Really good photographs rarely happen by accident.  Usually they’re the result of mastering your equipment and more, accumulating bits and pieces of “technique” which are often scene specific.  This week, and in coming weeks, I’m going to share with you a few capture tips designed to enhance good photographs into great photographs.  Some of this stuff will seem basic, but you’d be surprised how often they’re overlooked.

African Crown Crane, Safari World Thailand  

Another African Crown Crane.  Beautifully colored birds with a regal air about them.  At first glance this image looks really solid.  However, it would not stand up to even a modest size enlargement.  Why?

On this crop of the image above you can see how critical focus failed.  The eye is very soft and the crown itself is out of focus.  You can’t really see this on a full length web site image, and you probably wouldn’t notice it on a 8x10 either.  But you’d certainly notice it on anything larger.  You’d notice it in a big way.  Critical Focus is vital!  

On this crop of the image above you can see how critical focus failed.  The eye is very soft and the crown itself is out of focus.  You can’t really see this on a full length web site image, and you probably wouldn’t notice it on a 8x10 either.  But you’d certainly notice it on anything larger.  You’d notice it in a big way.  Critical Focus is vital!  Make sure you place the AF sensor on the closest eye.  Its not good enough to have all your sensors activated so it picks up on the closest “part” of the animal, you need to have only a single AF sensor active and to put that sensor on the closest eye.

This set of eight images was captured at 4fps as the crane walked across the pond.  Single shots sometimes work, but a continuous set of shots taken in succession will increase your odds of making a great capture.  

This set of eight images was captured at 4fps as the crane walked across the pond.  Single shots sometimes work, but a continuous set of shots taken in succession will increase your odds of making a great capture.  Notice that has the crane moves across the pond its head and even it’s body take on different angles to the directional light?

These are crops of the same eight images above.  Notice not only how the eye goes in/out of focus from capture to capture, but how the angle of light makes the eye go from a light blue (natural) to dark, to hidden, to dark, to blue again.  The first shot of the series set the AF sensor on the eye and nailed the critical focus.  The camera held this focus point as I held down the shutter button.  As the head turned it’s angle, the eye came back into focus as just the point the directional light perfectly illuminated the eye.  Animals move fast. 

These are crops of the same eight images above.  Notice not only how the eye goes in/out of focus from capture to capture, but how the angle of light makes the eye go from a light blue (natural) to dark, to hidden, to dark, to blue again.  The first shot of the series set the AF sensor on the eye and nailed the critical focus.  The camera held this focus point as I held down the shutter button.  As the head turned it’s angle, the eye came back into focus as just the point the directional light perfectly illuminated the eye.  Animals move fast.  Techniques such as these help you compensate.

Bangkok, Safari World, African Crown Crane  

Over 30 images taken of this crane.  Only a single perfect shot and this is it.  This is the shot I wanted and I knew when I nailed it.  It wouldn’t be unusual for a photographer to take over 200-300 images of a single subject to get the shot they wanted.  The perfect light, great contrast and color provided by the perfect light, the perfect pose, a great shadow, and the depth of field (DOF) works perfectly in this scene.

These are crops of the same eight images above.  Notice not only how the eye goes in/out of focus from capture to capture, but how the angle of light makes the eye go from a light blue (natural) to dark, to hidden, to dark, to blue again.  The first shot of the series set the AF sensor on the eye and nailed the critical focus.  The camera held this focus point as I held down the shutter button.  As the head turned it’s angle, the eye came back into focus as just the point the directional light perfectly illuminated the eye.  Animals move fast.

Notice that the eye is super shape, naturally well lit, and critical focus was achieved.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  This capture can be evaluated from top to bottom and everything is either perfect or very solid.  This is the sort of shot you get as you perfect your technique and become proficient with your equipment.  This is why you challenge yourself.  Something to look forward to, and an image that looks great in a gallery size print hanging on your wall properly mounted.