How do you focus when shooting animals?

lance70

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I enjoy taking pictures of our dogs and live close to a tiger sanctuary and been trying to get pictures there but they were not in focus on my first few tries. I'm using the D90 and have the 18-105 lens and the 55-200 lens, I been trying to use 18-105 because I can get close enough for some good pictures if I can learn how to focus this camera right lol.
I have the D90 for dummies book but wanted some input on how you would set your focus options on the camera and should I focus on the eyes or? I wasn't sure if I should use the wide focus option or keep it set on the default? just wanted some input, thank you.
 

farmerj

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I have the D90 also,

I set the focus to AF-C, Metering to spot, and put the single small aiming spot on the animals eye, or if it's a bird, at least on the head.

I try to keep the shutter speed above 200 if at all possible.
country_squirrel.jpg
 
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inTempus

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If you're getting OOF shots with your D90, make sure you have a single focus point selected. If you have all of the focus points active, it will choose the point on the animals head/body that's closest to you and focus on that which will make the face look OOF.
 
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lance70

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Thanks for the help, great picture too btw! so if the animal is laying horizontal to me, what makes the best picture, do I zoom in on the face and keep just the face in focus or try getting the entire body and then what would I set the focus points on? I know this sounds dumb to most of you who shoot all the time, I'm just having trouble with the focus thing and want to get this right.
 

farmerj

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Set your camera up for single focus point. Using the 4-way button on the back to put the focus point where you want the head to be.

The picture I have above is a seriously cropped image. What you don't see is a couple of trees in the foreground on the right side. For that image, I used the center focus point. unedited original other than resizing
country_squirrel_orig.jpg


The spot is set for the smallest size possible in the menu. I have been focusing on the eyes. You bring the rest of the body into focus with the aperture setting and that adjusts your depth of field.

most of the pictures I take of small animals are at an f/8 or f/7.1 setting. I don't like to go lower than that as small animals are jittery the way it is and can move very quickly on you. Turning, repositioning. AP-C allows you to follow and track them, the deeper DOF with f/8 than a f/5.6 allows them a little more wiggle room.
 
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lance70

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Set your camera up for single focus point. Using the 4-way button on the back to put the focus point where you want the head to be.

The picture I have above is a seriously cropped image. What you don't see is a couple of trees in the foreground on the right side. For that image, I used the center focus point. unedited original other than resizing
country_squirrel_orig.jpg


The spot is set for the smallest size possible in the menu. I have been focusing on the eyes. You bring the rest of the body into focus with the aperture setting and that adjusts your depth of field.

most of the pictures I take of small animals are at an f/8 or f/7.1 setting. I don't like to go lower than that as small animals are jittery the way it is and can move very quickly on you. Turning, repositioning. AP-C allows you to follow and track them, the deeper DOF with f/8 than a f/5.6 allows them a little more wiggle room.



Thanks, you really know your stuff with this. I will give that a shot, I will have to learn the aperture settings, there is so much to this, will take me a while to learn. Thank you.
 

farmerj

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Humbly,...

thanks. I am new to all this as well. I just got my D90 in October.
 
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lance70

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Humbly,...

thanks. I am new to all this as well. I just got my D90 in October.

awesome, yeah I got mine late last year too but not catching on to things I should be yet lol :lol:
 

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I too got the D90 in late October and have struggled with it. A far cry from the split screen focus days. Focus and pick and aperture or shutter speed and you were outta there. It seems too that that to get a large DOF in the land of digital you have to use much larger aperture numbers (smaller ap) than the film days. I don't understand the multiple focus points when I read the camera picks the closet one. Then I read it does an average of them all. I too have gone to the spot focus. The metering is another thing. The matrix seems to do well on scenery but on criters one of the spot metering choices seems to be better. Sometimes I just go out with my point and shoot. If I could fnd one that does what mine does AND focues fast I'd never go back to changing lenes. Oh, I have learned on this site that when photographing critters you should really go for the eyes.
 
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lance70

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I too got the D90 in late October and have struggled with it. A far cry from the split screen focus days. Focus and pick and aperture or shutter speed and you were outta there. It seems too that that to get a large DOF in the land of digital you have to use much larger aperture numbers (smaller ap) than the film days. I don't understand the multiple focus points when I read the camera picks the closet one. Then I read it does an average of them all. I too have gone to the spot focus. The metering is another thing. The matrix seems to do well on scenery but on criters one of the spot metering choices seems to be better. Sometimes I just go out with my point and shoot. If I could fnd one that does what mine does AND focues fast I'd never go back to changing lenes. Oh, I have learned on this site that when photographing critters you should really go for the eyes.


Thanks! yeah I'm going to try to focus on the eyes for now on and look at my settings more before just going crazy and taking pictures. I agree there is a lot to learn with the SLR camera's and I really respect the people on here who make it look so easy, it's crazy when you look at some of the pictuers on here. I would just be happy getting my pictures in focus for now LMAO :lol:
 

farmerj

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I would just be happy getting my pictures in focus for now LMAO :lol:

I did it for a couple weeks.

Opanda.com - Professional Photography Software (DigitalFilm, PowerExif, IExif, PhotoFilter)

Get Opanda Exif and use it to see what happens. But don't do anything but take pictures with your camera on Auto or Auto/No flash.

Then go back in and see what the camera was doing with Opanda. Eventually you will learn more and more.

Also, pick some feature on your camera, and figure out how to use it. I have/still am attempting to figure out how to get and use the custom white balance on my camera along with a WhiBal card.
 

Overread

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My method is similar to many here, though I make a few differences:

1) I set the AF point to the middle point. On an entry level DSLR (400D in my case) this is the most accurate AF point with the others being of weaker make - so I stick with the strongest one. On mid and highrange cameras the outer AF points are more accurate and can be used as well.

2) With the middle AF point set I then focus on the face of the animal - and aim to get the eys in focus. Take a look through some animal photobooks and look at the shots - many you might notice don't have the depth of field convering the whole animal - infact its possible to have everything out of focus provided that the eyes are in focus - the eyes are what we look to first and are what we engage with in the shot so they have to be in focus.

3) Animals are often moving or about to move so I stick to Ai servo focusing mode so that the AF will track and (hopefully) keep up with the animal as it moves

4) I also set the AF activation to a backbutton on the camera rather than have it set to a halfdepressed shutter button (called back button focusing). I do this because it means that if the AF is getting confused (I am shooting an animal through bars at a zoo or through branches) and not getting a lock where I want it OR the animal is in a state of rest or slow movement and I want to recompose the shot so as to have the animals face not in the dead centre; Now I can find that switch on the lens - turn AF off and MF on, but its a pain to find and it means I have to remember to turn it back on again after - I much prefer thus to have it set to a different button - so that I can no press it if things are not going right - I can then adjust the focus if I need to using manual focusing (note that this only works if the lens has HSM focusing otherwise you will still need to switch the AF off on the lens.

Most times I stick to AF for action - if one can predict the movement of the animal and has access to a higher end camera with better edge AF points one can select on of those points so as to have AF focus on the animal in a non-central position for composition.
 
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lance70

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Thanks for all the help! I will be taking more pictures tomorrow on my day off so I hope to get better at the focus thing and take better pictures, thanks again.
 

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