[FORMAL CRITIQUE] Pedigree cat photography

EdithM EdithM 17 posts

Any pedigree cat photographers in here? I am really getting an interest for cat photography, after a couple of sessions with domestic cats, and recently with pedigree British Shorthair cats. What I have found so far is that it takes time and patience, and while kittens often get comfortable rather quick, the adult cats tend to be more nervous.

This one is up for critique:

What do you think about lighting, the pose, the composition? I have almost decided never to use that bench for cat photography again, do you agree? Shoot :-)

Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to get that shot that the breeder loves?


BYRON BYRON 12561 posts

Edith, check out this tutorial on posting images… (use the second technique)



FallingHorse FallingHorse 114 posts

Hi Edith – I think the light on this bench has reflected on your subject making it look overexposed in parts. I absolutely love the eyes though! Perhaps you could try bouncing the light of something else – I’ll leave the technical stuff up to more experienced people – just my observation. Other than the distracting light I think it’s a great capture :-)

Trish O'Brien Trish O'Brien 175 posts

Well I for one think you’re amazing at pet photography. Do you really want tips? It seems to me like you’ve got it down pat, and don’t need any help.
I’d be interested to know what kind of lighting you’re using – ie flash or continous? I read once that dogs hate flash, I have no idea if cats do – my cat won’t sit still long enough for me to find out, unless he’s doing an impersonation of roadkill, which isn’t very interesting. (ie asleep, don’t get worked up everyone :-)
My dog gets in on the act with every shoot I do, flash or not, but still is too brainless to stay and make the shot look good.
Basically, I take my hat off to you, you’re doing a great job. :-)
PS, love the bench, on the white background it works really well – are you just tired of it, or don’t you like the effect?

EdithM EdithM 17 posts

Byron – thanx, I know how annoying it must be for you :) Next time I’ll nail it!

FallingHorse – Yup, that is a common problem we have with the white studio unfortunately. It’s a real trick to make it work for ones benefit. But I think I’ll try something else next time. Also I could have tried with a fence on the softbox, to get more direction in the light. I’ll do that next time :D

Trish – Thank you so much for your encouraging words! :) I use a softbox flash for main light. Our studio is quite large, and in this shoot I used two lamps to light the background, and one square (quite big) softbox for lighting. Since the cat is so small I only used the main light, and no reflectors (other than the white floor and bench). The bench I just got to dislike after trying to edit it off from some of the other photos I sent to the breeder…it just kills me in some of the photos.

This was a nice way to have a second look at my own photos! Thank you for the comments!

BYRON BYRON 12561 posts

F I R S T – I M P R E S S I O N S:

Bland, sorry.
Seen it before.
It’s a cat.


Brand / Manufacturer:
Unknown / Not Advised.

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Aperture / F-Stop:
Unknown / Not Advised.

Shutter Speed:
Unknown / Not Advised.

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Focal Length:
Unknown / Not Advised.


It’s a very High-Key image, which I like. This suits the subject well, and keeps the viewer’s attention firmly on the subject.

Overall Exposure is good, no badly over-exposed or underexposed areas. Some of the white fur has lost detail, and there is not a lot of contrast which has made the image seem a bit soft or washed out.

The large amount of white does vie for our attention, especially the white fur near the cat’s face.

Lighting is soft to the point of being almost directionless. There is little or no shadow in this image.

Colour Saturations:
The low level of contrast has resulted in low colour saturations. This is fine if you are trying to create a dreamlike quality, but it doesn’t really work for me here. Stronger Colour Saturations would have really helped create more long-term interest. This subject may have benefitted more from a low-key (dark) background to help bring-out the colours in its fur.

Focus / Depth of Field:
Focus is good on the cat’s face, and there is a gentle use of DOF (Depth of Field) which ensures the viewer’s interest is maintained on the cat’s face, which is (afterall) the most interesting part of any subject.

Sharpness is good, not over-sharp and the DOF has created a very subtle softness to the rest of the image, which suits it very well.

Score (out of 10 points): 5

Look at this photograph by BILLYBOY

This image has the “awwwww” factor in bucket-loads! You almost can’t help but just love this image. While the subject is placed squarely dead centre, there is more than enough Negative Space around the subject to frame it beautifully and keep our interest on the main subject.

The Secondary Subjects (toy birds and the bowl) and the cat’s tilted expression help to create a sense of humour for the viewer. The strong use of similar colours that compliment the cat’s eyes really adds to long-term interest.


Aesthetics / General appearance:
Edith, it’s a nice image, but unfortuneatly there is very little to maintain long-term interest (“return value”). This is possibly because it is simply a picture of a cat on a chair.

The most interesting part of the subject (its face) is strongly over-shadowed by its body, which takes up far more space in the frame than its head. In fact the head is very small within the frame as it is.

Emotional Content:
While this is a very good representation of this cat, its doesn’t really have that “awwwww” factor. While I am certain that the owner of this cat would be thrilled with this image, you really want to create the “awwwww” factor in other viewers to maintain interest.

Storytelling ability / Creative communication of a concept or idea:
It’s a cat, on a chair. Not much to say really.

