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So.. you want to take nice photos of your dog?

By Ryan Horner @RTH.Imagery


You’ve been scrolling on Instagram and have seen all these great photos of dogs looking super vibrant and well-constructed, and now look at your own wishing yours were the same. Hopefully reading through this, you’ll be able to pick up a few tips which will help you nail that trophy shot.


This guide is aimed at beginners or those who are looking to broaden their basic knowledge of photography.


Most importantly, things you will need..

1. Camera! This guide will refer to settings found on DSLR and mirrorless cameras. However some smartphones do have individual settings as mentioned below.

2. A subject!

3. A plan!


Exposure.

Exposure is comprised of 3 fundamental settings, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO. Ideally, a photo should be perfectly exposed meaning that with the perfect amount of brightness you can see all the detail in the highlights and the shadows. However, that said, photography is art and everyone’s interpretation of an image is different, but for now, we will focus on the correct exposure.


Here are 3 examples of an underexposed, correctly exposed and an overexposed.


Aperture.

Aperture is the first of the basic concepts we’re going to look at, and in short is very much like the pupil in your eye in that it controls how much light is going into the cameras sensor.

The aperture has a direct effect on the exposure, the wider the aperture, the brighter the image and the narrower aperture, the darker the image will be. One thing to remember that when talking about aperture, the lower the number, the wider the aperture (also referred to as f-stop).

However, its not all as simple as it seems. Using a wider aperture, a lower f-stop, will mean your image is bright and letting in as much light as possible, but it means your depth of field is very shallow. Whereas using a high f-stop such as f/16 won't let much light in at all, but does give you a deep depth of field meaning lots of the photo will be in focus.


Shutter Speed.

Next up we have shutter speed, a much simpler concept than aperture! Shutter speed is essentially how long the cameras shutter stays open. Faster shutter speeds means the shutter is open for a shorter time in which the camera can take in light, resulting in a darker image. Slower shutter speeds means the shutter is open for a longer time, resulting in a brighter image.

That said, the slower the shutter speed, the steadier your hand needs to be! Shooting at slower shutter speeds without support or a tripod, can lead to motion blur from you moving even by the tiniest of amounts. This also goes for your subject. A moving subject will become increasingly blurrier at slower speeds, so be sure to choose an appropriate shutter speed for the photo you’re taking. With a running dog, I find that at anything slower than 1/800, you will get motion blur.




ISO.

ISO settings on a camera is essentially artificial light. This has a drastic effect and is it all directly relative. The range is usually from 100 all the way to 52,000. So for example an ISO400 will give you 4x more brightness than ISO100. Great you may think? My camera goes all the way up to 32,000 ISO! I can take photos in the dark! Well.. not quite. With higher ISO, comes something called the dreaded ISO blur. Whilst it can be edited out, or at least reduced, its best to make sure its not there in the first place. Trial and error is usually your best bet for this as every camera has different sensors and software. For example, my Nikon Z6ii will be able to shoot a much higher ISO before we get noise, compared to an entry level camera. But for most cameras, I’d say aim for between 100-640 ISO.


As you can see, ISO blur/Noise is present.


Exposure Triangle.

Personally for me, the exposure triangle never helped but I’m choosing to include it as it may help you. The exposure triangle is a somewhat simple analogy of how the three basic settings interact with each other and how if you’re changing one, you will need to adjust the other two. For example, if you open your aperture, you will need to reduce the shutter speed, or decrease the ISO setting, or both!


Composition/The Plan.

Now, my absolute favourite topic of taking photos, the composition! The composition is in my

opinion, the most important thing to get right, alongside making sure the subject is in focus. When I’m planning a photo or out on a walk taking photos, I always try to have something in the foreground and background of my frame to make it more interesting and give the picture some depth.

A poorly composed photo can have the best image quality and settings in the world but still look boring. As the photographer, it’s our job to make the photo pleasant to look at and not boring!

Why do I call it the plan? Very few good things happen by accident, so by ensuring we have a plan of what we’re going to do and what we want the photo to look like really does help. To help formulate a plan, I follow a few basic rules I’ve set myself.

  •  No more than a 3rd of the image should be foreground.

  •  No more than a 3rd of the image should be background.

  •  The subject should be following the rule of thirds. (More of a guideline)



Lets look at this example, first we see my final edit. It includes a foreground and background and gives the image depth. Firstly, your eye is drawn to the bottom left of the image where the bracken is out of focus and in front of the subject, your eye then follows that diagonal line to the rider in the photo and then back between the trees to the background which again is out of focus. Secondly, the cropped version, removing the foreground. For me, it completely changes the feel of the photo and isn’t as interesting.





Moving on to the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is more of a guideline than a rule, however it’s a great starting place. The rule of thirds refers to how to compose an image and entails dividing the frame up into 9 equal rectangles and placing the subject on an intersecting point. The subject you’re shooting can affect the best positioning. For example when shooting a portrait, you’d want to place the subjects eyes two thirds up the image and around the left or right intersections and align the nose with the rest of the grid. However, when shooting a landscape, such as a sunset or the moon, you should place the horizon along the top or bottom horizontal line. The rectangles look like below..

When the rules don’t apply.

Everyone loves to break rules from time to time, and that’s the same with composition. Forget the rule of thirds and stick your subject in the middle! There’s a time and place for when this works, and we will look at this below.


Great, my subject is in focus, centered in the photo, the lighting is correct. Job done! Well, yes, it is. But how can we improve the overall image? Remembering what we’ve previously mentioned about the foreground and background to add depth, lets see if we can improve it. The next photo is taken through some long grass, looking through the grass at our subject. By simply moving the camera lower to the ground, and adding something to the foreground, we have totally changed the image, adding depth and movement.


Final words.

Photography is art, and art is about personal taste. What you may find pleasant, another may find not to their taste. Just because what someone says or does looks good, it doesn’t mean it may work for you. Hopefully the insights in this have helped you understand the foundations of photography and will give you the stepping stones you need help progress your journey. Mastering the basics and getting out there taking photos will help you tenfold, nothing beats experience!


Ryan.

RTH.Imagery.








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