Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Smartphone Portrait Mode for Cat Photography

Remember the feeling of mastering your phone in my last post? Get ready to experience that thrill all over again! I’ve found an iPhone feature that’ll transform your cat portraiture, boost your confidence, and make you proud to share your image online and to family and friends. (Android users, your phones have a similar secret weapon waiting to be activated!)

Let me introduce you to Portrait Mode.

Portrait Mode Can Be A Surprise

Check out this portrait of Jack our ginger senior cat. He is characterful, gentle and loves to sleep the day away on our bed with a short trip into the garden for some fresh air as evening falls. I did not think I would have much success capturing his grumpy charm but, out of curiosity, I turned on Portrait mode and gave it a try because unless you try you don’t know if you will succeed.

smartphone portrait mode

Most smartphone cameras have a variety of options when you open the camera to shoot so explore your own camera’s functions!

Your own smartphone portrait mode will have a variety of options and each ‘phone is different. I suggest you start with the standard portrait setting using Natural Light. The camera will assess how far away you need to be, so slowly move your ‘phone until the soft focus framing kicks in, then take your photo. Don’t be afraid to experiment either, your camera can do a lot more than you think.

Cat Portraits With Your Smartphone

When you select portrait mode note your options. Each one is worth a look as it might help your photograph look better. To see the effect on your smartphone photo gently drag or tap the symbols (which you use depends on your phone).

Exploring Smartphone at Portrait Mode
Portrait Options

Most of the selfies today were taken with natural light but here’s a list of the options on my own iPhone 12. Yours will be similar, or even better!

iPhone Smartphone Portrait Options

  1. Natural Light
  2. Studio Light
  3. Contour Light
  4. Stage Light
  5. StageLight (mono – B&W)
  6. High Key Light (Mono)

‘Natural Light’ works for most cat portraits, even when the light is not perfect. If you are not completely satisfied, try Studio and Contour as these change your settings in small ways. The ‘Stage Light’ option that is part of the Portrit selection adds a sweep of total drama.

Believe it or not, the dramatic inky cloak of darkness that surrounds Toulouse was added by the smartphone. All I did was adjust the controls by adjusting them to the Stage Light option. The photos were taken at the same time as the daylight ones.

Smartphone photo Toulouse Blackwing Pencil Dark 2
Smartphone photo Toulouse Blackwing Pencil Dark 2

Let me show you how some silly moments with portrait mode created cat photos that got the attention of the company where we got Toulouse his own Christmas pencil!

The photos were all taken during the morning when Toulouse came up for his usual cuddle. He has supervised playtime with his own pencil (never on his own) while his dad reads or does a crossword.

Smartphone Cat Photo Toulouse
Toulouse with his Blackwing pencil

There are different option apart from Natural Light, such as Studio Light and Stage Light which have dfferent effects. They might seem scary but I hope to explore them with you and my favourite cat models over the coming months! 

Because I usually use my DSLR to get the lovely soft focus bokeh effect in my cat photos, it has taken me far too long to use my smartphone portrait mode for the same effect. I want to encourage you all to experiment with Portrait mode because I have been catching up!

I Don’t Have Enough Hands to Turn On Portrait Mode

If you don’t have time, or enough hands to switch to Portrait mode – you can still succeed with a great smartphone kitty portrait. Check these photos of Toulouse.

As many readers know he is a rescue cat from Neko Ngeru Cat Cafe. Like every rescue he has made himself at home over the past year or so and has been the perfect model. As Ernie from Island Cats as suggested, he has become a muse, inspiring more and better photos from me including these candid cat snaps that tell a story.

All of these photographs are smartphone snaps. They capture a quiet moment as I was reading in bed. Suddenly a tabby decided he wanted to cuddle up so he wedged himself between Paul and myself and fell asleep. This had not happened before so it was a step forward for our youngest family member. 

Candid Cat Snaps Can Be Magic

Sure, this made reading a bit more difficult but as my iPhone was nearby I grabbed it and took a few candid shots. I knew they would not be perfect but they show a nice moment I want to remember. I thought he looked sweet enough but when Toulouse looked up at the camera definitely a cute moment.

Yes, it was low light and I knew I would have to use some digital enhancement to see how well the photo had turned out but it worked out fine with a little help from Photoshop Camera which I love.

Candid Cat Snaps AI Magic!

