Competitions Photography Tips & Tricks

Take Better Cat Photos (part 2)

Thanks for all the feedback so far and I hope you enjoyed the first part of this post. If you haven’t already taken in part 1, start here!

I’ll be following this up with some how-to videos in due course. Remember to sign up to the mailing list if you want to know when they’re released – where you’ll also be in with a chance of winning a free photoshoot EVERY MONTH!

Anyway, on with the pictures!

Picture 4 – Darren

I love how this photo almost looks like the cat is taking a selfie! If the paw had been leaving the frame on the left hand side it would have been perfect, but it’s still a great photo. The strong eye contact, the face in full focus, and the way the top of the ears have been included make this a really satisfying picture. What makes this work so well though, is the series of lines that run through it at diagonals. The bars behind, the lines of blue and white blind, the radiator and the spaces between the sofa cushions all converge to help to draw the attention towards our feline.

There are a few things I would do with this photo if I was editing it using professional software– the first thing would be to straighten it up slightly. It only needs rotating a fraction, but it would make the picture that tiny bit easier on the eye. The other thing I would do is enhance the eyes a little post-production. I’d add a little sharpness and increase the exposure ever-so-slightly – to really enhance that eye contact. I’d also change the colour of the orange object in the background – the rest of the picture has this wonderfully consistent colour palette and it’s a really shame that the orange in the background is slightly distracting.

That said – given the dynamic nature of cats, this is a wonderful shot to capture. Some people might prefer to see the paw that has sneaked out of shot, but if Darren had carried on shooting from different angles or distances, the cat would have changed position and he may have lost the eye contact or the calming stillness in the shot. Remember – you’re always likely to be compromising on something.

Key points: Great colours, strong eye contact, face in focus, wonderful use of lines, could be ever-so-slightly straighter.

A picture of a cat

Picture 5 – Linda

Now for something a little more abstract. I love the atmosphere this picture evokes – a sense of calmness, simplicity, restfulness. There’s something incredibly cute about a cat’s paw. The little pads, the small spaces between digits, the tenderness of the fur. The choice to make this black and white is the right one – we don’t know what colours are in the background, but it immediately stops any attention being taken away from the subject.

It’s always really tricky to take close-up photos and keep them in focus, particularly when fur is involved. The autofocus sensor looks for areas of strong contrast to identify the subject, and fur is usually multi-layered and thus the contrast is subtle. A couple of potential changes spring to mind – one would be to put the focus on the claw that is sticking out. This can be done by using the rule of thirds (see bottom of post) and placing the claw on one of the power points. It would involve a change of angle but would highlight the sharpness of the claw in contrast to the delicate nature of the fur. Another way would be to move the camera to a slightly different spot and hide the white patch on the left side of the photo, which distracts from the subject.

This would look great on the wall of a cat-lover. I can see it as part of a collection of images looking at the detail of various parts of a cat’s body.

Key points: Good decision to go with monochrome, interesting subject, background could be less distracting, consider use of rule of thirds.

Picture 6 – Manon

The simplicity of this photo is wonderful. We’re all very familiar with seeing a cat on a shelf, and the use of a limited colour palette in the edit/choice of filter means this almost feels like a painting. The Tibetan singing bowl next to our subject adds to the air of peace, and there’s a very subtle colour change on the wall above the cat that helps fill the frame and maintain interest. We have back-to-front sharpness, the shelf is perfectly straight and this really could have been taken by a professional.

There are two things I would have been tempted to do differently, but these are entirely subjective. The first is I would have tried moving the camera to the right slightly to remove the reflection from the bowl. The slightest movement can make the biggest difference. The second is a technical aspect using professional editing software – I would look to raise the shadows (the darkest parts of the image) ever-so-slightly slightly to bring out a little more detail in the fur.

Key points: Nicely balanced composition, lovely colour palette, wonderful feeling of peace.

Rule of Thirds Explained

In picture 5 I mentioned the rule of thirds. This is a very simple, but very powerful composition technique that can easily boost the quality of your images. Take a look at the picture below.

Many camera phones and compact cameras will have the option to select an overlay when taking photographs (see above). Have a snoop through your menus and see if you can find it. Don’t worry if it’s not there though, because all you need to do is imagine that the picture is split into three sections both horizontally and vertically.

The eye is drawn naturally to anything positioned on the points where the thirds meet – indicated by the places at which the lines meet on the overlay. You can see there are four “power-points” – if you place your subject on these power-points you will naturally make your subject stand out. If you are taking a portrait of a person or an animal – try to place one of their eyes on the power-point for extra emphasis. You might need to play around to find out which eye works best, but that’s what photography is – playing around within the knowledge you have to find the composition that works best for your photo!

