AF-C

Few Things To Consider When Taking Animal Shots

When I bought my first DSLR three years ago, I had no clue about the composition, photography technique, lighting and many other things. I just bought a DSLR camera because I had interest in photography and enjoyed taking pictures. I still remember a shot of a deer that I took from the back and was very happy with the result. It had shallow depth of field, well focused and good light. I couldn't find anything wrong with my picture and thought to share with my photography community. Guess what? My composition was completely wrong which I realized after fellow photographers commented about it. And you probably have already guessed what went wrong on my picture. Yes, I took the shot from the back of an animal and viewers couldn't connect to that photograph very well. I started learning from my mistakes and today, I thought I would write something about what I learned so far so that you don't have to go through same mistakes and waste your time. But instead, you can use that time for taking creative shots.

When shooting animals, there are few important camera settings and the composition ideas which you may want to follow to get better results and connect well to the viewers. Let me explain them briefly in points.

1. When shooting birds or animals, you may want to use the spot metering so that the camera meters exposure based on the focus point.

2. Use Continuous-servo (AF-C) Autofocus mode with the single point AF or the Dynamic Area AF Autofocus point. When you in AF-C mode, after you press the shutter release button, camera focuses your subject wherever you select the focus point and continues to monitor the subject to refocus if the subject moves along and the single point focusing method helps you to focus on particular area, an eye for example. Using the Dynamic Area AF helps you to track the moving subject if it goes out of focus in the frame. If you are shooting flying birds or fast moving animals, you may want to use the Dynamic AF points.

3. Use the widest aperture (smallest f number) possible so that you will get the faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of moving subjects.

4. While shooting animals, try to focus on eye as much as possible because it naturally draws the viewer’s attention to the photograph immediately.

Here are few photographs I took recently and hope you will like it.

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This shot was taken at the National Zoo, Washington DC and I liked how this cat is cautiously look at me while drinking water.

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Learning from the mistake is the best way to learn. You will never forget what you learned and sharing those ideas with others help you grow even bigger and faster.

How To Take Multiple Shots In A Self-Timer Mode?

This post is part of our Q&A section. If you want to submit your question, please use the form in the Contact page.

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Shyam (Delhi, India) asked : I set my camera setting to take multiple shots in self timer mode but when I go out and take a picture, it takes only one shot. what am I doing wrong here?

First of all, I find this question little bit incomplete. You didn't mention whether you are trying to shoot in a bright day light condition or dark night and also if you are using an external flash unit or not. If you are shooting in a dark night and using an external flash unit, then you might have to check couple of other settings which I will describe a bit later. First, lets go step by step on how to setup your camera setting to shoot multiple shots in a self-timer mode.

Camera Settings for Self-Timer Mode

In this blog, I am taking a reference of Nikon D90 but I believe these camera settings are same for almost every other Nikon DSLR camera. It is possible that you may find buttons and menu options in different places but you get my point.

Nikon D90 Self-Timer Mode Menu

Nikon D90 Self-Timer Mode Menu

1. Press the Menu button on the back of the camera and go to CSM (Custom Setting Menu).

2. Use the multi-selector button and go to c Timers/AE lock menu.

3. Go to the option c3 and select Self-timer and you will see two options inside.

4. First option, Self-timer delay allows you to set time after how many seconds camera should take a shot and available values are 2s, 5s, 10s, 20s.

4. And the next option is Number of shots you want to take in self-timer mode. You can choose between 1 and 9 shots.

Nikon D90 Self-Timer Mode

Nikon D90 Self-Timer Mode

5. Optionally, you can also select CL (Continuous Low) mode shooting speed (1fps, 2fps, 3fps and 4fps) into CSM->Shooting/display->d6 (CL mode shooting speed).

6. Finally you have to change the shooting mode into self-timer mode (with burst shooting). You can do that my pressing the button on the top (right to LCD screen which has wireless remote and self-timer icon) while rotating mode dial until you see the burst mode with the clock (self-timer) icon.

