Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Quick Tips To Improve Your Cat Photo Skills

If you’re looking to up your cat photo game, here are some easy tips to help you capture adorable and memorable shots of your feline friend. Whether you’re a beginner or just looking for some new ideas, this quick read is filled with cute photos and helpful suggestions to improve your cat photography skills.

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Let’s look at ‘ordinary’ cat portraits where you are photoraphing maybe a cute walk, or the lovely reflection of a cat coat. Today’s cat model, Angus is a regular visitor. I have never worked out his real name or who his owners are but we nicknamed him ‘Angus’ rather than keep saying “that ginger cat that drops by once in a while to say hello“.

I am guessing he is about five now and he has been coming since he was a kitten.

Ginger cat Portrait Angus 1

Cat Photography Inspiration

The one thing you will often see in any cat tips post is ‘get down at your cat’s level’. It’s great if you can, but what if you can’t? There is a solution. Just get lower. It can make a difference so try it!

Thanks to Angus being passionate about rolling in the dust and showing off, I was able grab some cute cat photo captures while he played. I got low for these but had to balance that this not startling Angus. I don’t think I did too badly, and sometimes just grabbing that happy moment is what counts most.

Smartphone Tip: If you use a smartphone and don’t want to get down low, turn your smartphone upside down! Thanks to Wonderpurr for this excellent tip – and yes, it works.

Ginger Cat Portrait
For these images I used Av. mode ISO 100, f8
Focusing on a Cat at ground level.

Learn From Other Photographers

Search for cat photos online and you might find a few! But, this time look with a more critical eye. Look for poses that appeal to your eye:

  • Where did the photographer take the photo from? Up, down or eye level?
  • What kind of background can you see? Is it plain, soft focus (bokeh) or sharp?
  • Are the eyes in focus? (This is important in most pet images but they might not be. Does it matter for your photo?)

Cats tend to strike random funny poses, especially when they’re lolling about half asleep. To capture these comical moments, it’s best to always have a camera handy.

Digital Photography School
Ginger Cat Portrait Angus 3

Camera Settings and Patience!

A cool cat picture may take some time. These are self-possessed felines after all and you work to their time scale – patience and calm work but, if things don’t seem to be working out, stepping back and taking a break can help.

Sit still for a few minutes. Time slows down, and it’s a bit like mindfulness practice (which asks you to be focused on the here and now). This is the kind of time scale you are working with, relaxed and unhurried. So when the time is right you can review your settings and have another go.

  • Use a fast shutter speed like 1/250 or 1/500
  • Experiment with Tv (Nikon S) Shutter Priority or use ‘Sport’ mode.
  • Smartphone work great in Burst mode for active cats. Go practice.
  • Use your light. Use ISO 200, then ISO 400 or even ISO 800. See what happens.
  • If you have a noisy shutter see if your model’s shutter or sound can be reduced.

Remember, you may have to jump into action quickly, so if you can set functions on your camera ahead of time, do so. I use Aperture Priority (DSLR) for active cats and auto-focus so my camera is set for this whenever I pick it up. You might prefer a slightly higher ISO is you have reduced light in your home.

Canon Shutter Speed Back Picture
The maximum shutter speed on my Canon EOS 1300D

Jumping into action quickly often prompts questions about shutter speed.

I checked the top shutter speed on my Canon 1300D and it is 1/1600, your camera (DSLR/Mirrorless) may be much faster. Just remember that the faster the speed the more ‘digital noise your picture will have’. Digital noise is a technical term for the grainy look your photograph might have. Sometimes this matters and, honestly, sometimes it doesn’t.

Tabby Cat Portrait
Good light lets you take great cat photos

The best way to check on all of your camera’s functions is to look at the manual. It’s is a great way to stay up to speed on terminology and basic camera operations. My Canon came with a small format printed copy. Yours may be similar or a downloadable pdf. Yeah I know, manuals can be bring, but they can be your secret weapon that gives you an edge taking epic photos.

Downloadable Cheat Sheet of Major Manuals (Dropbox)

Quick Lens Tips

You don’t need a fancy lens for your DSLR. The kit lens that came with my Canon EOS1300D works fine and I am capturing some great shots with my budget ‘nifty-fifty’ 50 mm prime lens. IMost people don’t have lots of money to spend on extra lenses and it’s no big deal this does not stop us all taking good photos.

If you are lucky enough to have a telephoto+ lens or a prime++ lens use them so you become confident.

Photography Resources

  • Canon UK Site
  • Photography Life
  • Telephoto lens + a lens with a longer focal length than standard, giving a narrow field of view and a magnified image.
  • Prime lens ++ The difference between a kit & a prime is that a prime is a fixed length (meaning no zoom) and usually has a high maximum aperture (small # like 1.8). A kit lens is a zoom lens (typically 18-55mm) and has a variable maximum aperture (3-5.6 depending on your focal length).
Figure of a woman with a Silver Tabby


Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can create impressive cat photographs and fun movies with the camera they carry.

She is a Professional Member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.

18 thoughts on “Quick Tips To Improve Your Cat Photo Skills”

  1. These are great tips, and can also be applied to taking dog photos! That first pic of Ginger is so adorable, I love it. Thanks for sharing.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. Shutter speed! It’s the one thing that has me a bit perplexed…. not sure why. Maybe I’m over thinking it. I really like your posting these helpful pieces on photography – it’s helped me greatly!

    • Shutter Speed is next on my agenda. I am getting my head around it, so I can explain it more easily.

  3. Higher shutter speed is a great tip. The patience is another thing 🙂 With a dog, there is also way more movement so even harder to capture.

  4. Burst mode! I need to find that – I just keep snapping away – wish we could post pics in the comments I just got a good one of Treeno (rare, he usually tries to come eat the camera).

  5. Ohh thanks for these helpful tips. I’m still learning as I go. I didn’t know about the “auto” and “burst” mode for smartphones. I’ll have to try this. And yes!! Patience is definitely a good piece of advice.

  6. You got some great pictures of Angus, they’re fab! Getting down on their level is a great tip, one I’ve used quite a few times and I loved the results. The weather has turned quite nice lately so I’m thinking of taking pictures of Jack tomorrow, so thanks for the reminder to go low!!

  7. Thanks for the sharing such great photos and information. My new phone has so many options for taking photos now. I just love using the super slo-mo when my little one is chasing her furry ball around. You shared some pawsome tips today. Have a wonderful day.


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