I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Let me know how you get on by sharing your pictures to me on Facebook at my Brighton Cat Snapper page!

Keep your eyes peeled for some tutorial videos and don’t forget to to subscribe to my newsletter to receive free photography tips and tricks, and to be entered into a draw to win a free photoshoot every month this year!

Competitions Photography Tips & Tricks

Take Better Cat Photos (part 1)

In December I wrote a blog asking you to send in pictures of your cats, which I would then use to offer some simple tips for improving your photography.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone that submitted their photos. What’s interesting is that these photos are all wonderful as they are – they’re very clear, they have the subject in frame and in focus, and they all show the character of their felines! Photography is subjective, and my feedback is around what I would do to try take the quality up a notch – not to correct anything that is wrong – so you may or may not agree with me and that’s fine! I’ll be talking about some basic composition techniques that anyone can use – I’ll be doing my best to illustrate them with some examples but if you have any questions please drop me an email and I’ll do my best to expand on my point or link you to other online resources.

Right, let’s get started!

Picture 1 – by Charlie

A black cat lying on its back on a blue floor

I love this picture! You really get a feeling of playfulness and attention-seeking. The face is in focus, there’s adorable eye-contact with the camera, the paw sticking out to the right gives us just enough information to know they’re lying down, and the light blue background and light-coloured floor provide a lovely contrast to the black cat. The reflections in the eyes show that this was taken in environment with a lot of natural light, and this is really useful for bringing out the detail in the black fur. The whiskers help fill the frame as well. This is a really great photo, taken on an iPhone 8.

There are a couple of things that I would have been looking to do differently as a professional photographer. One is something that only a nit-picking photographer like me would be doing: the left eye is ever-so-slightly out of focus, so I’d be looking to widen my aperture to make sure it was in focus. Most camera phones don’t allow you to change the aperture setting manually, so to get around this you can back away from the subject slightly. This will increase the depth-of-field (the amount of the shot that is in focus) – just make sure that the camera is focussed on either one of the eyes, or the space between the eyes.

That also links to my second suggestion. I’d love to see a tiny bit more of the head. By moving the camera away slightly, the ears will come into shot, as will as a little more of the body.

This really is a wonderful photo as it is – great work Charlie!

Key points: Fill the frame, keep eyes in focus, strong contrast between background and subject works well, strong natural light for black animals will bring out details in their fur.

One caveat here that will apply to all of these photos – and indeed all pet photography – is this: Animals are lively! Everything I’m suggesting is in a best-case scenario. The “perfect” photograph is almost impossible – you’ll always be compromising on some aspect of the photo – the only really important thing is that you like it and it means something to you!

Picture 2 – by Rachael

A white cat with grey nose and mouth, surrounded by toys

Look at that cute little kitty! In many ways this picture is perfect. A perfectly central composition, lots of other items in the frame that are relevant to the subject (toys, litter tray etc.), and that gorgeous look of expectation in kitty’s eyes! The spot of light on the head provides a wonderfully-satisfying curve over the eyebrows, before the shadow kicks in beneath the face – this really helps draw attention to those gorgeous eyes.

Going back to my caveat – this is a great photo of a great moment, and that’s the most important thing – the only thing I would be looking to change in a professional shoot is removing some of the other items from the shot that are a little distracting: the grey and orange tag on the left-hand side, the cushion/pillow in the top-right corner, and the sock beneath kitty’s paw. I might also tidy up the litter tray and distribute some of the toys up the right hand side of the frame. BUT in doing this you are of course creating a false situation and relying on kitty to get back into the correct position for the re-shot, so it would depend on whether you are looking for an authentic or an ideal photo. Personally, I prefer authentic and I think this is a great photo as it is.

Key points: Frame is full of (mainly) relevant objects, strong eye contact, could be tidier for a “perfect” photo.

Picture 3 – by Staci

A cat wearing a red bow tie, on top of a hamper

A wonderfully colourful image! I love the contrast of the burgundy bow tie with the blue background. The hint of the Christmas tree behind our subject, and the wonderful warm colours suggest a cosy winter theme. I love the cat’s expression, and the relaxed paw positions. It was a great choice of shoot from below the subject as well – it’s a different angle to what we as humans usually see, and it really brings us into our subject’s world.

Capturing the perfect moment with animals is always tricky, particularly when the photographer probably had to stabilise their hand in an unnatural position to take this, but in an ideal world I’d love to see the top of the ear, perhaps with a little space separating that from the top of the frame. Something else you can do is crop the image to either a 1:1 ratio (square) or a tighter 3:4 ratio, and take out some of the hamper that is dominating the picture. I’ve posted examples below – both place more emphasis on the subject, but lose the sense of height on the hamper. Which do you prefer?

