How to Take Photos of Dogs Running/Fetching - dummies

How to Take Photos of Dogs Running/Fetching

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

Fetch! It’s the quintessential doggie delight. Humans and canines alike give countless hours and lost balls over to this hypnotic (albeit slobbery) pastime. Not all dogs play fetch, but if yours does, you’ve gotta photograph it.

And even if your pooch would rather take a bath than a trip across the yard to bring back something you threw, that’s okay. You can still get some running shots with a little planning!

When planning your running and fetching photographs, try to think of anything that’s unique about the way Daisy runs or fetches and aim to home in on that. Does she have a special toy she always has to have to play fetch? Does she like sticks? Maybe she runs with a sort of lopsided gait.

These details are great material to work with, and you should strive to bring them out in your photos. After you take a quick mental inventory of Daisy’s quirks, it’s time to follow the steps for getting that freeze-frame action:

  1. Turn on your digital SLR and set it to shutter-priority (TV) mode.

  2. Determine how much light is available and set your ISO accordingly.

    Keep in mind that you may have to stray from the general ISO rule of thumb settings and opt for higher ISOs if you need a deeper depth of field (larger f-stop number).

  3. Change your autofocus setting to AI servo.

    This setting may also be dubbed continuous focus, tracking AF, predictive autofocus, focus tracking, or continuous servo AF.

  4. Change your drive mode to continuous shooting.

  5. Set your shutter speed to at least 1/800 second (if your image is still blurry, go even higher).

  6. Align your moving dog in the viewfinder with your active AF point always overlaid on your pooch by panning with the motion.

  7. Press and hold the shutter release (while still panning) for a rapid burst of images!

When working with AI servo, you have to move your camera with the subject, always making sure that your AF point is overlaid on the subject. Otherwise, your camera will focus on the tree right next to Oliver that your AF point happens to be hitting instead of on Oliver himself.

For this image, an additional assistant was needed, and the photographers staged themselves out of frame while Dino ran back and forth chasing his ball.


42mm, 1/400 sec., f/5.0, 250

If you’re using a compact digital camera (CDC) without TV mode, be sure to choose a mode (sometimes referred to as a scene) that’s appropriate for action photography. Different manufacturers use different terms for these settings, but look for modes like sport or action.

Canon’s latest CDCs even dub this mode kids and pets! Also, when adjusting your ISO on a CDC, remember that some manufacturers denote higher ISO settings simply as HI as opposed to using a number.

Here are some ideas and tips for capturing a dog in flight:

  • Come prepared to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! You’ll likely wear out before your dog does.

  • Bring an arsenal of toys so your dog doesn’t get bored.

  • Recruit a friend to assist.

  • Set your shutter speed to at least 1/800 second, but also keep an eye on the f-stop your camera chooses. Remember, the farther away your subject is, the greater you need your depth of field to be (that is, a larger f-stop number).

  • Bump up your ISO if your camera chooses very small f-stops because this triggers your camera to compensate by choosing larger f-stop numbers. The ISO rule of thumb goes out the door here!

  • Vary the distance from your subject and the angles at which your subject moves through the frame.

  • Experiment with somewhat slower shutter speeds. If you can accurately pan your camera at the same rate at which your dog is moving, you should be able to create background motion blur. This is what gives the appearance of speed. This technique takes a lot of practice to master, but if done correctly, it can result in stunning images.

  • Use your zoom or position yourself close to the action for extreme close-ups of your dog catching a toy, a Frisbee, or a stick.


54mm, 1/1000 sec., f/2.8, 400