Unfortuneatly, not very original. It’s a cat, on a chair, and its not doing anything. It seems like a record-shot of a cat. (albeit a reasonably well executed image!)

Score (out of 10 points): 5

Look at this image by FLIBBLE

This is an excellent example of using lots of Contrast to create great Colour Saturations, as well as getting in close to really feature the most interesting part of the subject.

This image is enhanced by capturing the subject doing something really silly with a great expression on its face. It really makes the viewer wonder what on earth is that cat looking at; thereby creating loads of interest.


Framing / Cropping:
Edith, placing your subject almost dead-centre can be predictable. I feel you either should have been much closer and really featured the cat’s face or pulled back further and positioned your subject better to allow for some usefull Negative Space.

Simplicity of Design:
The simplicity of this design is compromised by the chair, especially the rail. It adds nothing to the image and is distracting.

Points of Interest:
Cat, chair. Nothing else.

Rule of Thirds:

Lines & Diagonals:

Balance / Use of Negative Space:
There is effectively no Negative Space in this image. There is nothing to balance the subject against. Negative Space can be used to give the viewer a “rest” from looking at the subject, after which the viewer’s eyes return to the subject, The resulting balance between the space taken up by the subject and the Negative Space is generally pleasing and helps to maintain interest.

Score (out of 10 points): 5

Look at this second image by FLIBBLE

This is one of the best examples I have ever seen of an animal “action-shot”. I mean WOW! look at those claws!

FLIBBLE has captured his Bengal cats doing something they are quite famous for, and as such has really given us an insight into the spirit of these adventurous little cats. The inclusion of the second cat watching the jumping cat really makes for heaps of long term interest and plenty of “return-value.”

I think that FLIBBLE is one of the most original and exciting contemporary pet photographers I have ever seen. It is well worth checking-out his portfolio and especially his BENGAL CAT SERIES


Edith, you have captured a nice image here. It is by no way a bad image, but unfortuneatly it doesn’t grab me.

Technically, it is competently executed, but the Composition, Framing and lack of action is really letting down this image in the long-run due to very little long-term interest. There is nothing to really keep bringing the viewer back again and again.

Photographing pets is one of the hardest styles of Photography to execute well. The world is full of nice photographs of our pets, that have very little interest except for the owner.

I personally have a couple of thousand pictures of my cats, my dog, and my chickens. I like them, but I doubt anyone else would see anything of interest in them.

When photographing pets, and all animals really, you need to apply Uncle Ansel’s approach… Wait… Wait… Wait for the perfect moment.

Ansel Adam’s would go to enormous extremes to get his perfect photographs. Hiking into the mountain’s of Yosemite Valley with mules carrying all his equipment and glass plates (no digital back then!). He would set up his equipment and wait, sometimes for days at a time just to get the weather exactly how he needed it to create long-term interest and to really display the mountains of Yosemite in the most impressive way.

I am not suggesting for a minute that you should be as dedicated as Uncle Ansel, but the philosophy is sound. You really do have to wait… Animals are living active creatures. Viewers want to see them doing something (its why people tap the glass of fish tanks).

A pretty, well executed image of an animal is a dime a dozen – they are literally everywhere (just like landscapes). You have to work that much harder again to create something eye-catching and original.

Compare this image to those you have done of the kittens… CRISPY VALHRONA SERIES where your subject is active. They have far more impact for the viewer, and a lot more “awwwww” factor.

A good effort, but I would like to see you really try again and take a photograph of this cat showing us more of its personality.

Total Score (out of 30 points): 15

EdithM EdithM 17 posts

Byron – thank you so much for the feedback. I am overwhelmed, and I’ll probably need some time to process it all. I also have to finish editing all the images from the shoot and talk to the breeder, because as of now I am unsure of the line between a photo that captures the breed features, and a more artistic photo – if there even is one. Either way, I know now I focused too much on the first. It was a good lesson though, spending almost three hours with the different cats (three adults and a kitten), getting them to calm down etc. (not very easy in a huge white studio by the way…sigh.) I am sure that narrowing it down to only one cat per session will do wonders, both for the sake of my creativity and the cats state of mind.

So you see, the image as it is turned out pretty much the way I had planned it. Next time I will plan it differently. I think just adding a grid to the softbox can make a small world of difference, and also experimenting with light strength to adjust the size of the pupil of the eye.

In conclusion; the next photosession with a cat will be different, both technically and mentally. I do look forward to impressing you some day ;-)

nadine henley nadine henley 2304 posts

there’s no way to favorite forum pages, is there? such a pity becasue I just want to come back to this again and again – such a comprehensive and helpful critique – well done, edith for being so brave so that we can all benefit!

JanT JanT 2558 posts

Nadine, Byron has added this to the bottom of his list of photo tips and hints at his site.

Edith, I know what you mean about shots for the breeder vs action shots. Shots for our breeder have her hands holding the tail and nose of six-week-old Lab puppies so that she can which ones will make best in show. Despite Byron’s excellent critique, I do love your shot. I like the whiteness and back of the chair with the high-key aspect that accentuates wide-eyed look. Beautiful shot.