If you have already done all these setup and still not getting multiple shots in a self-timer mode, it is time to check your camera's Autofocus Mode. When you are shooting in a burst mode, you probably want to use Autofocus mode AF-C or AF-A. And if you are shooting in a dark night with an external flash on, you may not get multiple shots because of the flash recycle time. Once you take a shot, flash may take a few seconds to recycle itself and if you are shooting with 4fps setting, its hard to get that shooting speed with an external flash units.

Understanding An Autofocus Mode In Modern DSLR Camera

Autofocus is one of the great features available in modern DSLR camera. Some cameras are equipped with an Autofocus motor inside the camera and some are not. Similarly, there are lenses which come with the built-in Autofocus motor inside itself. Benefits of having an Autofocus motor inside the camera is that it can Autofocus the lens which doesn't have a built-in Autofocus motor. Nikon D40, D40X, D60, D3000 and D5000 models lack an Autofocus motor. But Nikon D90 does have an Autofocus motor built-in inside so that it can fully Autofocus the lenses which lack an Autofocus motor. There are two ways for the DSLR camera to focus the subject; manually and automatically. When your lens is setup to focus automatically (by using the switch available on the lens), camera offers few different ways to achieve that autofocus. Different camera brands provide different kind of Autofocus mode and sometimes only the naming is different but the core functionalities are same. Most of the Nikon DSLRs including D90 come with the three different Autofocus modes and one Manual mode. To change between different Autofocus mode in D90, you have to press the AF button on the top of the camera near the monochrome LCD screen and rotate the main command dial. While changing the modes, you can see currently selected Autofocus mode on your top LCD screen as well. Most of the high end semi-pro or pro DSLRs come with the dedicated lever to switch between different autofocus modes. Now, let's discuss about these different autofocus modes and when should we use them.

D700 Autofocus switch

D700 Autofocus switch

1. AF-S (Autofocus Single)

In this mode, focus is set once when you press the shutter release button halfway down and the camera keeps the focus locked on the subject until the shutter button is fully pressed to take a picture. If you release the shutter button without taking a picture, you will have to re-focus again to take the picture. This mode will be your best choice if you are shooting subjects that do not move such as landscapes, cityscapes or portraits etc. In this mode, by default, you might not be able to take a picture until the focus is locked on the subject.

2. AF-C (Autofocus Continuous)

This mode is good if you are shooting moving subjects like in wildlife and sports photography. When the camera is set to AF-C mode, once the shutter release button is pressed halfway down, the camera sets the focus on the subject but continues to monitor the subject in order to re-focus if it's moved from the original position. While shooting using AF-C mode, focus and exposure aren't really locked until you press shutter release button all the way down to take a picture. In this mode, by default, you can take a picture even if camera has not fully focused the subject but you end up getting blurry images.

3. AF-A (Autofocus Automatic)

This mode is actually a combination of the two modes described above. When your camera is set to AF-A mode, camera focuses subject using AF-S mode if the subject is not moving but it changes automatically to AF-C mode if subject starts moving. Isn't that pretty cool? This mode is pretty good when you are shooting mixture of the actions. This mode is probably the default mode in your camera. However, like in AF-S mode, subject needs to be sharply focused to release the shutter release button all the way down and then only camera takes the picture.

4. Manual Focus

You can use the manual focus mode when your lens is set to the manual focusing mode (using the switch on the lens itself) or if your lens is not equipped with an Autofocus motor. In this mode, you can manually focus your subject using the focusing ring on the lens barrel. Manual focus is popular among the landscape photographers specially when they want to achieve sharp focus from the foreground to the background (some prefer to focus into infinity and some prefers to focus into one third of the frame to achieve everything in focus).

Some photographers like to shoot in a manual focusing mode all the time but I prefer to use Autofocus mode most of the time except in some tricky landscape shot where I also use manual focus.