Sport dog events are exciting and packed full of action. If you're lucky enough to be in attendance, you'll want to make sure you get some great action shots. But how do you go about doing that? Here are some tips from a professional dog sport event photographer.
Choosing the Right Equipment
The first step is to make sure you have the right equipment. You'll want a camera that can shoot in high-resolution and capture fast action. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is ideal, but even a good point-and-shoot camera will work if it has a fast shutter speed. You'll also need a zoom lens or a telephoto lens if you want to get up close to the action.
Setting Up Your Camera
Once you have the right equipment, it's time to set up your camera. If you're using a DSLR or mirrorless camera, set it to continuous shooting mode. This will allow you to take multiple shots in quick succession, which is ideal for action photography. You'll also want to set your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second or faster. This will help freeze the action and prevent blur. If you're using a point-and-shoot camera, set it to sports mode or action mode. This will optimize your camera for fast shooting.
Composing Your Shots
When you're composing your shots, remember to leave room in the frame for the dog to run into. This is called leading the eye and it's an important compositional technique for action photography. You should also try to get low to the ground, as this will make the dogs look bigger and more impressive in your photos.
Capturing the Action
Now it's time to start shooting. If you can, try to pre-focus on the area where the action will take place. This way, you won't have to worry about your camera hunting for focus when the dogs are running around. When the action starts, hold down your shutter button and keep shooting until it's over. You can sort through your photos later and delete the ones you don't want.
Perfecting Your Shooting Technique
With a little practice, you'll be able to get some great action shots at dog sports events. Often, photographers will aim their camera at the obstacle and wait for the dog to get there. However, this technique can lead to a lot of lost opportunities for great photos.
Instead, familiarize yourself with how to pan your camera. This will allow you to keep your camera focused on the dog as it moves around the course. To pan your camera, start by following the dog with your eyes. Then, move your entire body along with the dog and keep the camera pointed at it. As you do this, press the shutter button down and take several shots in quick succession.
Get the Run Order
Knowing the run order in advance can help you plan your shots and get some great action photos. Often, you'll be able to find the run order online or you can ask a member of the organization for a copy.
If possible, try to arrive at the event early. This will give you time to scout out good shooting locations and set up your equipment. It will also help you avoid the crowds and get some great photos without people in the way.
How to Avoid Distracting the Dogs
The last thing you want is to be a distraction to the competing dogs. After all, you're there to capture their performance, not interfere with it. Here are a few tips to help you avoid distracting the dogs:
Avoid making loud noises near the dogs.
Don't use flash photography.
Be aware of your body language and avoid making any sudden movements.
Do not bring food or treats into the competition area.
Ignore any dog looking for your attention.
Don't get too close to the action
Photographing More Than One Ring at a Time
For events that have separate courses for novice & advanced teams, it's often possible to photograph more than one ring at a time. This can be a great way to get more photos without having to run back and forth between courses.
To do this, you'll need a long lens (200mm or longer) and a tripod. Set your tripod up between the two rings and use your long lens to capture the action. You may need to experiment with your settings to get the right exposure, but this technique can be very rewarding. It will take some patience & practice to time your shots and swivel your tripod between the two rings, but it's a great way to get more photos without missing a beat.
Avoiding Blurry Photos
Action shots are often blurry, but there are a few things you can do to avoid this:
Use a fast shutter speed. A good rule of thumb is to use 1/1000th of a second or faster.
Use continuous shooting mode. This will allow you to take several shots in quick succession and increase your chances of getting a sharp photo.
Use autofocus. This will help your camera to quickly focus on the moving dog.
Use a tripod. This will help to keep your camera steady and avoid blurriness.
With a little practice, you'll be able to get some great action shots at dog sports events. It may ultimately be best to hire a professional dog sports photographer to get the best possible photos, but these tips will help you get started.
A Note From Sue
As a professional dog sports photographer I hope you found these tips helpful! If you have any questions or need a professional photographer for your sporting dog event, please contact me.