Friday, January 3, 2014

"Dogs + Winter + Action = Cool Photos " using an SLR Camera

Did you get a fancy new camera for Christmas this year (or for me a few years ago :)) and have no idea how to get those awesome pictures you know are possible.  We are very lucky to have a guest blogger this month, Erika Anderson from Erika A. Photography.  Erika gives us some suggestions to get those great shots of your pets.  If you feel you need to watch a pro in action, then come visit us during one of Erika's ACTION winter photo days at Shake-a-Paw's outside agility field in (3400 Wallace Road) South Mountain on Saturday February 22.  Cost will be $70 for 30 minutes.  That includes 5 images emailed at 8x10 size chosen by you from a online gallery.  To book a spot for the pictures from 1pm to 4pm send us an email at info at  If you have been reading our blog, Erika did all the pictures in our December series Holiday, Company and Dogs.

Now here is Erika

After adopting my first Border Collie mix in 2001 I started photographing dogs and cats. Since then, many people often ask me what camera I use to get the fun shots of dogs outside.  I always laugh because I don't believe its the camera, but your technique and artistic eye.  Of course practice and patience are a key element to photography in general, but understanding your lighting will make or break the image.

So lets take your typical winter day, during a snow storm or right after when it is cloudy and/or dull outside.  Look around you, there are no shadows.. Perfect for photos??!! Yes :) Think of the ground, it is all white, perfect to reflect natural light. Think of the snow as a soft light from below, just like the soft light from above.

 Look into the eyes of Breeze. You can see reflection from below and above.
This creates a soft even lighting for the dog.

Lets check out a photo taken on a winter day but with the sun as a bright bold light!
This is when you have to watch your subject  more closely, checking for shadows and making sure the sun is not behind or directly in front of your dog. Look into Abby's eyes, you can see that the main light source is from above, with a slight reflection from below thanks to the snow. This fills in the shadows under she chest and surrounding areas that with out the reflective snow could end up dark.

Now that you can see how the lighting provides the right contrast and balance to a photo, we will now figure out our shutter speed. Something that every photographer needs to capture the ACTION!

Action is all about speed, so the higher the shutter speed the faster your camera will capture the image. Faster the image is captured the less blur you will get.

So the image above is taken on a sunny day. The sun will definitely make your shutter speed fast. The more light you have, the faster your shutter speed can capture the image. Take note where their shadows are, this tells you where the light source (the sun) is coming from. In having the light in front of your subjects (Abby and Fae) it creates a darker backdrop, enhancing the blue sky. Everyone loves a blue sky :) Plus it add's more details to the snow.

And then you ask, well what if its not sunny... How do you get a high shutter speed on a cloudy/dull day?

Your ISO option now comes into play as an important roll.. 
This is like when you would buy film and the options were, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600.  All digital SLR's have the option of many different ISO's. The down side to pumping them up to 1600+ is you tend to get what looks like grain or no usually sharp images. Most of the time if you are shooting during a cloudy snow day you should be fine at 400 ISO. On a sunny day 100 ISO

Now get bundled up, bring some toys and get shooting!  Practice, practice practice, with digital there are endless possibilities.  The way to learn is to experiment until you reach your snowy photographic goals.

Thank you Erica.  

We would love to see how your pictures turn out.  Send them in and we will add them to our picture gallery on the website.