Dog Photography Tips: How to Shoot Sharp Action Photos of Your Dog Every Time using this Easy Pre-Focus Method
95% of my photos used to end up looking like this:
No More Blurry Paws - Capture Perfect Action Photos Every Time!
I love to take photos. And I take hundreds of pictures every week. I also love dogs, so most of my photos have a smiley canine or two in them.
There is just one tiny little problem - and its called Alfie. Don't get me wrong, he is the cutest, smartest and most adorable dog on the planet - but he is almost impossible to capture on film (or on memory card in my case, but you know what I mean). Even with his short little legs, he is faster than lightning and bursts through the frame quicker than you can say 'fetch'.
His tri coloured little face tricks the auto focus and light meter into melt down. And don't forget the almost continuous low light conditions of the British summer (and winter!) and I have pretty much everything working against me in my attempts of getting decent action shots!
Here’s how I learned to take incredibly sharp action photos of my dog by using an incredibly easy pre-focusing method.
© Linda Bliss 2013
Or like this:
The Right Camera for Action Photos
I sometimes shoot with a 50mm prime lens, and sometimes with a 18-200mm zoom lens. Both are great lenses, but - the combination of a fast dog and not quite enough light still landed me with blurry dog shots on most days.
My old Nikon D50, was impossibly slow and quite frankly wouldn't take any decent shots unless it was bright sunshine and my subject was sitting perfectly still. So, I tried getting a new camera and I now shoot with a brilliant new Nikon D7000 D-SLR, and it has one of the fastest and best auto focus systems money can buy (unless you get a professional camera of course!). But even with this new camera, I found it difficult getting the focus spot on.
But, rather than blaming my tools and admitting defeat, I thought I'd try a new tactic. How about pre-focusing on the point exact point where I believe the action will happen, and then I don't have to worry about the autofocus not being fast enough?
Entry-level Cameras that are great for Dog Photos
If you're looking for some info on good entry level D-SLR's for dog photography then check out my review of some of Nikon's beginner's cameras.
Want More? Check out these tips:
The first step was to get Alfie to sit still, with his back against a nice green backgrund - a hedge. That part was easy. Then I walked across the lawn, and sat down about five meters away from Alfie (who is still patiently waiting for his cue).
I used the autofocus to focus on a toy lying on the ground halfway between me and Alfie, changed over to manual focus (so that the focus would stay put) and threw the ball, whilst trying to frame the picture as Alfie burst forward to fetch the ball.
The idea was that Alfie would fetch the ball roughly at the point where I had focused on the toy. And it nearly worked! The shot already looked much better than my first attempts, but because the depth of field was too narrow at f1.6, and although the camera can shoot numerous frames per second, Alfie shot through the 'focus area' way too quickly and I still ended up with a blurry dog face and eyes.
Learn Dog Photography from the Pros:
I didn't touch the pre-set focus, and lured Alfie back into his starting position by the hedge and walked back to the same spot where I took the previous photos. Then using the S-Priority mode, I dialled up the f value to 13, bringing the shutter speed down to 1/500 sec, and hoped that the wider depth of field would allow me to capture at least one decent shot where most of him was in focus.
And although the framing isn't perfect, I'm pretty happy with the focus in these shots. I reckon with a little more practice, I might end up with some really good action shots in the bag!
This method can be used in a variety of situations when you know roughly where the ‘action’ is likely to happen. Its perfect for capturing groups of dogs romping, racing dogs, during a game of fetch or when photographing kids and dogs playing together.
What are your best tips for capturing doggie action shots?
I would love to hear your best ideas and suggestions for how to combat the dreaded blurry paws!
The Pick of the Litter:
More Articles on Pre-Focusing that you might enjoy:
- Pre-Focusing - Learn a Pro Trick to Take Sharper Action Photos
Give your autofocus system a chance to do its best. Anticipate where the action will take place and pre-focus the lens to that spot. Your image will end up sharper.
- Pre-Focussing: Photographing Moving Subjects
Darren Rowse gives a quick overview in his Digital Photography school on how to use the pre-focusing method.
- Pre-focus the moment | Improve Photography
This is a great overview of how to use the pre-focusing technique in low light and in action photography.