Key points: Lovely colours, warm and relaxed seasonal vibe, subtle crop can bring the attention more towards our subject.

Tighter 3:4 crop

Square crop

You can read part 2 here, and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to receive free photography tips and tricks, and to be entered into a draw to win a free photoshoot every month this year!


Free monthly prize draw!

You may have noticed by now that I LOVE a competition. Everyone loves a freebie, right?

I like to keep my competitions simple, so that anyone can enter. No photography skills are needed, just a working internet connection. After all, if everyone was a photographer, I’d be out of work!

Not only is this competition the most simple of them all, you’ll be entered automatically every month. If you enter in January you’ll have TWELVE chances to win over the course of the year!

Over the next twelve months I’ll be sending out one to two emails a month to my mailing list subscribers. This will include hints and tips for taking photographs at home, exclusive subscriber offers, and – yes you’ve guessed it – more competitions!

Here’s the best bit though – on the last day of every month one mailing list subscriber will win a free photoshoot of their choice. The winner will be able to choose from a pet photoshoot for their pampered furbaby, or a character portrait shoot for themselves. The prize can be redeemed anywhere in Sussex, or exchanged for a gift voucher to pass on to a loved one.

To be in with a chance of winning a photoshoot every month between January and December 2020, simply use the form below to sign up for the mailing list. You details will not be passed on to any third parties and will be stored using the GDPR-compliant Mailchimp mailing list software.

Want one more chance of winning a character portrait shoot? Check out my free-to-enter competition on Snizl!


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Terms & Conditions

  • One entry per email address per month.
  • Cannot be exchanged for cash.
  • Each winner will receive one Purrfect for All or Character Portrait Starter photoshoot.
  • Photoshoot dates cannot be guaranteed in advance – to be arranged around the availability of the photographer.
  • Photoshoot must take place in Sussex.
  • I reserve the right to refuse a photoshoot in an unsafe or unsuitable location (but you wouldn’t do that to me anyway, right?).
  • Competition can be withdrawn or changed at any time at the discretion of the organiser (I’m only including this in case life happens, y’know?)
  • Questions? Drop me a line.


Pet Photo Feedback & Prize Draw!

Please note this competition closed on 31st December 2019.

It’s coming up to Christmas and I’m in a giving mood. I know that although a pet photoshoot with free A4 framed print makes a wonderful gift, a lot of people love the photos they take on their phones.

Many phones these days contain high-end cameras with amazing capabilities – with the image quality often coming close to the that offered by a professional camera. Multiple lenses in camera phones mean that problems in the old brick phones like shooting in low-light conditions or difficulty tracking fast-moving objects are no longer obstacles to getting great pictures of your furbabies.

I’ve yet to come across a camera phone that can offer the same dynamic range and level of sharpness as a professional camera, and this becomes more obvious when photographs are printed, however, some simple tips to improve sharpness and composition can really take your images to the next level, and if you’re only using them on social media this lack of sharpness may well go undetected.

Professional pet photography makes black cats looks great!
A professional camera can usually pick up more detail in the range of blacks in an animal’s fur than a camera phone.

So here’s what I’m offering: submit a photograph of your pet between now and midnight on 31st December 2019 and in the new year I’ll write up a blog post offering ideas for some simple tweaks to improve the photos I receive. You’ll not only pick up tips for your own images, but you’ll be able to learn from the pictures submitted by other people too! Plus, you’ll get to read a whole blog post full of pictures of furbabies! What’s not to like? I can leave your name off the post if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.

All entries will be entered into a draw to win a free 30-minute pet photoshoot in your home, garden or on location (Sussex only). The winner will be drawn at random from the list of names entered. Just to be clear – this isn’t a photography talent competition – quite the opposite! You know that picture that you love, but you think could be slightly better? Send me that one!

There are two ways to enter this competition:

  1. Fill out this simple Google form (link removed as now closed)
  2. Email with your image attached as a JPG file*

It is important that you have the relevant copyright before you submit any pictures – don’t panic though – if you took the photo, you are automatically the copyright holder! If you didn’t take the photo, you must seek permission from the person that did before submitting it to the competition. You retain all copyright – you simply grant permission for me to use the image for the purposes of this competition. It won’t be used for anything else.

It’s that simple! If you have any questions, please get in touch. I look forward to seeing my email inbox filled with gorgeous animals!

*By sending your entry via email you are agreeing that I have permission to use the submitted image on this blog and on social media for the purposes of this prize draw. You are also agreeing that you either are the copyright holder or have permission from the copyright holder of the image.