Shooting Canines in Action??


TPF Noob!
Aug 13, 2013
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I have a totally noob question :blushing:

I am currently in school for Animal Care and will also be attending a training academy for K9 Training for Law Enforcement. My point is, I attend Police K9 Training every Monday and I plan to bring my camera along next week. I would love to capture some great shots of the dogs and their officer's in action.

Obviously, I need to set my shutter speed so that the dog's are not blurred as they will be moving the whole time. (and the officer). But I don't want a wide aperture because I want everything in focus. I am curious if this was you, what settings would you use?

I have a Canon 10D and will be using a 70-200 lens. The time will be between 6:00pm and 8:00pm. I feel okay about 6 to 7 but once it starts getting a little dark, I freak out. I don't want to jack my ISO up (the photos may be printed into calendars later and I don't want a lot of noise), and there will be lots of movement. So, I feel that it will be dark and blurry. This is the one thing I have always had a problem with and I'm not sure why I can't understand it :(

Sorry if I sound completely silly, your help is greatly appreciated!
So, I feel that it will be dark and blurry. This is the one thing I have always had a problem with and I'm not sure why I can't understand it
It's not just you. These are problems that photographers have been facing since the dawn of photography.

You need (enough) light in order to make an exposure. You have three on-camera controls to allow more or less exposure...and each has a consequence when you want to allow more exposure.
So the lower the light levels...the more you would have to compromise on your choice of settings. That's really all there is to it.

About the DOF issue...if you need the exposure of a large aperture, it may be worth sacrificing some just have to make sure that you focus carefully. Keep in mind that you can increase your DOF by; a) using a smaller aperture, b) using a shorter focal length, or c)being further from your subject (point of focus). Unfortunately, b and c will often cancel each other out.

I know I've mentioned it before...but your 10D is going to be a limiting factor in some situations. I've got 20D cameras, and while they can still make great photos...the noise levels get iffy around 800 and 1600 is for emergencies only. I've also got a 5DmkII and I'll use 3200 without much thought...and 6400 can be usable.

Of course, there is another option...and that would be to increase the level of light. Most likely scenario would be to use flash...but that may or may not be workable for this situation.
Image noise is preferable to blurry.

By today's standards your Canon 10D has poor low light ISO performance (DXO Mark ISO score - 571).
Canon much newer, $1500 7D doesn't do all that much better (DXO Mark ISO score - 854), particularly when compared to Nikon's $1200 D7100 (DXO Mark ISO score - 1256).
DxOMark - Compare cameras side by side

You are in a 'catch-22' type of situation.
As the available light diminishes you have to increase the exposure, or resort to adding light to the scene by using a flash unit.
To maintain the exposure and the shutter speed without using flash, you're only options are to open the lens aperture and increase the ISO setting thus making DoF shallower and adding image noise to the images you make.

Here is a list of cameras by ISO performance - DxOMark - Compare cameras side by side

Your 10D is far from being obsolete. Like any other camera, you just need to be cognizant of it's limitations.
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Set your ISO to your highest usable setting, shutter-speed to at least 1/500, Tv mode, and continuous-servo AF (or Canon equivalent). Use a single-focusing point in the centre of the view-finder and hope for the best! If there is enough light, you may be able to drop your ISO down, but 1/500 is what I've found to be the absolute minimum, and 1/1000 is better if possible.
Lights are a lot cheaper than the full frame camera you would need to significantly increase low light performance.

