Posts Tagged ‘shutter priority’

Color theory is all fine and good, but how can IPO photographers use color effectively in their images? We may not have control over the setting as landscape, commercial and portrait photographers do, but we can be aware of the setting we are in and take advantage of the colors that are there. We also can educate handlers and helpers about their clothing choices to create the best chance for getting the shot.

Consider the following examples:

Colors in IPO-1

This is one of my favorite images and has been featured in recent posts. The story here is a puppy contemplating his future life. The green says calmness and serenity, but the puppy’s expression is not all that calm and serene. He’s way too serious and just a bit worried! The red collar draws the viewer’s eye up towards the puppy’s face.

Colors in IPO-2

This is another favorite image, which like the image above features red and green, along with blue. This is a classic color combination! I would recommend this color combination to any handler. Also, notice the yellows in the background; nice highlights to what otherwise might be a boring, monochromatic background.

Colors in IPO-3

This image was taken in the winter, at a field devoid of much color. In taking this image, I choose to frame the dog and handler to the left of the yellow blind. The power pole also provides a frame, but I usually prefer to take power poles out as they are not very attractive. What is cool about this image is how the yellow strip on the handler’s arm picks up the yellow from the blind. His shirt also is a nice contrast to the background and his dog, as are his khaki pants. Another good color combination for handlers. Notice the handler by the blind kind of disappears into the background, thanks to dressing in black. That’s okay for this image, but might not work as well as the primary subject. More about dressing in black a bit later in this post.

Colors in IPO-4

This is another example of a winter scene. The pasture’s grass features various shades of orange, along with a bit of green here and there. I like how the brightness of the grass allows the dog to stand out from the background. It is monochromatic, but it works, because it’s unusual to see shades of orange in a grass pasture and the color tones and shades are harmonious.

Colors in IPO-5

Back to summer. Green grass provides a wonderful contrast for black dogs! Taking this image from a position that shows the dog against the green grass and not right up against the helper, who is also in black, captures the action without muddying things up. There is also some red along the fence line, which adds a little interest and framing.

Although handlers and helpers love to wear black, it isn’t a great choice for photography as there is no contrast. Remember, black absorbs all light. As a result, a black dog and the handler’s and/or helper’s leg will likely meld together, without much definition or detail.

This is also true for white, which reflects all light. Very often, the white tends to blow out and all definition and detail is lost, not only in the white area, but also in the surround pixels. Many times, I will expose for the dog and then in post-processing separately adjust different areas of the image, such as the dog, the handler and the background. It takes more time, but it’s worth it, especially with those “money” shots.

Colors in IPO-6

This image is a very good example of a monochromatic image. I really like the image of the dog, but the background and dog are a little too close in color. As a result, the dog tends to blend in with the background. The white along the dogs chest, neck and muzzle offers a nice contrast, however. For this image, consider placing the dog on another background or change the background color in post-processing.

Colors in IPO-7

Puppies are fun to photograph as they have great expressions. The puppy stands out nicely from the green grass, but also notice the puppies hazel eyes.  Are you seeing a pattern here of how a single color can provide a focal point and/or highlight?

Colors in IPO-8

And, finally, this image illustrates what happens when a black dog and a helper in black are photographed one on top of the other. It’s hard to see the differentiation between the dog and the helper’s leg. It is good that the field and trees contrast with the helper and dog.

In closing, I encourage you to take the time to survey the field and think about how to use the available color to enhance your images. I also encourage you to explain to handlers and helpers how wearing contrasting colors to their dogs really helps you take high quality, dramatic images of their work. Helpers may not have a lot of options, as scratch pants most often come only in black, but handlers do!  It’s worth mentioning, even if they do look at you like you’re nuts.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!

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Weather conditions, as discussed in earlier posts, can present a significant challenge for competitors and their dogs as well as for those who love to photograph dogs at work. IPO (Schutzhund) is a sport that waits for no person, no dog and goes on in all types of weather. Earlier posts offered suggestions on photographing dogs in action in bright sunlight and changeable lighting conditions, but what about days with persistently low light, such as heavy overcast, fog, mist, and rain, or evening and night, a favored time for summer training and trials, especially in the south?