BYRON BYRON 12561 posts

Nadine, you can select WATCH THIS TOPIC at the top RHS of this screen. It will then advise you of any updates, and store it as a “Watched Topic” in your main page.

@ Jan…


Doug Wilkening Doug Wilkening 416 posts

Very nice high key image. The bench adds interesting context. Maybe too much light in the lower left corner. I would not want to add contrast or saturation to the fur because that could detract from the punch of the eyes, which are the center of attention here.

BYRON BYRON 12561 posts

Byron – thank you so much for the feedback. I am overwhelmed, and I’ll probably need some time to process it all.

@ Edithm…

Yeah, that’s how most people react the first time they get one of these critiques. There’s a lot of imformation to digest!

Peggy Berger Peggy Berger 802 posts

Boy, this is really cool - I hope sometime I post something that captures Byron’s attention like this — I feel like I got a whole class for free!! I shoot dogs for breeders and while dogs and cats are very different, a lot of the learning applies. Thanks to Edith for posting and of course to Byron. I’m watching the topic for SURE!! What a great great find to come across Red Bubble! Cheers to all!

nadine henley nadine henley 2304 posts

@ Byron – thanks, I’d forgotten that watching the topic leaves it stored in the main page. RB thinks of everything!

BYRON BYRON 12561 posts

@ Peggy…

If you want one of these critiques, post an image and request a critique.

I can’t do one for everybody, but I will attempt to get one for you this week.

Otherwise checkout this extensive list of CRITIQUES AND TUTORIALS

Doug Wilkening Doug Wilkening 416 posts

After careful consideration, I am convinced that Byron is dead wrong. A lot of good words, Byron, but dead wrong where it counts the most — at the bottom line. This image is not bland or uninteresting.

I found myself coming back over and over again to this image. Then I said to myself, “If it’s so bland and uninteresting as the expert says, why am I back?” Then I asked, “Is it just me?” Then I looked at the view count for this thread. As I am writing, I see that this thread now has the highest view count on the first three pages of the Round Table forum. Somebody else keeps coming back, not just me.

It can’t be because the discussion is lively, or because there is a good critique in the thread. Lots of threads have lively discussion, and many threads have good critique. The view count is evidence of wider interest in the image than just one person.

A high-rated object, by definition, can’t be written off as lacking in interest to its audience. You may criticize it for other reasons, but uninteresting? No. The numbers prove that it is very interesting to somebody.

sunith shyam sunith shyam 194 posts

@ Doug: Did you discount the fact that Byron’s elaborate critique might be pulling in people. His critique can be used as a basis to analysis one’s own photos or you can even use it as a guideline before venturing out on a shoot. I admit the cat is cute, has expressive eyes and the lighting is good. But I wouldn’t come back to see the cat(maybe I am not a cat person). I might come back to see if someone has replied to this thread. But that ain’t the same, is it?

Doug Wilkening Doug Wilkening 416 posts

Yes, I did consider all that. There have been elaborate critiques in many threads, not only in this group, but in the main forums as well, and I don’t see any evidence that an elaborate critique, by itself, draws viewers in large numbers. Look at the Black Knight forum, for example. BK has solid critiques and lively controversy as a general rule, but it’s relatively rare for the view count in BK to get as high as we have here.

Why not give the OP some well-deserved credit for providing us with good subject matter?

TheWalkerTouch TheWalkerTouch 886 posts

Byron, you really do use the strangest choices of other people’s work to use as good examples. There is no denying that Flibble does some great photography but his bengal cats are at his beck and call and in their own environment where he can spend hours just waiting, camera poised, for the right moment. You are being unfair to use his work as an example to someone who might have only a few minutes to capture a likeness of the pet of a complete stranger in a situation that is most likely to be alien to the animal concerned and your critique, as usual, is over the top.

Corri Gryting Gutzman Corri Gryting ... 10129 posts

Thanks for the good information on capturing the exceptional pet photo.

Edith, Were I THAT cat’s owner, I would be proud to hang your portrait on my wall. There is something in the cat’s expression that does capture me.

ambermay ambermay 332 posts

Oh, my goodness! I’m so glad to have come across this thread!
I myself love to photograph cats and was doing this for a while. Not just pedigree cats though.
This image to me is great (well, maybe it’s because I’m not an expert and many of my own images are not as good).
But in simplicity of my eye I can say only that bench is good, but if it was of a darker color (say – very dark red) – perhaps the subject would stand out and pop more?
I love the eyes. And I don’t find the composition disinteresting, because I see it as a formal cat portrait, which suppose to convey just that – cat on a bench – and a beautiful cat too. Also an expression on cat’s face is priceless – it says: ‘what the heck do you want from me?’
I myself don’t have a studio or any lights and I take my pictures with available lighting and wherever cats agree to pose for me – that’d be a composition.

So, looking at this picture – I’d say it is really nice to my eye and I love the focus on eyes. Though because there is much space taken by the cat’s body – It’d be nice perhaps to have more detail to it’s fur and perhaps more contrast?