Expert Tips for Taking Action Photos of your Dog
Photos and Words by Corey Chiang, @jaxandthepack
Dogs are cute- like really cute and we have hundreds if not thousands of photos of them on our devices and social media accounts. However, have you tried to take a decent photo of them in motion, only to be irritated that all of the photos came out blurry? Here are some tips on taking action photos of your dog.
*As a disclaimer, these tips are for photos taken with a DSLR or Mirrorless cameras.
Use a high shutter speed
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is a little bit of science to shutter speed. To freeze motion with your camera, your shutter speed should not be lower than your focal length. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens, your shutter speed should not be under 1/50. The same goes if you are using a telephoto lens such as a 70-200mm, do not let your shutter spend fall under the higher number, for example, you shutter speed will need to be 1/200 or higher
While those are the technical recommendations for shutter speed, the higher the shutter the better. Most cameras can go up to 1/4000 and depending on the conditions in which you are shooting that may be best, such as full mid-day sun. Just keep in mind, your shutter speed will affect your exposure if you are shooting in manual mode.
The direction of your action is key
Taking photos of your dog running from left to right or right to left is easier to photograph than your dog running straight towards the camera. That is because when your dog is running from one side to another, they are staying in the same plane which makes it easier for your camera to stay focused. When your dog is running towards the camera, they are traveling through different planes that your lens has identified based on your aperture settings and your camera is unable to focus fast enough.
Time it perfectly
If your end goal is a photo of your dog running towards you, the most popular photos are dogs jumping over a log or running down a trail. To achieve these photos, you will need a higher shutter speed and you will choose exactly where you want to take the photo as your dog is running towards you.
For the dog jumping over a log photo, position yourself somewhere in front of it, have your camera ready, set your focus point on the log, and as soon as your dog is about to jump over press and hold down your shutter button. Shots like this, typically take a couple of tries so do not feel bad if you have to re-do this a couple of times.
Take photos in a well-lit area
While bright light does not always make for the prettiest photos, it does make ideal conditions for action photos. The bright light requires higher shutter speeds already because of the exposure triangle and many photographers wanting their ISO to be as low as possible at 100 and apertures wide open at 1.4 or 1.8, leaving the shutter speed the only thing left to adjust the exposure.
The bright well-lit area will allow your camera to focus faster. Cameras grab focus based on contrast. If your subject is easily discernible from the rest of the location, it’ll be easier to focus and take the shot.
Use Continuous Auto- Focus
Be sure to set your camera’s focus mode to continuous. For Nikon and Sony cameras it is AF-C and for Canon cameras it is Al-Servo. Continuous auto focus mode allows your camera to continuously focus on your subject within the set focus field, increasing the likelihood your photo will be in focus.
Now you are all set to get awesome action photos of your dogs. All of these may take some practice to use but when you put it to the test and get those in-focus action shots, you will be very happy.