Low light tends to diffuse the light, which results in muted and softer colors and contrast. Fog and mist yields more monochromatic, cooler (blue) images. Rain also produces reflections. As in bright light, the lack of contrast can cause a loss of detail and result in dark sable or black dogs looking like blobs. This tends to happen more when photographing a dog and handler against a brighter background, such as the Schutzhund field. The grass holds moisture, which acts like a reflector, as the images below shows.

On the other hand, this softer light can yield a painterly look, a popular look for portraits. In the image below, the dog was photographed against a fence and a darker background, which provides a nice contrast. Also, I was much closer to this dog, so the reflection from the grass was not as much a factor as it was in the above image. The puppy picture is another good example.

Amy Renfrey in a recent Digital Photography School post succinctly sums up a key strategy for low light conditions: Increase the light or increase the shutter speed. Her point is cameras left on auto controls will tend to slow down the shutter speed to bring more light in order to achieve a good exposure, but the subjects in motion will be blurry. Taking the second part first, Amy recommends controlling shutter speed manually and not worrying too much about noise, which can be managed in post-production. Another way to increase the shutter speed, of course, is to increases the ISO. To review the relationship between ISO, shutter speeds and aperture settings, see the earlier posts, “Calculating Exposure: A Function of Doubles and Halves.”

The other half of this equation is to increase light, primarily by using wide apertures. One way to do this is to use fast lenses. What this means is to use lenses with low aperture settings; that is, let in a lot of light. A lens with a larger maximum aperture (a smaller minimum f-number) is a “fast” lens, because it delivers more light intensity to the focal plane, achieving the same exposure with a faster shutter speed. A smaller maximum aperture (larger minimum f-number) is “slow” because it delivers less light intensity and requires a slower shutter speed.

The lower the light, the greater the risk of motion blur from hand-held cameras. When shooting at dusk or at night, try using a mono- or tri-pod to steady the camera. The downside is it may limit your flexibility in tracking the action. Also, if you can, use lenses with a stabilization feature.

One more tip. Instead of relying on the zoom, if you can, move as close to the action as you can. Being close removes distractions and reflective sources. The camera is also able to focus almost exclusively on the subject. While this is good advice any time, it really helps in low light conditions. Tricky with some Schutzhund skills, but it’s well worth it. Be sure to ask the helper and handlers if this is okay. Below are a couple of examples of photos shot up close and personal.

You’re comments and suggestions are always welcome! Happy Shooting!

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This year’s AWDF Championship and Team Challenge was an exceptional event; very well organized and a marvelous venue.  Each day dawned clear with cool mornings. It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that the sunlight washed out the trial field, and for most of the day the sun was in a favorable position for photographs. There also were no bleachers directly across the way to distract my camera lens. An added bonus to be sure!

The first day I tried to shoot with low ISOs around 100 or 200, and it simply did not work well. Many of the images came out muddy and out of focus, especially the dark sable and black dogs. I’ve tried this before, with the same disappointing results. The best settings seem to be shutter speed priority, with ISOs around 600 to 800 or maybe higher depending on the light and aperture settings around f 5.6 to f 8 or f 11. The camera sets the shutter speeds, which varied around 800 to 2000. I’m willing to bet that experts who say you can get good action shots at low ISOs have never photographed Schutzhund (IPO) dogs in action. They move fast, and are small relative to the rest of the frame, which is usually a grass field with a lot of reflection and glare.

Which brings me to the other lesson learned. I experimented with different meter settings: spot, center weight, partial and evaluative. The spot meter setting did not work well for the same reason low ISOs do not seem to work; dark dogs that move fast and comprise a relatively small part of the overall frame. It was hard to keep the center of the lens directly on the dog. Partial and center weight settings worked pretty well, especially early in the day. After midday, the evaluative setting worked the best. For a review of what these settings are, please see the recent post on Metering Schutzhund (IPO) Dogs.

Below is a slide show of my favorite 67 images from more than 1800 photos.These were taken with a Canon EOS 7D and a Canon EF 70-300 mm, 1:4.5 – 5.6 DO IS USM lens. If you are interested in obtaining a copy(s) of an image(s), please contact me. Please do not copy from this post. Thanks! Enjoy!!


