One of our favorite dog photography techniques is something we call “shooting blind” (or, as Darwin perhaps inappropriately puts it: “c’mon doggie follow the wiener!”). The photo below shows Darwin getting ready with a Shiba Inu puppy. First, you want to set your camera to ‘tracking’ auto focus and choose a wide angle lens or wide focal length. Hold the camera down close to the dog and take a few quick steps backward while holding out a bit of wiener in the other hand toward the dog. As the puppy starts to play this intriguing game with you, randomly press the shutter button as you move backwards. Do all this without falling down and hurting yourself! Sure you’ll get a lot of crappy photos (and a few bruises and licks) but in almost every attempt you’ll get one winning shot and lots of laughs!
Here is the keeper from Darwin’s shoot with the Shiba Inu above:
If you want to try this with your dog, here is our suggested workflow:
- We prefer overcast days for this technique because the light is more even and the details in the dog will record beautifully on your camera sensor. If you shoot on sunny days make sure that the dog is mostly front lit.
- Grab a wide angle zoom lens. On a full frame camera we find that 35mm is about the perfect focal length to use (on cropped sensor cameras try 24mm).
- We set our camera to aperture priority mode and usually pick an aperture between f5.6 or f8.0 to get a decent depth-of-field to cover slight focus errors.
- For overcast days we set our ISO to 400 which gives us decent speeds (1/250s or higher) with apertures in the f5.6 to f8 range.
- Set your camera on predictive or tracking auto focus (see your camera instruction manual if you don’t know how to do this) and be sure to have all the auto focus points active because you don’t know exactly what your framing will be; with all points active, chances are good one of the points will lock focus on some part of the dog.
- Put your camera on high speed motor drive.
- Cover the viewfinder eyepiece with a piece of dark tape or cloth so the camera meter is not fooled by bright light coming in through the viewfinder.
- Pick a location where you have plenty of space to run backwards and there are no dangers (like trees, cliffs or highways).
- Call the dog over and give it a piece of wiener.
- Lower the camera to the dog’s eye level, hold a piece of wiener over the camera with your free hand call the dog’s name and have it chase the camera and wiener as you run backwards (this is called multitasking!)
- Shoot a series of photos until your camera buffer runs out or you fall down or the dog jumps you!
- Stop laughing, catch your breath, reward the dog with the treat and then review your images. If you got one good one you are lucky! If you didn’t get anything good then adjust as needed (more or less shutter speed, different framing, different background etc) and try again.
- We think the unusual framing and interested expressions on the dogs’ faces create dynamic images. And you really can’t help but have fun doing this!
Here are a few more photos we captured using this technique: