  • #catsagram
  • #mainecoon
  • blackcat
  • #bengal
  • #catjump
  • #derpcat

As a bonus on some ‘phones, you can shoot in RAW format which gives you more opportunity to adjust your smartphone photos much more later on.

A Final Note: Smartphones and Light

I need to add a helpful reflection on how recent smartphone camera technology has raced ahead to make cat lighting so much easier. In fact, its even better than a DSLR at times. Recent developments for both iPhone and Android mean they are more capable of using low light.

You can see in this sample image of Toulouse where the only light is a single lamp lower down on the left-hand side. With my old iphone 6S I would have struggled and probably failed to capture an image like this but, with the newer iPhone 12, I tried and succeeded in an atmospheric shot that looks really good.

Cat in dim smartphone light. Pet Lighting for Instagram
Smartphone Low Light

18 thoughts on “Mastering Cat Lighting for Insta-Glory”

  1. I love, love, love all of these! Stunning (and the models are beautiful)! I am a huge fan of natural light and backlighting can make for some really cool pics. As always, wonderful tips that can applied for dogs, too!

  2. Thank you for the shout-out! I’m still working on capturing a shot of Henry that I think is good. I’m going to try the backlighting idea. As always, amazing tips and they are all very doable. Love how you teach in a very approachable way. Definitely sharing again!

  3. Such wonderful photos and I love that Toulouse smile in that last one! Thanks for joining Angel Brian’s Thankful Thursday Blog Hop!

  4. I so loved looking in Bear’s eyes. His looks always cracked me up and his eyes were always full of life. {sigh} I miss that boy.

    • Thank you, I appreciate your comment. I learned about catchlights first from decorative painting. An animal would look ‘lifeless’ but the smallest dab of white paint in the eye and it sprang to life.

  5. Great photo info! I always struggle with lighting with Henry. I’ll definitely give these tips a go on my Android phone. One of these days I’ll be able to take an okay photo of the fur kid. Thanks again!

  6. I don’t have a Clarendon filter on my Android phone. Lighting remains the bane of my existence! I try to take photos w/ my Samsung Galaxy but every indoor photo comes out horrible, way too yellowish and dark. We have very poor lighting in the house, it’s so dark even w/ all the blinds & curtains up it’s still too dark for good photos. Unless I’m doing a formal photo session with my lighting equipment it will always be too dark and have that weird yellowish hue. ) – :

  7. Awesome tips, Marjorie! Some of the cat rooms at PAWS don’t have any natural light, so I have to compensate/adjust.

  8. Clarendon, is that on the iPhone?

    Lighting sure is one of the most important things to pay heed to. isn’t it?


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