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Taking dramatic photographs of Schutzhund dogs at work that stop the action cold, in focus and with the proper exposure is no mean feat, as all Schutzhund photographers can attest. For any one photographic opportunity, there are many challenges, such as lighting conditions, dog coat colors, handler clothing colors, background distractions and the nature of the sport. Understanding the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed, and not just relying on your camera’s automated settings, will allow you adapt to changing condition while capturing creative and dramatic images.

After taking tens of thousands of images of Schutzhund dogs over the past six years, I still get confused about this relationship. It’s a concept that just does not come easily to me. My cousin, Nick Piesco, referred me to CameraSim – The Online SLR Simulator where you can adjust the lighting, distance, focal length, ISO, aperture and shutter speed in aperture priority, shutter speed priority or manual modes. After you make your adjustments, you can “take the photo”, see your results and then go back and try again. I found it extremely helpful. I also refer you to several previous posts that address the aperture, shutter speed and ISO:

To cement this concept in my brain, I am experimenting with keeping ISO, shutter speed or aperture at one setting and varying the other two settings. This week, I used aperture priority, which kept the aperture at f/4.5, f/5.0 or f/5.6 (most photos were at f/5.0). My goal was to try different ISO and shutter speeds to confirm which worked best under bright sunny summer conditions in Georgia at these aperture settings.

Photography experts recommend keeping the ISO setting as low as possible to minimize noise in the images. Ideal is between 100 and 400. Great advice, but fast action requires fast shutter speeds, which also means pushing the ISO up. These same experts say that 1/500 shutter speed should be sufficient to stop action.  Experience has taught me, however, that I get better results at 1/640 or higher, so that’s where I started the day.

On this particular day, I shot with a Canon EOS 7D camera, with a Canon 70-300mm DO IS USM 1:4.5 – 5.6 lens. In addition to a UV filter, I also use a ProMaster Digital Circular Polarizer filter on sunny days, which I find helps cut the glare on the Schutzhund field and enhances the colors.

The first photo below was taken with an ISO set at 200 and 1/640 shutter speed at f/5.6. The photo is in focus, but it’s dark and the color over saturated, which may be a function in part of using a circular polarizer to cut the glare on the field. I adjusted the photo in Lightroom (second image below), but the dog’s face is still a bit fuzzy and muted.

Here is a photo of the same handler and dog taken with ISO set at 400 and 1/640 shutter speed at f/5.0. The dog’s ears and muzzle still are not as sharp as I would like, but the photo overall has a more balanced, pleasing look.

The softness of focus, however, adds an interesting, impressionistic touch to this image of this dog zipping down the field, which was taken at ISO 400, 1/640 at f/5.0.

Just for kicks, I upped the shutter speed to 1/800 for the first image below. ISO was set at 400 and the aperture was f/5.6. This second photo was also taken at the same ISO and shutter speed at f/5.0. In my experience – and it may not make intuitive sense – I find that even at higher shutter speeds camera shake becomes an issue, especially when I shoot in burst mode and follow the dog (pan).  An upcoming post will look at the pros and cons of using a monopod or tripod in Schutzhund photography. Conversely, the third photo demonstrates my results at setting the ISO at 800, the shutter speed at 1/640 at f/5.0.

Another significant challenge we all face is changing lighting conditions. A dark cloud passed over when I took the photo below, with the sun shining on the background. The ISO was set at 400, shutter speed at 1/640 and aperture at f/4.5. Only thing to do is to be aware of the cloud cover and get ready to make some quick adjustments to compensate! Knowing what settings work for a cloudy day will allow you to make quick adjustments, without missing a shot.

The final two photos demonstrate a technique for photographing dark-coated dogs that has served me well time and again. In the first photo, the dog looks great, but the background is a little over exposed. The second photo illustrates the results after making a few adjustments in Lightroom. The lesson here is to set the camera for the darkest element in the photo, in this case the dog, and adjust the rest via photo editing. Be careful, though, not to over expose the rest of the photo so much that you won’t have anything to work with later.

