While learning about how landscape photographers use high dynamic range (HDR) and auto exposure bracketing (AEB) to enhance their images, I was curious whether AEB would work for Schutzhund photography. For those unfamiliar with this term, AEB simply means setting your camera to take multiple images each at a different exposure, usually a bit under, correct exposure and a bit over. How many exposures and how much variance between exposures depends on the scene, available lighting and what you, the photographer, are trying to achieve. The idea is the capture the full dynamic range, including shadows and highlights. Then in Photoshop or another third party editing program, the images are combined. This technique is very handy to ensure good detail in a heavily shadowed area to preserve detail or a very bright area where highlights might get blown out. For details on how to set up AEB for Canon EOS cameras, see the Serious Amateur Photography blog for a great explanation.
I tried it, but as I suspected, it really did not work well. I took three images within one second and achieved my goal of broadening the dynamic range, but the dog moved significantly from frame-to-frame and did not stay in focus. Now, the focus issue easily could have been due to camera shake. Also, best practice for using AEB is to set the auto focus to one point, not multiple points, and use manual focus to lock in. Hard to keep a dog in the center of the focus area when it’s moving. So, okay maybe using AEB with moving objects isn’t the best use. Next time, I want to try photographing the Schutzhund field with AEB – sans dog – and then as needed insert the dog into the combined image.
Another setting I played with was exposure compensation, which allowed me to brighten or darken the exposure as needed for individual images. I tried this in a heavily shaded area during protection work. It really helped balance the shade with the bright sunlight, which formed the back drop for many of the images. It also helped by allowing me to expose for the dog and to keep more detail and adjust the image in post processing (Lightroom 4 and Photoshop CS 6).
Once again, I experimented with different shutter speeds, apertures and ISOs. I am convinced more than ever that the best starting place for Schutzhund photography is an ISO of 640 and a shutter speeds of at least 1/640. Aperture settings on either end of the spectrum can create some interesting effects, but are a headache to get the exposure just right. My preference is to set the aperture around 5.6 to 11 range. Consistently, my best images are within this range for all weather and lighting conditions. Makes sense.
And, finally I shifted between aperture priority and shutter speed priority modes. I like using both, as they each have distinct advantages. If the lighting conditions are even and not particularly changeable, aperture priority is good. Set the aperture and let the camera set the shutter speed. But if the lighting conditions are variable (sun to clouds and back again), shutter speed priority may be better. In this mode, the camera adjusts the aperture, which allows the photographer to set the shutter speed. In both modes, the photographer can adjust the ISO as needed.
Bottom line: It’s a never-ending adventure photographing Schutzhund dogs. But that’s the fun, trying this ‘n that and seeing what I get. At the beginning of this post are some highlights from my recent this ‘n that experimentation photo shoot.