Competitions Photography Tips & Tricks

Take Better Cat Photos (part 2)

The second part of my tips for taking better photos of pets at home, including real examples submitted by you!

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!