I must confess that I welcome the chance to photograph dogs that have lighter coats, as shown in these two images. They really stand out!  But then, you might say, “Where is the challenge? And, besides most working dogs have darker coats.” Okay, you got me there!

Seriously, I would be very interested in hearing from you about your experiences! Please post a comment or send me a message. Thank you for visiting.

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This next segment in a series of interviews with accomplished Schutzhund photographers features Lesya Zaichenko. Lesya is among the youngest of the Schutzhund photographers in the US at only 24 years old. She was born in Kiev, Ukraine, but has called Upstate New York her home for most of her life. She grew up with bull-breeds (English Bulldogs, Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs). She has a BS in Biology and an AAS in Biotechnology and works full-time in a HIV Research Lab. Presently, Lesya owns a young German Shepherd Dog bitch (Dezzy vom Rebel Yelle) that she is training for Schutzhund and a rescued APBT mix (“foster failure”). She and her dogs also share their house with two cats and a python. In addition to the photos above, you can view her work on her website.

How did you get started in Schutzhund photography? What was your inspiration?

I started training in Schutzhund with my American Bulldog in February 2004 when I was 17 years old. Nobody in the club was taking photos of the dogs, so I began bringing my Canon S1IS prosumer camera with me. I remember Saturdays well. I would spend the days at the training field and then the nights editing and uploading the photos. I managed to take some very nice photos with that little camera. I believe that much like with dogs, starting out “low-tech” (aka not easy) helped to teach me the fundamentals and skills necessary for composing and capturing the kind of photos I love. Try catching a dog doing high-speed actions like the courage test, retrieves over a wall or escape bites with a camera with a two second shutter delay! I don’t know that I had a single moment that inspired me, I was just instantly addicted to the sport and photography simultaneously.

How long have you been taking pictures? What events have you taken past and future?

I have technically been taking photos my whole life, starting with the typical un-imaginative photos of friends and field trips in elementary and middle school. My uncle’s wife is a graduate of the Hallmark Institute of Photography, and as a teen I would assist her in photo shoots, but I didn’t catch the “bug” until I got my first dog (excluding family dogs). That was in February 2003, and I quickly became involved in dog sports (AKC Obedience, Agility, then a year later Schutzhund). I always photographed the club trials I attended. Most notably, I was the photographer for the 2010 New England Regional Championship and 2010 New England Regional Conformation Show. I also photographed a charity gala for a pit bull rescue that I serve as a volunteer.

What is your philosophy about photographing Schutzhund dogs?

I try to enjoy the photos I take and to capture both unique photos as well as those that I would personally cherish. I strive to take photos that show the dog’s power and drive in the exercises. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to preserve and share memories of the dogs that are with us for much too short a time. With the time we spend with them, our working companions forge a deeper bond with us, their handlers, than a regular pet would, and their memories are so precious.

What equipment do you use? What is your favorite piece of equipment that you use for Schutzhund photography? What are “must haves” for any serious Schutzhund photographer – aspiring?

I shoot with Canon equipment. I have two bodies, the Canon 450D and EOS 7D. My camera bag contents are pretty “low tech”, because I am a recent college graduate, and I haven’t been able to invest the capital in the hobby that I would like. The lenses I carry are: the Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, Canon 55-250 f/4.0-5.6 IS, Canon 50mm f/1.8. I also have the Speedlite 480EXII flash. Since I shoot in RAW, I use 8G and 16G Compact Flash memory cards.

When shooting the 2010 New England Regional Championship, I rented a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS zoom (the big white beast). This lens is my favorite piece of equipment for Schutzhund photography. The f/2.8 aperture of the lens is a God-send when shooting in poor lighting conditions! I also adore my 7D body and its high frame per second (fps) shooting capabilities. For the 2010 New England Regional Conformation show and when I photograph portraits, I rent the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L series lens. These are the two lenses that I plan on buying sometime in the future. I’d also like to buy a wide-angle lens.

I believe the “must-haves” are a DSLR camera body, a telephoto lens and a standard lens. If you are willing to invest serious money in your glass, I would strongly recommend the two lenses that I rent, as noted above. The large aperture lenses are essential for capturing the action in Schutzhund in variable lighting conditions.

