Beginner Cat Photo Skills

Portrait of a Tree Climber Cat

Ever had a day when every cat photo you take is a total disaster? That was my thought when I downloaded the captures of our tree climber cat Toulouse! The downloads looked like black ink – terrible. How could I put them right? Let me tell you.

Don’t be in a Hurry

I was, but to be fair, I had to act quickly as Toulouse almost seemed to fly up the tree like he had wings. I grabbed my DSLR for a chance of some potentially cute, fun shots! But this happened…..

ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000

As you can see from the first capture, the cat and the tree are almost impossible to see. But, as I had shot the photos in Camera Raw I hoped I might be able to rescue some of them when I downloaded the photos to my computer.

It is important to get the exposure within at least one stop of the ‘correct’ in-camera exposure. This is because if an image is overexposed the highlights ‘blowout’ and the detail cannot be rescued. [The same applies to under exposure – detail is lost]

Digital Camera

Why Camera Raw Saved the Day

If you look at the quote from Digital Camera, this is why my photographs were under exposed. I was more than one stop away from a good or correct exposure setting. Thank heavens for Camera RAW when I totally fluff the settings on my Canon!

RAW saves each cat photograph as data, not as an image. You can imagine it looking a little bit like computer printouts full of figures you can’t figure out. Shooting this way means I was able, this time, to adjust the images in Affinity Photo afterwards.

TIP: The one thing RAW cannot do is take photographs using Continuous or Burst mode because there is so much data being processed the camera ‘trips over its own feet’ and stops taking photos.

Check out cheeky Toulouse

Tabby cat looking down from a branch through leaves
ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000 (Edited)

To rescue this cat photo from blackness I had to:

  • Increase the brightness substantially.
  • Sharpen the clarity of the cat photo a lot.
  • But, I realised that the editing was worth it.

Look what Toulouse was doing! Not only is he surrounded by gorgeous dappled leaves, he is sticking out his tongue!

I was able to take a lot of photos but only a couple are worth sharing. I also want to share this second cat photo because it shows a cat’s intensity as it navigates along a branch using all its tree climbing skills. I had half my attention of focusing the camera and half ready to catch him if he fell.

Again, I had to edit like a crazy person as the original was sooty black but, with adjustments to exposure and sharpness a rather fun and dramatic image appeared.

Tabby cat looking down from a branch through leaves
ISO 400 100 mm f5 1/1000 (Edited)

Why were the photos so dark?

I had left my camera set to Shutter Priority after practising some movement shots of Toulouse the previous day.

Of course, I didn’t check to see if I had my favourite Aperture Priority on which might have helped. If I use Shutter Priority I find I need to bump up my ISO to 400 or even 800 for a decent cat photo, whether it is a tree climber or not.

16 thoughts on “Portrait of a Tree Climber Cat”

  1. Wow! That really is an amazing “fix.” What a terrific photo it turned out to be, too. Always great tips, Marjorie!

  2. Wow! I’m impressed. I had no idea that black photo would have been able to be “saved”. What a wonderful transformation and delight to see Toulouse sweet face with his tongue out navigating the tree tops. Well done! This goes to show, mistakes don’t have to be considered a “fail” and can be fixed. Thanks for sharing!

  3. That’s amazing! I can’t believe that black photo was able to be transformed so beautifully. I love that first one, with Toulouse’s little tongue sticking out, it’s so cute! I learned a little about what shooting in raw mode is, but I haven’t tried it.

  4. Wonderful you figured out how to save this delightful photo of Toulouse with his tongue out! It’s a winner and you are a genius for sticking with it and discovering this great method. Great info! I have to say about 95% of the photos I take of Henry are awful. I will have to try to save some of those awful photos. 😉

  5. Your editing work sure changed those images of black murkiness into wonderful pictures of Toulouse! And him giving you a raspberry,LOL!

  6. Oh, that is such an adorable photo of Toulouse with his tongue out! How lucky you were able to rescue it!

  7. Gosh, those raw images certainly came good, and you saved the day. The lesson here is to reset to your fav settings at the end of each day. Awesome that you knew how to rescue them, though. Bravo!

  8. Amazing save. Camera raw and photo editing really saved the day. Love these photos of cheeky Toulouse!


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