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Hey ST folks, As promised to @Tulips and @Kitsafari, but I hope equally useful for everyone else; a quick & simple method that works in at least 95% of all cases when shooting wildlife. With this method you should get better results from your camera, as compared to whatever results you get when using it in auto-mode. But as always with posts like this, a disclaimer is needed as well; yes, there will be some cases where this method will not work (I'm thinking of macro shots, for example). Nothing in life is perfect. If you don't like the result you get, switch back to auto! You might get lucky. For the below; the only important parts are in bold. The rest is just info that you read maybe just this once, so you understand WHY you're doing certain steps in the process. But you can forget about it later. Here goes... STEP 1; put your camera in Aperture Mode (AV on a canon, A on a Nikon, ...) When setting your aperture, you are actually playing around with your Depth Of Field ("DOF"). The purpose is to get your subject in focus, and your background as blurry as possible. Fiddling with your aperture value has consequences on your shutter speed. To be precise; - A lower aperture value = a shallower depth of field = a higher shutter speed = more chance of getting a sharp image - A higher aperture value = a less shallow depth of field = a lower shutter speed = less chance of getting a sharp image STEP 2; zoom in on your subject Are you at the desired zoom level? Go to the next step. STEP 3; now roll to the lowest aperture value your lens will allow I say "roll" because I assume if you are in aperture mode, your camera will allow you to set the aperture value using the main wheel. I don't know how this works on all cameras that are out there. The thing is; if you would be shooting portraits, say: a person's face at the other side of the dinner table, you'd notice that it's difficult to work in aperture mode. More specifically; if you dial a too low value, your Depth Of Field might be too low, and you might notice that the person's nose is sharp, but his/her ears are already out of focus! But that's because your subject is close to your lens! The further your subject is away from your lens, the less likely you are to get into trouble with a too shallow depth of field. But now think about wildlife photography; your subject is almost never very close to you! So you can dial the lowest aperture value possible, resulting in the nicest blurry background, without having to fear your subject will be out of focus! On top of that, (as explained in step 1) your lower aperture value will give you a higher shutter speed, which in turn means you'll have less chance of hand movement resulting in a blurry shot. Isn't that all very convenient?! STEP 4; half-press your shutter button When you half-press, your camera will display, in the viewfinder (or at the back, if it's a camera without a viewfinder), the results of what he "reads". Basically what he does is he measures the light, and using your chosen aperture mode, your camera will say (for example) "If you want a shot of this, exposed correctly, then I can do that with a shutter speed of blah blah blah". To give you some examples with actual figures; - If your camera returns a value of 1000 it actually means he can get you the shot with an exposure 1/1000th of a second - If your camera returns a value of 50 it actually means he can get you the shot with an exposure 1/50th of a second STEP 5; read the shutter speed figure that your camera returns to you, and interpret that figure (is it enough or not?) This is maybe the only tricky bit. But it's actually really simple. I'll explain with some examples again. There's a simple rule to follow: - Suppose your zoom lens' maximum reach is 300mm and you zoomed in all the way to 300mm. Well then you need to get a shutter speed of minimum 1/300th of a second to be sure that you get a sharp picture (ic a picture unaffected by movement of your hands). - Suppose your zoom lens' maximum reach is 400mm but you only zoomed in on your subject to about half way (200mm). Side note; you can see at what zoom you are by looking at the dials on the top of your lens. Well then you need to get a shutter speed of minimum 1/200th of a second to be sure that you get a sharp picture. Can you see the pattern here? This is the only rule you have to remember: - If you are zoomed in to 100mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "100" (1/100th of a second) - If you are zoomed in to 200mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "200" (1/200th of a second) - If you are zoomed in to 300mm, the reading you get back from your camera when half-pressing your shutter should at least give you "300" (1/300th of a second) And so on! All this means is; the further you zoom out, the faster your required shutter speed. So if your camera gives you a value higher or equal than the shutter speed you need, MAKE THE SHOT NOW. For example; if you're at 400mm zoom, the reading you get should say at least "400". So if you get "2000", make the shot. If you get "1000", make the shot. If you get "400"; still fine, make the shot! YOU'RE DONE! This is how easy it is to get that fantastic wildlife shot, perfectly exposed, and with the blurry background. Only if the reading you get is lower than what you desire, go to the next step. In the example above; if you're at 400mm, and your reading gives you "50"... read on! (optional) STEP 6; choose a higher ISO value if needed Let's continue with that last example; you were zoomed in to 400mm, because you wanted a shot of a bird in a tree. Unfortunately that bird is in the shade, so there's not a lot of light. And when half-pressing, your camera returns "50". Basically what your camera is saying is; "if you want a correctly exposed image of that bird, I require a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second. If you would ignore the rule in step 5, and press the shutter anyway, you can be almost certain you'd get a blurry shot. Because no one can hold a camera steady for 1/50th of a second while zoomed in that far. You need a faster shutter speed, so that there's less chance of your shot being blurred. You need to follow the rule in step 5! But how do you get a faster shutter speed if there's not enough light? That bird in the tree is not going to light a candle near his face. This is where your ISO setting comes in. If you never fiddle around with your ISO setting, and/or if you always shoot in auto mode, there's a high chance your ISO is set at 100. This setting will give you the least "grainy" images. You can google around if you want to know more about ISO, but basically it's just like in the old days, when you loaded film in your camera. For us, what's important now is to realise we would rather get a sharp shot of that bird even though the final image might be a bit more grainy, instead of getting a blurred shot of said bird ...but then with less grain. I mean seriously; what good are you with a non-grainy shot when all it shows is a blurred bird?? So here's the 2nd rule you need to keep in mind; every time you double your ISO value, your camera will require half the shutter speed of what he needed before. You only need to remember this rule in case you need this 6th step. So start increasing your ISO! (this is different on all cameras; you will need to find out how to do it. It might be as simple as pushing an "ISO" button). To give you an example; - Move your ISO from 100 to 200 and that "50" reading you got in the above example will change to "100" (just half-press your shutter again after having set a higher ISO value) - Move your ISO from 200 to 400 and that reading goes from 100 to 200! - Move your ISO from 400 to 800 and that reading goes from 200 to 400! How there! Stop! No need to go even higher in ISO. Remember; we needed 1/400th of a second to get a sharp shot, as we were zoomed in to 400mm. Well, we're there! Take the shot! It should be sharp. And when you're done, don't forget to set your ISO back to a lower level. Unless you expect your next shots to be of subjects in the shade as well. More to come in a 2nd post, below.
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