For aspiring photographers I would recommend a camera that allows you to shoot in aperture priority and shutter priority. Many of the point-and-shoot cameras available today are very capable of taking great photos! Then, get out there and just practice taking photos. Play around with composition, settings, etc. I would also strongly recommend either reading some books on photography techniques or taking a digital photography class at your local community college.

What is your favorite type of picture to take? How do you go about taking the picture? What is the most challenging picture to take? How do you tackle it?

My favorite photo to take is the one that shows the relationship between the dog and handler. They show the dog working willfully for its handler, and its handler relishing in the relationship with their dog. Much of the time, this is either a candid shot or a shot during the heeling exercises. Another photo that I love, but believe is often overlooked, is the dog running the blinds. I like to compose these photos at the moments where the dog is rounding the blind. Sometimes you get lucky and capture the moment when the dog enters the “hot” or “find” blind with good aggression and intensity.

The most challenging photos for me are of the dogs going over the jump/wall, especially when I am positioned at an angle where I cannot track the dog approaching the jump with my camera. Also, the long bite presents a challenge when trying to capture the dog the moment it is about to strike the sleeve but also in focus! Most dogs are moving at such a high speed that even when shooting in AI SERVO (a Canon camera setting), the camera has difficulty tracking the focus.

For the long bite, I make sure that my camera is set to shoot in high-speed bursts (the 7D shoots at 8 fps), and I track the dog running down the field. My focus is set to a single spot. I shoot continuously from the moment the dog is about to gather itself, through the completion of the catch and on to when the helper begins to drive the dog.

For the jumps, I set my focus point on a solid object; such as, set the focus spot(s) to the bottom half of the viewfinder, so it is focusing on the jump . Then I set my aperture small enough to allow some wiggle room in the depth of field of the shot, while also allowing some background blur to enhance focus on the dog. This is not always possible with overcast days when I must open up the aperture to stop action in the dim lighting.

 Other tips for new and/or experienced photographers?

My strongest suggestion for old and new photographers is to not be shy (I struggle with this!). I recommend aspiring photographers invest in lenses more so than in the camera body. Lenses will grow with you; a body may become obsolete. Do not get caught up in the megapixel (MP) race. More doesn’t literally mean better. After a certain point, if you aren’t planning on printing large posters or billboards, the high MP cameras are just over kill. The only place a high MP photo is beneficial is when you plan on doing a lot of cropping.

When buying a camera body, pay attention to the speed of the camera. How many frames per second is it capable of shooting? What are the ISO settings on the camera? Those capable of shooting at very high ISO often do better shooting in lower lighting conditions. Beware! High ISO will cause more noise in your photo.

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Photographing the obedience and protection routines at the United Schutzhund Dog Clubs of America’s (USA) German Shepherd Dog National Championship in Carson City, Nevada (the Nationals) this year was real challenge, complicated by an eight-foot fence surrounding the trial field and bleachers that pretty much faced the sun all day. And, with the sun being fairly low in the sky, it was difficult not to photograph directly into the sun from the spectators’ side of the field.

On the last day, Louise Jollyman was able to take pictures from the competitors’ side and stand in one of two entries onto the field, which meant no fence. With the sun over her shoulder, and the sun’s rays at a very advantageous angle, she was able to get off some really nice shots of the dog / handler teams (see slideshow below of her photos of Peter Spanos and Leroy v. Rietnisse). As the day wore on, she was able to continue taking great photos in some very changeable weather conditions, including sun, clouds, driving rain and wind, courtesy of a winter storm blowing in off the Sierra’s. Thanks, Lou!

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These conditions and seeing Lou’s photos prompted me to investigate the relationship between f-stops (aperture), film speed (ISO), shutter speed and lighting conditions. Even though, like me, you may be using automatic or semi-automatic modes, understanding the relationship of these four elements is the key for taking properly exposed photographs and will be very helpful in dealing with rapidly changing lighting conditions. The next series of posts will look at each of these elements in more detail.

First up: A general explanation of the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, ISO and light, including the Sunny 16 Rule.