Candid Cat Snap Without Enhancement

Simply loading the photo into the app started the AI (artificial intelligence) mode which immediately sharpened the photo. I added a little more light and here you have it. One super cute candid cat photo. 

Here’s one of the original photos that shows the low light available at the time.

Smartphone Photo Without Enhancement

Your smartphone is something you often have with you so never be afraid to use it to take photos for your blog or social media.

The quality of smartphones right now is so impressive you could probably win competitions with them. It’s the camera you have with you most often so use it, seize the moment and capture a memory you can print off later. Try to compose your photo, but remember you can always edit later if you need to.

A Surprising Close-up & How I Treated It

This closeup tabby portrait was taken during a week of some of the heaviest rain and extreme weather that New Zealand has endured in recent years. 

You can get an idea of the weather’s impact here. New Zealand gets as rainy and wet as every other part of the world but this is sudden and extreme. 

Closeup Tabby Portrait

Toulouse managed a nice eye level post for my DSLR although I did have to lighten his face a little bit. 

The cats are all currently hiding under duvets, in cupboards and in front of heaters and enjoying the view outside from the warmth inside. The bad weather looks set to stay until next Thursday!

To cheer everyone up, Toulouse insisted on a colourful version of his portrait adjusted with Photoshop Camera.

Tabby Cat surrounded by a rainbow

Smartphone How-To Resources

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17 thoughts on “Smartphone Portrait Mode for Cat Photography”

  1. I hope Toulouse’s eyes get better! I love the dark background of the first two pics, they’re gorgeous. I found the Portrait mode on my Android, I’ll have to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the pics! My aunt has the iPhone version that has portrait mode and the pics turn out so wonderful. When she was last here, she took a gorgeous portrait mode pic of my Wolfie with the black background and I love it. Now that he has passed, it is one of my treasured photos. I have yet to update to the newer model smart phone…but it is tempting with the new features. Pinning to share!

  3. I hope that Toulouse feels better soon. It is so difficult to have medical problems that the medical professionals haven’t figured out. Those photos are gorgeous! It is amazing that you added that blackness with a setting on your phone. I’m going to have to play with the settings in my phone more now that I’m using my smartphone a lot. Thank you for the ideas!
    -Purrs from your friends at

  4. I hope Toulouse feels better soon, your photos as usual are just amazing and his eyes are beautiful. I only use my camera for photos not my phone as I find it to be easier.

  5. I almost exclusively use my smartphone for all my dog photos–simply for the convenience of not having to carry an additional item. The photos come out good enough for the purpose of capturing memories.

  6. I have an older iPhone, so I’ll have to see if it has a portrait mode. I had no idea you could get such a range in portrait mode!

    I hope Toulouse is feeling better! He is so lucky to have his own pencil.

  7. What beautiful photos of Toulouse! I hope he continues to improve and enjoys his playtime. It definitely is stressful when the furkids are sick.

    The tips smartphone camera tips are great! I’ve decided my issues are operational. I need to borrow you to get any good photos. 🤪🤣

  8. You got some great shots Marjorie! I love the cloaking effect as well. I’m sorry that Toulouse wasn’t feeling well. I hope his next visit at the vet goes well. I find in my limited experience taking cat photos natural light works best for me. I’m still a novice when it comes to figuring out all those buttons! I’m glad your content exists to help folks like myself. LOL

  9. ewe bee lookin most handsum dood….oh, N st francis’ blessingz two ewe buddy that everee thingz aye oh kay with yur eye ♥♥

    de gurlz fone doez knot haz portrait mode on it….did her getz ripped off !!! 😉

  10. Great shots. Toulouse is a cutie. I need to check the settings on my phone now that I have one with a decent camera. XO

  11. That was really interesting, thanks for the tips. I hope Toulouse continues to be okay, it’s always worrisome when you don’t know what is wrong.

  12. Firstly, POTP for Toulouse, and we ope his eyes will be much improved really soon.

    I need to try those other portrait settings sometime, soon. Mostly I like just the natural light ones. I used that in Annie’s Selfies. (Some of them were also just in regular mode, as I was at work and didn’t have a lot of time to experiment.)

  13. Those are great portraits. I never even thought about trying to change those portrait lighting settings when taking the cats’ photos. I will try that next time! We are purring and praying everything is okay with Toulouse. XO


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