Dog Photography workshop 20th May 2018

That was a great workshop! The whole morning session was spent setting up cameras to get the most out of them and helping improve the understanding of what the menu settings actually mean and how they help control the camera.

If you give your camera too much choice, especially the high end ones, the camera will confuse itself and give you what it considers the best compromise. This is rarely what the photographer is looking for. This particularly applies to the autofocus system, you may have heard of the expression "the autofocus is hunting yet I am focussed on my subject"!

If your autofocus doesn't know where you are focussing, it will look for the highest level of contrast in the frame or on the subject.

If you are precisely telling your camera where to focus, you will get what you want.

On the beginner level cameras you can only choose a single focus point or all of them so the choice here is easier to make, use a single focus point and make sure you move the focus point across the frame to focus where you want. Or you can focus and recompose but this is difficult with a moving subject.

On the enthusiast level cameras you can select groups of focus points to help achieve focus but here you are starting to give your camera options so this can mean the camera will choose where to focus rather than where you actually want it to.

Sometimes we can get drawn into the belief that we have a really good camera so getting a good photograph will be easy. Actually the better the camera you have, the more you need to understand how it works so you can get the best out of it, it just won't do it for you!

Unfortunately there is only one way to get to know your camera properly and that is to read the manual and then go through all the menu settings on your camera so you understand what they do. Then play about with the settings and see how they affect the cameras performance so you can take the theory and turn it into practical knowledge. There are only so many YouTube videos you can watch and listen so someone else opinion where it is your interpretation that is important because you are a unique photographer!

So we went through all the menu settings and then we went through each of the lenses that had been brought along to ensure everyone understood the capabilities and limitations of their respective lenses.

A very popular lens is the 70-200mm f 2.8 and several manufacturers produce these lenses and they are very good lenses but the do have limitations. If I asked you what is the focus distance limit on this lens would you know what I mean?

A lens can take photographs of huge distances can't it? It certainly can but if you then pull the image in, zoom in on the back of the camera or crop it post processing you will get distortion as you pull the image in. This is because the subject is too far away from the lens to record sufficient detail for a crop.

With the 70-200 f 2.8, mine is the series ii Canon, the maximum focussing distance is only 10m!

To get an image I can properly work with in post processing, my subject has to be within 10m of the end of my lens! The minimum focussing distance is 1.2m, if anything is closer that that my lens won't focus so I only have an effective working range of 8.8m.

If a dog is running straight towards me, I only have 8.8m in which to get the shot, if that dog is running fast then I have to know what I am doing and have my camera set up properly to give me the best chance of getting a WOW picture.

There is much more to cameras and lenses that we might realise and we have to know our equipment.

The afternoon session was spent testing ourselves and our kit with dogs coming towards us, slowly at first and the at increasing speeds. This included dogs jumping towards us.

Shooting modes can also have a big impact on how successful we are. I prefer to shoot in full manual mode as I have complete control of my camera. This does require a great deal of practice as you have to react to changing light conditions quickly so being aware of the available light is paramount, after all, photography is all about the use of light!

I did switch into aperture priority mode as my clients were struggling with a straight to manual jump and I switched the ISO to auto so my camera was now making decisions about exposure with i didn't agree with and it was a great discussion point, even though it was much easier to get a shot, what was I, as a photographer actually learning?

The camera is helping and that might mean the chance to get the shot is improved which I can understand if you are photographing wildlife and you may only get one chance but we are photographing dogs so we do have the opportunity to do it again, especially in my dog photography workshops!

Manual mode is where the challenges lie as it makes you think about the exposure triangle of shutter speed, aperture and ISO, you will be changing one or more of these three things to get your shot so you need to have control of them! Then practice so you become familiar with how to change them quickly, the more you do it, the more natural the process becomes and the less you will have to worry about it!

The availability of light will determine your settings and for dogs in motion you will need a minimum of 1/1000 shutter speed, an aperture setting to allow sufficient depth of field to keep a dog in focus as it runs towards you which will be at least f7.1 and an ISO to enable you to maintain these settings in the available light. If the dog is slow moving, you might be able to reduce you aperture to f5.6 but you also have to bear in mind the size of the dog and the dogs nose as well as keeping the legs and feet in focus as the dog extends its stride in a run. There is a lot to think about!

Or you can shoot in full auto mode and hope for the best! I know which I prefer, full manual mode every time! Thank you for reading!

If you would like to join me for the day and learn more about your camera, lenses and dogs, the date for my next workshop is Sunday 29th July and you can book by clicking here