Dee Clark, another very talented Schutzhund photographer, referred me to Dummies.com for a pretty simple explanation of exposure settings. Don’t laugh. The article was very helpful. According to this article, how the aperture (f-stops), film speed (ISO) and shutter speed settings work together may be likened to filling a bucket:

  • A full bucket = a good exposure
  • The size of the bucket = the ISO
  • The size of the garden hose = the lens aperture
  • The amount of time it takes to fill the bucket = the shutter speed

Think of the camera’s digital sensor as a light bucket. Larger (wider or open) apertures (lower f-stop settings, such as f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8 and f/4) fill the sensor bucket with light faster than smaller (narrow or closed) apertures (higher f-stop settings, such as f/8, f/11, f/16 or f/22). With a faster or higher ISO, the light sensor bucket will fill up with light faster than with a slower or lower ISO setting. Faster or higher shutter speeds also fill the light sensor bucket faster than slower or lower shutter speeds. Larger (wider or open) apertures, as well as higher ISOs, require faster shutter speeds. Smaller (narrow or closed) apertures, as well as lower ISOs, require slower shutter speeds. Clear as mud, right? The trick is to get these elements in the right proportion.

Many photographers rely on the Sunny 16 Rule, which according to Bryan Peterson, author of another very helpful resource, Understanding Photography Field Guide: “The Sunny 16 Rule posits that from one (1) hour after sunrise to one (1) hour before sunset, on any given sunny day and when one uses f/16…the correct exposure would be exactly the same as the ISO.” If, for example, the aperture is set at f/16 and the ISO is set at 100, then the shutter speed should be set at 1/100 or 1 over the ISO setting. If the scene is photographed at an ISO of 400, the shutter speed would be 1/400.

Christopher Dodds in his January 12, 2010 blog post offered some helpful charts (www.NaturePhotographyBlog.com). Chart 1 illustrates the equivalent exposures for ISO 100 and 200, using the Sunny 16 Rule. Each setting allows the same amount of light to fall on the digital camera’s sensor. The selection of the f-stop allows for faster or slower shutter speeds (to freeze or blur action) or a change in the depth of field (very narrow to blur the background or very large to capture an entire grand landscape sharp). Chart 2 adapts the Sunny 16 Rule for different lighting conditions.

Chart 1. Equivalent Exposures for a Sunny Day (Sharp, Distinct Shadows)


f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 ISO


1/1600 1/800 1/400 1/200 1/100


1/6400 1/3200 1/1600 1/800 1/400 1/200


Chart 2. Equivalent Exposures for Different Lighting Conditions


Sunny Cloudy Bright Cloudy Overcast

Bright Sand / Snow

Distinct Shadow Soft Shadow Barely Visible Shadow No Shadow


f/22 f/16 f/11 f/8


ISO 100

1/100 1/100 1/100 1/100


ISO 200

1/200 1/200 1/200 1/200


ISO 400

1/400 1/400 1/400 1/400


ISO 800 1/800 1/800 1/800 1/800


Both Christopher Dodds and Bryan Peterson warn photographers about backlit and sidelight conditions, which require adjustments to get the right exposure. Christopher advises that with very light subjects in very bright conditions to subtract light (narrower or higher f-stop setting) so as not to clip the highlights. With very dark or black subjects, he advises adding light (wider or lower f-stop setting) to maximize the recorded detail. Bryan points out that the Sunny f/16 Rule will not work if a polarizer or other colored filters are used, because these filters change the amount of light that is let into the light sensor. He notes that photographers will lose two (2) stops of light with a polarizing filter, so again adjustments will be needed.

As a starting point for Schutzhund photography, I set the ISO at 640 and the shutter speed of 640 and let the camera adjust the aperture setting. I do use a polarizer filter to block out glare on very bright sunny days, especially early in the morning when there is a lot of dew on the field, so either I or the camera would need to adjust accordingly. Next post will cover aperture settings in more detail, in particular f/stops and how they work.

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While attending the New England Regional Championships, an interesting question came up among several experienced Schutzhund photographers: Which is best when photographing Schutzhund dogs in action: Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority? To answer that question requires reviewing the purpose of each of these shooting modes and understanding that achieving proper exposure and focus is not just a choice between the two, but is actually a three-way relationship between the aperture setting, shutter speed and the ISO setting.

