12 steps to a purrfect cat photograph


12 steps to a purrfect cat photograph
12 steps to a purrfect
cat photograph
hotographs are everywhere nowadays, from funny selfies to serious attempts at
being creative. However, one of the biggest challenges for photographers remains...
getting a good photo of a cat.
Anyone who has a cat knows that they do what they want, when they want, and that
usually means they won’t sit still for a photoshoot. They can be camera shy and
sometimes just plain difficult, so honing your photography skills is a must. We have
the tips, including advice from two winners of our iCatCare Photography Competiton,
to get you started.
Pick the
best camera
you can afford, and
get to know it well
completely, while a slower
shutter speed, eg, 1/15 s
creates a ‘motion blur’,
blurring the moving objects
while focusing on the static
ones. Do not be afraid to play
around to find what suits you.
The better you know your
camera equipment, the
easier it will be to capture
a creative image. Research
camera models and features
online and in shops to help
decide what would work
best for you. Once you have
a camera, you can explore
its filters, exposure and
ISO is the sensitivity to light
of the sensor or film. As
sensitivity increases, the
camera’s sensor requires less
time or a smaller amount of
light to produce the correct
exposure for an image. ISO is
normally kept as low as
possible to reduce the risk of
a grainy image, and the other
two are balanced with it.
Exposure refers
to the amount
of light that
reaches the camera lens and
sensor. It is determined by:
Aperture is a measure of
how much your lens opens
when capturing an image,
thus how much light gets
through. A bigger aperture
blurs the background and
increases field of depth,
allowing the viewer to
focus on the subject. A
smaller aperture keeps the
whole image in focus. For
action shots of your cat
playing, a smaller aperture
will compensate for small
errors in focus, producing
a crisper image.
Shutter speed
Carl Welsby
iCatCare Photography Competition 2014,
Overall Winner.
Amateur turned professional following his
success from winning the 2014 competition
Carl’s tip: ‘Always check that
the background doesn’t “add”
a surprise element to your
composition. No one wants a
photo of a cat with a lampshade
growing out of its head!’
Shutter speed is how
quickly the shutter opens
and closes. A faster shutter speed,
eg, 1/250 s can help freeze an action
If you don’t
want to set the
exposure manually, you can use
pre-set camera modes, which are
already calibrated correctly for
the effect you want.
One of Carl’s top tips is to ditch
‘Auto’ and explore all the other
modes your camera has to offer
Sports mode uses a
faster shutter speed to
help prevent blurring
and freeze movements
to get a clear image.
Once you have mastered
this, try moving the
camera with your
subject to blur the
image, giving your photo
a more dynamic edge.
iCatCare 113
Portrait mode opens the aperture
to give a shallow depth of field
and blur the area behind your
subject. This means that your
subject will stand out from its
Landscape mode keeps
everything from the front to
the back of the image in focus.
It will also boost colours,
contrasts and outlines to keep
your bigger photos sharp.
Macro mode is very useful for
taking a photograph of something
small. It uses a shallower depth
of field to keep the detail and
focus on your subject.
Try experimenting with a filter
such as black and white or sepia.
Sometimes a black and white
image can be more striking and highlight more
detail than a full colour one. You can do this
either before taking a picture using the filters
on your camera or edit them afterwards using
software such as Picasa or Photoshop.
If you can get close to a cat
without startling it, you can get
some really interesting close-up
shots of paws, nose, whiskers and eyes. If you
cannot get physically close to your subject, use
zoom — keep the camera steady, allow it to
focus and zoom could be your new best friend.
We see cats every day from a
human point of view, so how about
getting down low and holding the
camera at your cat’s eye level? This will show
life from its angle and perspective, and provides
your audience with an interesting insight into
the world of the cat. Also, moving around can
change the light, depth, shadows and features
in your photograph.
Phil Croucher
iCatCare Photography Competition 2013, Overall Winner
iCatCare Photography Competition 2014, September Winner
Professional photographer
Phil’s tip: ‘try
to fill the
frame with
your subject
but make sure
not to cut off
their ears or
be very expressive, deep and beautiful so focus
on them — this keeps them sharp and prominent
in a photo.
Think about what objects, besides your subject,
are in the photograph and where they sit in the
frame. Check to ensure that the background
does not impose unintentional and intruding
Also be mindful of your background — if it is
too busy it could distract from your focus point.
When arranging your composition, bear in mind
the useful concept of the ‘rule of thirds’.
Patience is a virtue
Cats are notorious for doing what
they want, when they want — and
they may not be in the mood for
a photoshoot when you are. Forcing a cat to be
photographed will just produce poor photographs,
so be prepared to wait for that perfect shot.
Focus on the eyes
As the saying goes, ‘eyes are the
window to the soul’... so make the
most of them as we are usually
drawn to them first in photographs. Cat eyes can
114 iCatCare
Carl’s winning photograph of Holly the housecat, taken through his living room window. Carl took
his 2014 winning shot with a Sony A99 DSLR camera
Be ready
Rule of thirds
The basic priniciple
behind the ‘rule of
thirds’ is to imagine a grid on your
viewfinder or screen when taking
a photo. This identifies the centre
focal point, four points of interest
(where the lines cross over) as well
as giving you four lines to use as
useful positions for your subject(s).
The idea behind this is that it will
produce a more balanced and
interesting image (see right).
Some digital cameras even come
with a ‘grid’ feature that appears
on the screen but which does not
appear on the captured image.
Cats are their own
masters, and many
will not pose on your command,
so always keep your camera close
by — you never know when that
perfect moment will happen or how
long it will last. Spontaneous shots
are always interesting as they
capture something completely
natural and unstaged.
Do not expect to
turn into an expert
over night. The more you practise,
the better you will get, so take lots
of photos and learn from mistakes.
Have a look at photos taken by
others (such as the images in our
2015 calendar, greetings cards and
sympathy cards) to get inspiration
on how to create interesting and
beautiful shots. If you take your
time and follow our 12 purrfect
photography tips, you could be
the next Carl Welsby or
Phil Croucher.
Natural light is
nearly always best for
photographing cats,
especially if you are
taking the shot outside, as it gives
a softer appearance to photos and
appears less artificial. The best
time is when the sun is low — you
get a warm and soft light without
shadowing the cat (especially important with black cats!). Try to
use natural light rather than a
flash as this can produce a harsher
image and reflect off your cat’s
all-important eyes, giving them
a demonic look.
Phil’s winning September image of Minnie.
Using the ‘rule of thirds’ grid, Phil has positioned his subject,
Minnie, at the centre of his image
To see more examples of Carl’s
work, visit: http://carlwelsby.
smugmug.com/ and to see more
of Phil’s work, visit: http://phil