Photo Tip Friday: Tips for Taking Active Pet Pictures, Part 2

by Mary Denman
Twitter: @MaryDenman
Instagram: MaryFDenman

Welcome back to Photo Tip Friday! Today I'm going to talk about how to take action shots with your pets. 

You can read about last week's post here: How do you take pet portraits? Part 1

What is the biggest difference between taking action shots and portrait shots of your pets? Movement. 

Portrait shots may be a little easier because your subject will be still. Or, you will want your pet to sit still for you. But what if they're active and moving around during your photo shoot? I'm going to teach you how to take action shots so you can do both! 

Let's get started. 

Your first big tip with action shots is to decide if you want to "stop/freeze" the action or have "movement" as part of the picture. 

In order to freeze the action of a moving animal, you must move your ISO up to the point where it takes the picture fast enough to stop the action: Try 200 or 400 ISO, and Time Values (or shutter speeds of 1/125 on up to 1/1000 sec.)

In order to use the motion to create an interesting shot, stay down around ISO 100. 

So, let's look at stopping motion first. 

In pictures like these that my son took, he caught our kitten, Emperor Kuzco, stepping from the chair to the window sill. 

He looks quite sophisticated, doesn't he? I love the awkward pose! This shows he's a kitten. He's still exploring our home. He's still unsure of himself. 

That's what this picture captures. 

Once Kuzco made it to the window, he tried to catch a bug. That was outside...But he didn't know that! 

These pictures show his personality. 
His goofy kitten escapades.
His curious nature. 

Prior to taking these pictures, I had been shooting in low light and had the ISO on 6400. Scott didn't know this, but the pictures turned out fine because, fortunately, it was on Program mode so the camera read the lighting and took the pictures at 1/500 sec so it wasn't washed out. 

But on to a much faster subject...a Curly Haired Retriever chasing a frisbee into the surf! 

We are talking action, action, action! And bright, bright sunlight. 

Mary Denman Photography: ISO 400, Av f/8, 1/1000 sec

I started out at 100 ISO but just had too much blurring with him running. So, I bumped the ISO up to 800, but it washed the pictures out some. (Because I had a black subject against a light background.) 

Then, I dropped the ISO 400. That was the sweet spot for the conditions. 

Mary Denman Photography: ISO 400, Av f/8, 1/1000 sec
In order to get these lively photos, I had the sun to my back, and I headed into the surf. Sometimes, you have to "suffer" for your craft. (Note: I made sure my lens and camera wouldn't get wet with sea water. The salt makes it very corrosive!) But by being in the surf, I was so much closer to the action and you can feel it in the pictures.

Mary Denman Photography: ISO 400, Av f/8,  1/400 sec

It was just plain fun to watch this dog doing what it loved! By having the ISO at 400, the pictures were taken from 1/400 to 1/1000 of a second. That froze the action of the dog and the water! And the photos aren't washed out. 

Mary Denman Photography: ISO 100, Av f/4, 1/80 sec

Let's move on to capturing movement by using a low ISO. 

I shot this picture at ISO 100. 

The ground around the dog is clear. But you can see that he's shaking the water off. 

I love when dogs shake, their body goes in different directions. You can see it in this picture. 

Even though the dog was "blurry", it captures the motion. We've all seen a dog shake and this is what our eye really sees. 

So, the tips are these:
1) To stop/freeze the action of your pet, use ISO 400 or above. 

2) Another way to stop action is to use your flash. It stops motion. (I just prefer natural lighting.)

3) To capture the motion and have it show up in the picture, use ISO 100 or 200. 

4) Practice and experiment before you want to catch the shots. Don't wait until you're in the middle of it. Play with your camera today and try it out. Digital is free! Use it. Your feedback is almost instantaneous and can help you learn quickly.

For cell phone users: You likely won't be able to change your ISO. This means using your flash will help stop the action. But it also means there will be a slight delay in the camera actually taking the shot. Practice, practice, practice with your pet (or borrow someone else's). 

For bloggers: Think about your blog. Do you think about it? I know I'm always looking out for teaching moments for my blog. I carry my camera most places I go. I'm ready for a great shot or getting pics to teach you with. 

Hence, the question: Do you carry your blog around in your mind like I do with my camera? Are you looking for things to write about, to share with others? Blogging becomes much easier when you have a focus and you're looking for ideas. You'll find them in unexpected places! 

If you ever see a picture I've taken and used on my blog and want to ask how I did it, feel free down in the comment section. I'll do my best to help and may use your question as a post! 

Hope these tips help!

Keep on clicking!

TWEETABLE: Learn how take pet photos when they're active (click to tweet)

Blogs I join on the Fridays: 

Say G'Day SaturdayAmanda’s Books and MoreMy Turn For UsThat Friday Blog Hop Weekends Are Fun Linky Party


  1. I love the dog jumping into the waves! Your kittens are super cute.

    1. They are so sweet! We love them a lot! Thanks for dropping by Tina!

  2. Aww great pictures Mary, I would love a pet/dog and love to take pictures :) but if I have a dog my daughter wants 2 rabbits and my son wants some fishes lol ... Thanks for linking up #weekendbloghop

    1. I totally get that logic! Stand firm! LOL. Thanks for dropping by!