Aperture Priority is designed to allow photographers to manually control the aperture while the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed to get the correct exposure. This mode is useful for blurring the background by setting a wide (large) aperture (low f-stop number) and zooming in on the subject. This is particularly advantageous to mute a cluttered background and to highlight the photo’s subject, as it is the only thing in focus. This mode can be tricky when shooting fast action, as the camera may choose a lower shutter speed than is needed to achieve sharp focus and effectively stop the action. As a result, the exposure may be correct, but the photo may be out of focus.

Jerry Welch in his article Aperture Priority vs Shutter Priority explains: The lens aperture setting (f-stop setting) determines the depth of field. Depth of field settings determine how much of the foreground and how much of the background is in focus. The larger the aperture, the smaller the f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field. The smaller the aperture, the larger the f-stop number, the deeper the depth of field. The smaller the aperture the more of the foreground and background will be in sharp focus.

As a rule of thumb: When the subject is bright, use a smaller aperture setting (larger numbers: f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22). When the light on the subject is dim, use a larger aperture (smaller numbers: f/5.6, f/4, f/2.8). For Schutzhund photography, it is best to use “fast” lenses, with larger apertures.

To determine the actual depth of field for your lens at any given f-stop, check out this online calculator: www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html. Select your camera model, lens focal length, f-stop, and the distance to your subject and the calculator will tell you the foreground limits and the background limits for sharp focus. There are also iPhone, iPad, Palm OS and Windows applications available from this website and some additional explanations about calculating depth of field.

Shutter Priority is designed to allow photographers to manually control the shutter speed, while the camera automatically adjusts the aperture to get the correct exposure. Using the Shutter Priority mode, photographers can stop the action without blurring the subject, foreground or background. By shooting at a slower shutter speed, photographers can add blur to the moving subject to show movement while keeping the background and foreground in perfect focus. Another technique is to use a slower shutter speed and then pan the camera to keep the subject perfectly focused while adding blur to the background and foreground. The downside of shooting in Shutter Priority mode is the faster the shutter speed the less light is allowed into the camera, which can adversely affect exposure.

In his article “Understanding the Relationship Among Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO”, Alton Vance explains: Shutter speeds are also referred to in the scale of stops. Every time you double the speed you step down by one stop: From 1/100 to 1/200 is a one stop down in the amount of exposure, 1/200 to 1/400 is one more stop down and so on. The faster the shutter speed the more accurately the action can be frozen, but it lets in only half as much light with each stop down. For normal everyday photography use a shutter speed of about 1/250th of a second. If the shutter stays open for 1/100th of a second then more than twice as much light comes in. If the shutter stays open for 1/500th of a second only half as much light come in. Shutter speeds can be as fast as 1/8000th of a second.

Aperture and shutter speed are only two parts of the exposure relationship. The ISO setting is also very important and is useful when shooting in either Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes.

Alton Vance explains: The ISO setting refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor to light. Some digital cameras have ISO settings that range from 50 to 3200. That is a range of six (6) stops in the exposure category. Every time the ISO rating is doubled, essentially one full stop of exposure is added. For example, 50 to 100 is one full stop of exposure, 100 to 200 is one full stop, 200 to 400 is one full stop, 400 to 800 is one full stop and so on. Higher ISO settings tend to create more grain or noise in the image. As a result, ISO-100 will have much a smoother finish than ISO-800. So the rule of thumb is to use as low ISO setting as possible and still have enough light to obtain a proper exposure.

In my experience, Shutter Priority provides the most reliable photos of Schutzhund dogs at work. It allows me to freeze the action and not worry about adjusting the aperture to accommodate different lighting conditions. Anyone who has tried photographing Schutzhund dogs over several hours knows that lighting can change dramatically, depending on the whims of the weather and there often isn’t time to stop, reset the camera settings and capture the action. I start with a shutter speed setting of 640 and adjust the ISO as needed. In the end, it’s a judgment call, one that is made easier by understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO and also by experience and experimenting.

Note:  Next up – back to the Composing Schutzhund Photos series.

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