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Maximize Your Compact Digital Camera for Dog Photography

You don’t need a digital SLR for dog photography, but if you’re working with a compact digital camera, it’s still important to understand camera basics if you want to make the most of your camera. In today’s market, some CDCs even come with higher-end settings like aperture-priority mode, shutter-priority mode, and even AI servo functionality.

Start by familiarizing yourself with your CDC and take note of all the different settings (or “scenes”) it offers.

CDCs are meant to be very user-friendly and to make sense to even the most novice photographer out there. Unfortunately, this design can sometimes mean that the process is so automated that you lose all control over how your images look. However, with a solid understanding of the various modes offered on your camera, you can easily take back that control by choosing your modes wisely.

Most CDCs come with the following modes:

  • Portrait: In portrait mode, your camera automatically chooses a wide aperture (that is, a small f-stop number like f/4), giving you shallow depth of field. When you’re shooting a portrait, your subject is generally the focal point of the image, so creating an out-of-focus background makes the subject stand out even more.

    If your camera doesn’t offer AV mode, consider using portrait mode whenever you need shallow depth of field in your dog photos.

  • Landscape: In landscape mode, your camera automatically chooses a very small aperture (that is, a larger f-stop number like f/16), giving you great depth of field so that even distant objects are still in focus. Even if your subject isn’t a distant landscape, use this mode when you’re in need of a larger f-stop number.

    But remember that you likely need a lot of light for this mode (or a higher ISO setting). Because your camera is forcing such a small aperture and letting in very little light, it has to compensate by choosing slower shutter speeds.

  • Sport (some cameras refer to this mode as kids and pets): In sport mode, your camera automatically chooses a very fast shutter speed to freeze your subject in motion. Choose this mode for action photos of your dog running or playing. If you want to experiment with the panning technique, try using portrait mode instead of sport mode for that motion-blurred background effect.

  • Night: In night mode, your camera chooses a slower shutter speed and also fires your flash for low-light situations. When it comes to dog photography, you probably want to stay away from this mode unless you’re looking for those irresistible glowing alien eyes.

  • Macro: In macro mode, your camera not only chooses a very wide aperture (that is, a small f-stop number) but also allows you to focus on a subject extremely close to your lens. This setting is usually reserved for photographing still subjects (like flowers) in detail, but don’t let the little flower icon fool you; this can be a very useful setting in dog photography as well!

    If you find that portrait mode doesn’t give you a blurry enough background for your liking, experiment with macro mode. Just remember that you have to get in very close to your subject, so consider photographing Bubu asleep as opposed to darting around the yard.

Although many CDCs come with prepackaged settings and fancy bells and whistles, these modes aren’t fail-safe. Be sure to test out all the different modes and don’t be afraid to stray from the suggested settings if you find better results in a different setting. On some cameras, the AI servo setting to be very helpful, but it makes matters worse on other cameras.

One of the best ways to master your camera modes is to keep a journal of what mode you’re in for each shot. It may be a little tedious, but after one or two journaling sessions, you’ll have your settings down.

As you can see from the various modes that your CDC offers, many of them are related to your camera’s aperture setting. Although you may not be able to fine-tune your settings to the point that a digital SLR user can, you still have a lot of control over your camera’s settings!

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