This One is For the Photographers!

Bad Weather and Wiggly Pups

Us photographers know by now that a high shutter speed and a high f/stop make an image darker. We also know that if you're photographing a large group, you need a high f/stop (aka aperture) to make sure everyone is in focus, and you need a high shutter speed if the group is comprised of four wiggly dogs and their parents trying to wrangle them...

That, coupled with cloudy, drizzly skies and a short period of time in the evening led to our photos being incredibly dark, aka, underexposed.


F/Stop (aperture)— 5+

Shutter speed— 250 (when using the speedlight) and 400 otherwise.

ISO— 800-1600 (I always try to keep it low to avoid grain, but when everything else is so dark, you simply have to raise it).

These settings resulted in photos like this...

But This is Okay!

A lot of photographers, myself included, shoot underexposed on purpose. If you shoot overexposed (too bright) and blow a photo out all the way, the digital data is lost and the photo cannot be saved. However, this risk is much, much lower if the photo is too dark. If you shoot in RAW instead of JPEG, your photo will have enough info in the file to go into Lightroom (or whatever photo processor you use) and easily bring the exposure back up to create a beautiful image.

It's always best to get the exposure as close to perfect in-camera as possible, but when in doubt, underexpose!

Here are the same photos after editing in Lightroom...

Pretty soon, it was too dark to shoot without external help...

Time to Bring Out the Speedlight

Near the end of the shoot, it was simply too dark for my camera to compensate on its own. Some natural-light photographers may shy away from flash photography, but when done right, flash photography can look just as natural and beautiful.

Flash Settings

This photo and the one in the above paragraph, amongst many others in this shoot, were taken with a $40 speedlight (off-camera flash) that I bought on Amazon.

I don't claim to be an expert on flash photography by any means. I'm still learning, but I will share with you what little knowledge I have acquired.

When shooting with a flash, your shutter speed has to be 250 or lower. If it's any higher, there will be a black band across the bottom of every photo you take. I learned this the hard way.

When shooting indoors, it's often useful to point your flash at a nearby wall or the ceiling so the light can bounce off that surface and back onto your subject, resulting in softer light. A diffuser can be attached to the flash to achieve this effect as well.

However, when shooting outdoors like I was here, you probably won't have much to bounce off of, so you'll need to point your flash directly at your subject. Keep the power of the flash as low as you can while still lighting your subject. A diffuser will come in handy in this situation as well. Most speedlights have a plastic flap that is attached to the flash itself that you can pull out and use as a diffuser, but is often inferior to an accessory diffuser.


This photo took place when the sun was really starting to sink and it was getting dark. I'm so glad I had my speedlight (off-camera flash)! I pointed it directly at the family and had the flash power set low.


You can see my f/stop (aperture) is too low here because Jaeger, the black pup, isn't in focus. When the subjects are on different planes (not perfectly lined up), you need a higher f/stop in order to get everyone in focus. Rule of thumb: f/stop=number of subjects. E.g. a family of 6 should have an f/stop of 6+.

Manual Shooting

Shooting in manual is so important to learn. If you can manipulate your settings, you can achieve different desired results. Make sure if you're switching between flash and non-flash that you're able to adjust your settings quickly— non-flash settings are very different from flash settings.

Dog Photography

I love animals and I love animal photography! I'm far from a master of it, but it makes me happy. I learned from this shoot that I really need to bite the bullet and increase my f/stop. A lot of these photos were out of focus because the f/stop was too low. A low f/stop lets in more light, but creates a shallower depth of field, resulting in fewer things being in focus. This effect is desirable for lots of styles of photography, but it isn't ideal when photographing groups or wiggly puppies.

Jaeger the Newfoundland

Salem the Doberman

Bluto the Pitty-Pat

Moose the Great Dane

The Moral of the Story...

Learn manual mode, do your research, and practice, practice, practice! These skills can only be truly understood when put into practice. Shoot as often as you can and have fun.