Take Your Best Shot!

by Lori Herbel

Photo by Lori HerbelClick! Hearing the sound of the shutter at just the right moment to capture a perfect working shot is a thrill to a photographer - professional and amateur alike. Below are a few photo tips to help guide you on your way to filling album after album of prize-winning, memorable shots.

Fast Action working shots - Use a fast speed film, at least 400 ASA or higher, as lower speed film can cause blurring. Higher speed films allow for lower-light situations such as indoor arenas or late night trials. If using a digital camera, make sure you have it set properly for action shots.

Portraits - as well as slower, steady working shots, can make use of a lower speed film, such as 100 or 200 ASA. Many digital cameras have a special setting for portraits, which allow for a higher quality enlargement. Lower speed films tend to produce a less grainy enlargement.

Low Angle Shots - Capturing the work from the dog and livestock's point of view gives an interesting angle. Lie down on the ground and use your elbows for props. For best results, take these shots from inside the working area, but take care not to get run over by the action! Note: This option is not recommended for lower level trained dogs, as the action can be unpredictable and the safety of the photographer should always be kept in mind.

Cut out the Clutter - Check the background before you press the shutter. Poles, buildings, spectators, trees, vehicles, etc. can take away from an otherwise perfect shot. Adjust your angle if possible to create a distraction-free backdrop.

Depth of Field - Use a smaller aperture setting to keep your subjects in focus while blurring some of that distracting background.

Pre-Focus -- on an obstacle or point where you know the dog and stock will be. Once they are in the viewfinder, you'll have an extra few seconds to concentrate on composing your shot rather than spending that time focusing.

Fences - If you have to shoot photos through a fence, get right up against it and shoot with as wide an aperture as possible. The depth of field will make the fence virtually invisible if you focus out into the arena. If you can't blur out the fence, try using it as an interesting "frame" around the center of your photo.

Stay back -- away from the fence if you are shooting photos at an actual test or trial. You may affect a run by your presence along the fence.

Photo by Lori HerbelZoom in -- as close as you can. Fill the frame as much as possible without cutting out any of the action.

Sun - Don't take pictures looking directly into the sun or other bright lights. If you must take pictures looking into light sources, try using the flash to fill in the shadows of your subject.

Time of day - can have an effect on your shots as well. Early morning or late afternoon shots can have long shadows that distract from an otherwise perfect photo.

Schedule a time -- to take action shots, rather than depending on getting good shots at an actual trial. During a photographic session, you can start and stop action to suit your needs, without disturbing a run, or missing a great shot. This also opens up the option of taking shots from inside the arena.

Take lots of shots - Don't be stingy with your film. The more shots you take, the better the chances are of getting some great pictures.

Digital - Know your camera, as most digital cameras have a slight delay between the time you push the button and when the shutter actually captures the shot. Anticipate this delay and be prepared to take the shot with enough lead time to get the action you want.

Pack plenty of film, memory sticks -- or whatever media your camera takes. Have a plentiful stash of batteries, or the capabilities of charging batteries.