Hints for Running Dog Shots

Started Jan 14, 2009 | Discussions thread
John_A_G Veteran Member • Posts: 7,448
some advice

OK, here is some advice.

With the kit lens at 55mm and f5.6, dof is not going to be an issue - it really isn't. What is likely to be an issue is proper technique.

Set Camera in AV (aperture priority mode).
Set Aperture to f5.6
Set ISO to 400
Set focus mode to AI Servo
Leave all focus points on

Take a couple test shots and see what shutter speeds you're getting. If the shutter speed is below 1/640 then raise the ISO to 800. If it's greater than or equal 1/640 don't change anything. This approach will give you the best stop action while maintaining quality. There are three problems with using TV mode as was suggested by another poster:

1. No reason in stop action photography to LIMIT your shutter speed. There really isn't. If you can achieve 1/2000 that's great. The idea with stop action photography is to make sure your shutter speed doesn't fall below a certain threshold. But you want the highest shutter speed you can get.

2. With TV you can select a value that is too high. And yes the camera will let you take the shot anyway and it will be underexposed.

3. Depth of field. The idea with action photography is to draw attention to your subject and diminish other aspects of the background. A panning technique can help that but it's not applicable in the dog running toward you scenario. So, the best way to accomplish it is to have shallow DOF (wide apertures, long focal lengths). In TV mode you lose control over aperture so rather than getting extra shutter speed which is beneficial you can get narrower apertures which leads to more DOF which is NOT beneficial.

So, now that the camera is set up you have to do some things to maximize your chance of success.

1. If the dog is running TOWARD you and not sidewise, use the camera in portrait orientation - unless it's the fatest dog in the world there is more vertical component to the dog than horizontal.

2. Don't bother taking photos until the dog fills 1/2 the frame. You want to give your camera more detail to work with - especially when the subject is moving toward you and changing focal planes. Unfortunately with only a 55mm lens that means the dog is going to be really close. This type of shot is a lot easier with a 70-200 or 70-300 lens that you can start at max focal length and zoom out as the dog gets closer.

3. Keep the center focus point on an area of contrast - preferably the face. If it's sunny as you said the focus system will have the most difficulty with a white face. So bright sun and white hair will cause problems you wouldn't see in overcast situation. But in any event do your best to keep the center point over the dog's face. And with the dog filling 1/2 the frame that's not too difficult to do.

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