For an semi formal event like this that you're a part of already, I imagine they would let you set up a light or two.
10D at iso3200 below not bad for it day, to get good results your exposures need to be spot on and shoot in raw, focus seems faster if you use the back button to focus


And one of my favourite action shots i took with it

Thanks everyone. This really helps!! I will apply everything I read and will post photos after Monday of my results :)
Like Gary I have used a 10d in some pretty low lighting situations (shooting basketball in a horrendously lit arena, no flash). For me it was a real learning experience. Not having a 2.8 lens is a really limiting factor and you need to be in the right place to get the shots too. So if you can move around to get the best angle (it takes a bit of practice and anticipation but you can get there). Don't sacrifice shutter speed for a low ISO, and don't sacrifice anything for exposure. Often in PP you can get good noise reduction, but you can't save a really badly exposed or poorly framed shot.
When you're losing light it's pushing the limits of what a camera can record. I shoot a lot of film and it gets to the point in the evening that it's just getting too dark (unless someone sets up to do long exposures), with my digital camera at some point the pictures are going to be noisy. I think it's a trade off between ISO and shutter speed, I don't usually go slower than 1/60 handheld but that's what works for me (if I try any slower I try to prop or brace myself against something).

I'd shoot as much as possible early. I use my meter to determine my settings; I'd like to have a midrange or smaller aperture while it's light out if I want to get a larger area in focus (I'd go to a larger aperture to get a closeup). Once it's getting dark I might have to start opening up the lens more and get closer to the subject if possible.

I've done hockey in dark dingy hockey rinks and I learned how to get by with 1/125 if I had to, by shooting when there was a pause in the action, a faceoff, etc. but that took practice and experience, figuring out how to make that work. Usually I want at least 1/250 which is still slow for sports since 1/500 or faster to freeze the action. I sometimes focus on a post, net, etc. where I know the action will move to next; then I can take the photo when the action comes to me (into my viewfinder).

Since you're familiar with it that should be a help, you could think about where to be and when certain things will happen so you can anticipate when something will happen. You might want to go early and do some test shots so you have an idea how to set the camera for the existing light at the beginning of the event.
Given the usable ISO limitations of your 10D, as dusk sets in, it will be increasingly more difficult to get a decent exposure with a shutter speed in the neighborhood of 1/500, to stop action. I'm foolish enough to try a few shots at 1/250, but would expect 50% or more to come out blurred due to movement. 1/125 is usually sufficiently fast if people (and dogs) are stationary. So as the sun goes down, instead of catching them 'in action', catch them stopped, or while the dog is sniffing out a trail, etc. You'll still end up with some blurred shots, though. So 'mix it up' a bit with 1/500, 1/250, 1/200, 1/160 and 1/125 and some shots will work, others get deleted.

Knowing you're working under the constraints of ISO and shutter speed (and no flash), I'd probably shoot in Tv mode. Set your ISO as fast as you are happy with (not too much noise, or, at least, not more noise than can be corrected in post), and change the shutter speeds from faster to slower and back every couple of shots...both well lit and towards dusk. That way, your camera will pick the correct aperture given the other two settings. But, as mentioned above, you'll likely be shooting at or near wide open on your lens, narrowing the depth of field. If you can, move further back from the subject to increase DOF. Also, if reasonable, shoot at the 'wider end' of your zoom, say 70-150ish or so...even 70-100 if reasonable. That will also increase DOF.

Of course, with any moving/breathing subects, you'll need to set the AF mode to AI Servo to 'track' subject movement. I'd also set your camera to use only the center AF spot, to make it easier for you and the camera to pick the focus point.

And if you want to try a couple of difficult-to-get shots, with the dog and handler both moving from left to right or right to left, try panning as you press the shutter at slower speeds, say 1/125 or so. 'Follow' the dog with your camera and press the shutter about a second after you start following the dog. Even for panning-experienced photographers, getting good, clear results with the dog nice and sharp and the background 'moving', they likely delete far more than they keep.
Thank you, thank you!! I can't wait to experiment tonight with my new-found knowledge :)
Thank you, thank you!! I can't wait to experiment tonight with my new-found knowledge :)

Don't forget, in "One Shot" mode the camera will lock focus and remain there waiting for you to take the shot... but if the subject moves it will not re-evaluate focus.
In "AI Servo" it will continuously re-evaluate focus.

If your dogs and handlers are on-the-move and walking in a direction which is either getting nearer or farther from the camera, then you'll want to switch to "AI Servo" mode.

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