In this blog post, we will cover a few crucial areas when it comes to photographing your dog in action, whether running, leaping, or jumping a log.
Real-time top tips, learnings, and inspirations from our Learning Journey members and their dogs – whether they’re experienced professionals, or at the beginning of their journey! This is part 1 – as my amazing members shared so many photos and tips, advice and lessons, that I want to share them all with you too!
With Chris van Riel’s first webinar of six just around the corner, I hope these action photos, tales and tricks get you as excited as I am to learn all about photographing dogs in action this year.
If you want to level up your action photography make sure you check out the webinar series and secure your spot!
Photo by: Amy Guare
“I recent took this photo of a very energetic cocker spaniel to use as my personal ‘starting line’.
I tried to use as many tricks as I knew to increase my success rate but she didn’t follow footpaths at all and was SO QUICK with a mind of her own 🙈
You can see we were out on a common with fairly long plants so super open space with lots of light – the ones I tried to take under trees weren’t nearly as successful 🤔”
Amy hits on SUCH a great point here (apart from the photo being GORGEOUS and also seeing all her progress in the Learning Journey is AMAZING) about the importance of light when it comes to action photos!
While low-light conditions work fine for portraiture, our cameras really need the extra contrast and available light, in order to be able to focus on and keep focusing on our moving subjects! Especially when they’re in long grasses! It’s not impossible to do action photos in the woods (and not with the right equipment) but it’s certainly much more difficult!
Photo by: Sofia
“This might not look like a photo in much action but there is some😅
This is my first ever action shot and I took it with my old camera that couldn’t track so I physically/manually had to focus on my lens which was almost impossible for me at that time to do while in action but it was worth it! It’s still my favorite action shot I’ve taken”
The fact that the dog is in focus at all with a manual focus lens just blows my mind! We all know how important a fast lens is – the better the lens, the more likely you are to get action photos in focus, right?
Now imagine having no autofocus at all, just being able to twist that focus ring and hope like hell that the dog doesn’t move too much! While I would definitely recommend continuous autofocus for action photos, I’m super impressed by Sofia capturing this watery action photo without it!
“It’s been freezing in Belgium this week, but after weeks of rain I wanted to go out and take some soft golden hour portrait photos. But then all of a sudden, I saw this ideal action scene and my border collie wanted to run down the path. I only had my new (second hand) Sigma 50mm art with me that I actually just wanted to have a test run with. In stead of freaking out that I didn’t have my Sigma sport lens, I adjusted my settings (I even stayed on manual instead of being a pussy and switching to the aperture mode) and just took the shot. 🤩
What I would like to learn from the seminars is how to give action photos the right atmosphere in editing, to make them more powerful. It would also be great to learn how to shoot REALLY fast dogs. My border collie is fast and has agility speed, but when I tried to take some photos from flyball dogs, I blinked and they were already gone. 😅
(50mm, ISO500, f1.4, 1/1250 sec)“
There’s so much great stuff in this comment from Marianne about how she made this photo! First of all, one of the huge lessons I try and impart upon my members is to just get the shot. Even if you don’t have the perfect lens with you! Some photo is going to be better than no photo! Also, being brave and staying on manual exposure mode, I LOVE that! The problem with aperture-priority is that the camera may not have known you were doing action photos, and therefore kept the shutter too slow! (Want to also not be a pussy and start using manual mode for your photos? Check out my “Master Your Camera” course!).
And lastly, I think we’re all looking forward to seeing how Chris edits (hint: it’s similar but different to me. Kind of like… backwards to what I do in some ways! I always find it so fascinating to see how people can edit so differently and come to similar results!) and also those ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ speed dogs! Let’s gooooo. (Here’s another link to sign up for the webinar!)
“This was one of our recall/photography games we sometimes do. Getting all fours in the air is hard enough and there is almost no light these days. Didn’t help that she was wearing her overalls but I am quite happy with this one.”
Short and sweet from Nina, but what more needs to be said? I think we ALL love these 4-paws-in-the-air photos! I’m really looking forward to June, when Chris’ whole webinar is going to be on these “run toward me” photos!
Photo by: Linds/Haggie Snaps Photography
“We had lovely overcast conditions on that day and the light was great to capture action. Talking the photo itself was fairly easy, now that I had a gear upgrade. I used to really struggle with action. Editing was a little harder for me though with this one until I was happy and it wasn’t too over dramatic.”
