To give yourself the best chance to capture a great expression AND get the photo in focus, I highly recommend you use burst mode when taking photos of your pets, even if they’re sitting still.
Our dogs are living animals. They will give us a range of expressions – especially for less eager dogs (like Journey), where you may have limited opportunities to capture him with his ears up. Therefore, the moment they give you an expression that isn’t bored/disinterested, you want to have the opportunity to capture a number of photos of that alert expression.
This also means that we have more chances to get in-focus photos.
Let’s say Journey is looking bored. I’ve got my back button focus activated, the focus point over his eye, ready for the perfect moment…
Then, all of a sudden, he perks his ears.
If you look at the photos in this sequence (click to enlarge), you’ll notice that there’s only maybe… 4 of them where his ears are up and forward, but only ONE where I would say he’s totally alert and engaged (can you tell which one??) All of these photos were taken in a matter of maybe 2-3 seconds?. But imagine if I had only been taking one photo at a time.
If I have the camera taking one photo at a time, I’ll probably get one, MAYBE two photos of him looking alert before his ears go back down and he looks bored.
If I have my camera on a kind of “burst mode” where it fires off a number of photos at a time, I might get to take 6-10 photos of him looking alert, before his ears go down.
Now, let’s imagine that in Scenario 1, where we only took two photos…. that one was out of focus, and one he kind of pulled a weird face and his eyes are all wonky. I can now use neither of those photos.
Let’s imagine scenario 2. I took 10 photos. Even if one of them is badly out of focus, two of them are very slightly out of focus, and one is pulling a funny face… I still have 6 useable photos to choose from!!
This doesn’t mean you need your camera on super super fast ultimate speed burst mode.
Mine is usually on “Medium”, unless I’m doing action photos when I’ll burst as fast as possible.
Of course this depends on your camera! If your camera has a slower “Frames per second” rate (how many photos it can take per second), then you may need the burst to be as fast as possible.
Experiment with your camera to find the “sweet spot” between having 50,000 photos with only very slight variations, and not capturing enough so missing out on possible expressions.
NOTE: this will not guarantee your photos will be in focus!! It just takes more photos, and if you have all your settings “correct” as per the focus lessons, should give you more chances to get useable photos.
Some typical "snapshots" from my camera roll after a photoshoot & analysis
Click to enlarge
This whole sequence was from one location, up until the last 4 photos where i moved myself slightly.
I think I would have been asking Journey “Where are the squirrels?!”, which causes him to look all around, and especially up.
In order to give myself the best chance to capture a “pretty” expression (since he can sometimes look a bit dopey), or where he isn’t looking crazed, I want as many options to choose from as possible. In some, his mouth is more open, in some, his neck is longer, in some, he’s more alert.
Video from this shoot coming soon, to show you how many similar photos I’ll take at one spot, and the rationale behind it. Because “spray and pray” also isn’t a good strategy!