Make the Most of Natural Light for Dog Photography - dummies

Make the Most of Natural Light for Dog Photography

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

Sometimes, you can photograph dogs indoors with natural light if you’re careful about choosing the right time of day and the appropriate room to get the job done, sans alien eyes (flashes + dogs = glowing alien eyes). Capitalize on available light by giving your nosy neighbors a thrill and opening every last shade in your house to determine which room is the brightest.

Still not sure? Set your camera to aperture-priority mode, point it toward your desired location, look through the viewfinder, and press the shutter release halfway. Take note of the shutter speed your camera selects and repeat this in your other rooms. The room that has more light yields a faster shutter speed. Now you can be sure you’re in the brightest place in the house.

Next you need to determine whether your shutter speed is fast enough to successfully take a sharp image. Even if you’re in the brightest room on the brightest day, your shutter may still have to stay open for awhile to achieve proper exposure without a flash.

The longer your shutter is open, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with a blurry photo, especially if you’re holding your camera in your hands as opposed to using a tripod. The slowest shutter speed you should use with a hand-held camera is 1/80 second (assuming the dog is sitting still).

A better starting point is 1/100 second or 1/125 second, but if you’re on the cusp of making the almighty flash-or-no-flash decision, sometimes opting for a slightly slower shutter speed wins out.

If you opt for a slower shutter speed, use a tripod if your dog is maintaining a static pose. A tripod combats hand-held camera shake issues, but it won’t do you any good if your subject is moving around.

If you’re in the brightest area of your house and your camera still sets a slow shutter speed, you can force it to select a faster shutter speed one of two ways:

  • Choose a wider aperture. If you’re at f/5.6 and your camera is capable of wider f-stops (like f/4.0 or f/2.8), open up your aperture to let in more light. To compensate for the additional light, your camera chooses a faster shutter speed.

  • Choose a higher ISO rating. If you’re still having trouble getting to a fast enough shutter speed, bump up your ISO setting. This makes your camera’s sensor more sensitive to light, so you don’t need as much light to achieve higher shutter speeds.

    Bear in mind that you should only increase your ISO to a setting that you’re comfortable with. Go too high and your photo starts to look grainy in the shadowy areas. The only way to know what’s too high for your own camera is to experiment with your ISO settings and view the results on your computer. Know what your maximum acceptable ISO setting is and try not to surpass it.

If you’re working with a compact digital camera (CDC) and don’t have the ability to change your aperture, choose a mode like portrait that’s likely to default to a wider aperture and increase your ISO setting to avoid triggering that built-in flash.