Split second timing
Technique + knowledge = good
Technique + knowledge + timing = better 🙂
Photography is largely based on technical skills and the knowledge of light, composition and camera functions will get you a decent and sharp image. Taking this knowledge even further and playing with different elements will determine the style of your work and photographs.
Despite the technical foundations of photography, there is more than choosing the right settings. You can have everything technical right but still end up with an image that doesn’t speak for itself. There are a few things that might cause this unsatisfactory feeling.
1)The image might lack creativity or anything to make it more appealing or special like sparkling light, a story to tell, … (You might be interested in how to boost your creativity.)
2) Or the image might be taken at the wrong moment. Dogs, or animals in general, don’t hold positions nor will they smile at the camera. You can train your dog or be lucky to work with a well-trained dog but still you need the split second timing to get the image just right. To get the characteristic expression, to get that beautiful posture, to look right into the soul or the goofy look you want to capture so badly. Even with a fast camera like a DSLR you still need to anticipate on what is going on, even before it happens. If you work with someone else’s dog, you need to learn his habits as quickly as possible to know hoe and when you get the right look. Working with your own dog is easier as you will probably know him inside out. You know his quirky habits, the things he loves or dislikes. You know how to evoke specific behaviour.
Knowledge of the behaviour that is going to happen is the first step. Secondly you need to practice, practice, practice and practice more to make this split second timing a second nature.
An example: If you want to make a portrait of your dog (head + shoulders) you can make your dog sit first and take your position. Then you can decide how you want him to look and very (yes very) sparingly use noises or magic words to get your dog’s attention or to make him look in a different direction. I will wait to say “cookie?” until I’m ready but when I say it I will immediately push the shutter without visually checking the response first as I know it will be there.
When I say: ”Who’s there?” I know I will get about half a second that my dog will look left or right before he takes off.
The same goes for candid images. Even if you just capture what is happening, be patient but be fast. Always try to be one step ahead of the real action.
Of course there are thing that are just too fast to see. The blinking of the eye, the slight turn of an ear or the change of expression of a running dog are things we just can’t see unless captured and frozen in time. That’s OK. The unpredictability is part of working with animals. Therefore it’s important to train yourself on seeing as much as possible, to respond quickly and trust the moment without overthinking. And to get that perfect moment captured.