Written by Marjorie Dawson

Photographing a Dark Cat in the Sunshine

Photographing a Dark Cat in the Sunshine

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We are hopping on the Pet Parade today with photographs of Phoebe who is our dark cat. Do you struggle with dark fur? We do too, so our post might surprise you.

This has added a whole new dimension to my upcoming ‘how to photograph black cats post’ idea. I might need a whole black cat photography series. Scribbles out draft post.

Photographing a Dark Cat

Phoebe is a Black Cat (or is she?). Well, you may remember seeing my Phoebe cat portrait in our ‘depth of field’ post.

Take a look at her basking in the low sun’s softer rays. She looks like a brown cat.

The Intensity of Light Makes a Difference

It is summer in New Zealand, mid-February, and the light can be surprisingly intense so I asked myself a question. When can I take the best pictures in summer if it’s not during the day?

I did what every learner does. I checked online with my growing list of photography websites for photographic tips. All of them recommend morning or evening light for better pictures. The light is softer and you can take pictures with lots of definition.

Photographing a Dark Cat
Sun puddle time. Focus.

Morning and Evening Light

You can see many shades of colour in Phoebe’s coat and the shadow is not as dark as it might be at mid-day. There is a softness to her fur and while her eyes are closing, she is not squinting into strong sun.

Try Exposure Compensation

If you are desperate for a picture and know you will not be able to repeat an event you could try exposure compensation.

Exposure compensation is an override function for you to ‘disagree’ with your camera’s settings, or make an informed ‘artistic’ decision.

I mentioned discovering it in my Where do I start? post for newbies. I am suggesting it here because you may not be sure if it will work but if it’s your only chance to capture a moment, then try it. Just make sure you practice first.

Dark Cat Full Face Sunshine
Early sun means open eyes and no squint

Adjusting Canon Exposure Compensation

If your DSLR is different you may find the settings by looking in your manual.

  • Make sure your dial is set to Av. This is the mode I am exploring right now.
  • Press the Av Button at the back. Under my thumb in the picture.
  • Press and simultaneously turn the adjustment wheel in front of the dial.
  • Towards the lens darkens your image. Away from the lens lightens your image.
  • You will see the small mark under the horizontal line move as you adjust left and right so you always know what your exposure is.
Exposure compensation dials

As a newbie I did not think to try exposure compensation to change Phoebe’s cat coat colour but it is something I will experiment with in future.

I took the picture of Phoebe using Av mode and ISO of 200. Phew, I hope this made sense.

Join Dash Kitten and co-hosts Bionic Basil and the B Team and Barking from the Bayou Don’t let the Pet Parade pass you by.

Marjorie Dawson

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.

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14 thoughts on “Photographing a Dark Cat in the Sunshine”

  1. TW only uses the auto level on her Canon point and shoot. Once a long time ago, she had an analog camera that she knew how to adjust the settings on. For the 12 people who visit our blog, TW doesn’t need no fancy camera.

  2. Lovely pictures there, and nice to see new aspects of the camera and what to do with them. We really look forwards to seeing your coarse when it is ready, too.

  3. Phoebe is gorgeous.

    Way to be brave and experiment with your DSLR! I love that that you are learning by trying. That is the best way.

  4. One can never learn enough about photographing black cats. I remember the first BlogPaws I went to – there was a session with a photographer and she said to use dark backgrounds for black cats. “Please, Ellie … can you move over on this black blanket so I can get a good picture of you?” 😉

  5. My human always messes with the exposure, especially in bright sunlight. Exposing for the highlights puts everything else into shadow, which creates a really dramatic effect.

    Here’s something more you can practice – experiment with flash fill; in other words, use flash to “fill in” the shadows in daylight shots. (You will need to use manual exposure to do this most effectively, and probably try few different exposures to get it just right.) It cuts down on unwanted contrast, and gives the image a glossy feel! (This is one of my human’s secret weapons, so don’t tell her I told you!)


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