Gear is such a HUGE part of action photography – and I don’t think you realise how important the right gear is, until you get Chris start to nerd out talking to you about all the complicated, technical things a camera has to do in order to capture this type of photo! There are FOR SURE cameras and lenses that are better suited to action than others, and he’s going to be going into all the technical bits and pieces in August, with our equipment masterclass. Trust me, this is a HUGE passion for Chris, and one that we don’t think is discussed or understood enough when it comes to action photography. So happy Linds’ upgrade helped her capture this amazing shot!
Photo by: Nick/Frame & Focus
“I normally don’t really do action shots, but I would love to do it more often in the future. So I had to dig deep to find one haha. It is an older photo (2021) [and]
I’d definitely edit it differently now, but he.. I’m still happy with the result.
This photo of my dog Koda was taken on an overcast morning (if I remember correctly). I just bought my Sigma 70-200 F2,8 sport lens and wanted to try it for some action photos. I took the photo on my Nikon D750 at 120mm, 1/1600, F2,8, ISO640
I was surprised that I managed to get a lot of sharp photos. I guess it really helped that the pathway was quit narrow, so Koda could only run in a straight line towards me.
I’m looking forward to the webinars to learn about focussing technics for fast moving dogs (especially when you don’t have the most modern camera with animal/eye tracking options). These days everyone is talking about and relying a lot on the newest tracking systems, but people have been doing action photos forever so it would be nice to get some tips and tricks for getting it done without all of that fancy stuff 😆
Also maybe some insight on camera burst speeds, bufferspeeds, slower and faster memorycards, lens choices (focal length as well as focus speeds)
What is the best distance to start taken photos when a dog comes running towards you, to prevent that the only sharp photos are of the dog still miles away haha (it happened..)”
This photo is an oldie but a goodie that’s for sure! (Does anyone else say that or is it an Aussie saying?). I loved seeing all of Nick’s questions and things he’s hoping to learn in the webinar series because i feel like ALL of us are wondering all these things but don’t know how to ask, or just get a bit overwhelmed by everything there is to learn!
Using a pathway like in this photo definitely hits on Chris’ #1 tip, which I mentioned in a recent email to my subscribers, and that is the importance of repeatability; being able to set up the shot multiple times to give yourself the best chance of success – in this case, the path definitely helps by keeping the dog running in the same direction every time! No crazy unexpected swerving or going on a weird angle.
Photo by: Natasja / Fenrir CSW
“I took this action shot when Fenrir was having zoomies, just to try things out that I read in one of the posts about action pictures. I didn’t have any expectations and I thought I would be throwing all the pictures away and just use it as a learning opportunity .
The light was a bit sharp, outside the forest part, but luckily it was good enough for the picture. It had been raining a lot and therefore there formed drops of muddy water around Fenrir. Which was again lucky 😅 I tried to make more action pictures last week and it was a lot harder. So definitely love to learn more about what’s needed to take the perfect action picture (settings, surroundings, light conditions etcetera). “
You know, I’m always saying that you can’t just read/watch a lesson and hope to improve, you have to actually pick up your camera and get out there and take photos… And it’s so cool to see what Natasja captured, even with a “let’s just see what happens” mindset! I’m always saying that worst case, all you’ve lost is some time, and you’ve learned a lesson… best case, you get a gorgeous photo like this!
The bright light definitely would have helped capture this action photo, and the splashing water is such a great feature! Everything Natasja’s hoping to learn is going to be covered by the webinars so it’ll be so interesting to see her action photos by the end of the year, when we’ve had 6 months of Chris van Riel learning! I can’t wait!
I hope you picked up some interesting tips and advice, or you’re feeling inspired to get out there and take your own action photos after seeing these amazing photos from some of my Learning Journey members! There’s more coming, so keep your eyes on the blog for them, as I’d like to start sharing more of the work, from every stage of their journey – I’m not here to hand-pick the “best of the best” – I want to celebrate them AS they learn, because even being brave enough to put your work out there to be shared is amazing!
Thank you to all my students who shared your work, and if I haven’t posted yours here, don’t worry – it’s coming! I’m just taking them in the order they were posted in the Community!
Until next time!
Emily, Loki & Journey