The Wild Photographer

Never Get Another Blurry Wildlife Photo Ever Again

October 29, 2023 Season 3 Episode 10
The Wild Photographer
Never Get Another Blurry Wildlife Photo Ever Again
Show Notes Transcript

It's shocking, demoralizing and just wrong...you nail the shot but then you go back later and look at your "prized" photos and they all have a slight blur to them.  Or worse, they're  really blurry! Either way, I have the explanation and solution for you.

It this episode, I do a deep dive into all the reasons this happens, and specific guidance on how to avoid this in the future.  I talk a good bit about shutter speed, but also explain how ISO, aperture, focusing mechanisms and even lens quality can play a major role.

This is a big one, but oh so worth the listen--it may be a total game-changer for your wildlife photography.

My Full Camera Kit:
Canon R5 Body
Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
Canon 24-105mm f/4
Canon 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1
Canon 100mm f/2.8
Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod

Court:

There's almost nothing more frustrating and just deflating than being out on some awesome nature adventure, seeing something spectacular, photographing to your heart's content, knowing you nailed the photo, you got this awesome animal behavior, this special scene with the right lighting, blah, blah, blah only to review your photos after the fact, whether it's on your camera, zooming in on the back LCD screen or on a computer, and realizing oh my gosh, they're all blurry. There are some very specific reasons why this is happening and today we're going to do a pretty deep dive into all those reasons. Knowledge is power identifying what those are, but also the solutions to how to avoid them. So by the end of this episode, my hope is that you have the tools and information to never get another blurry wildlife photo ever again. Let's dive into it. So let's first talk about how blur can happen. It can actually happen in a few different ways. You can have blur because of your shutter speed. You can have blur because you didn't nail the focus. You can have blur because your aperture wasn't set right. You don't have that ideal depth of field. Your focusing mechanisms might be off, like how your camera auto focuses, or should you choose to manual focus? It also comes down sometimes to your ISO. Maybe your ISO is set wrong and that noise and that grain in the photo is enough to make pretty much the whole photo look blurry. And then you also have kind of the X factor of just the quality of your lens, the quality of your equipment, the quality even of your tripod or just your entire gear setup. That plays a part too. We're not going to focus no pun intended on that part too much, because quality is something that you know as a photographer. You're going to develop, getting more and more into better lenses and cameras. But those first things I mentioned anybody can do, whether you're shooting with a smartphone, an intro DSLR or mirrorless. Shutter speed, aperture, iso, focusing mechanisms these are what we're going to concentrate on today. So these all have a part to play in whether your photo is blurry, sharp, etc. But they can be all combined together to create a whole maelstrom of wildness and inaccuracy in terms of your focusing. Or maybe just one of them is botched. And you know, if one of these is egregiously wrong by no fault of your own, just a general mistake or just not understanding some of these mechanisms enough, the photo can just be completely ruined. So it's not like you have to have multiples of these things stacked up on one another. Any one of these can completely botch the photo. So we're going to go into each and every one of them. Let's start with shutter speed. There are kind of two ways your shutter speed can have a major effect on whether you have a blurry photo or not. And let me preface this by saying we're not talking today about intentional blur necessarily. Sometimes we like that, whether we're talking about that blur in the background that helps isolate subjects in wildlife portraiture, or having blurred motion in water, with beautiful shots of brown bears over Brooks Falls with that silky waterfall. No, we're talking about the bad kind of blur, like when you zoom in and there's just enough motion blur that it's supposed to be a tack sharp photo but it's not and therefore it's just really really distracting to you and the viewer. So caveat there none of the blur we're talking about today is good. This is all the bad kind of blur. So shutter speed there's two ways it breaks down. In short, your shutter speed needs to be fast enough to get a tack sharp photo in two different ways. The first is freezing your movement and so you holding the camera. There's a certain shutter speed that you will need that corresponds very, very closely to the focal length of your lens, to make sure that you don't have any handshake, any movement, or, if you're in a safari vehicle moving, minimizing or eliminating that movement by having a fast enough shutter speed. So we're going to dive into that. But the other part, just to give you a little heads up, the other part of shutter speed, you can nail that type of shutter speed. But also, what is the wildlife doing? Are you completely still? Is your camera on a tripod? But you're photographing a million fluttering butterflies in the modern sanctuaries of Mexico. You're not worried about your own movement at that point. It's these butterflies that are frenetic and flying everywhere. What do you need to do to stop that? So shutter speed, two main parts your movement and the wildlife movement. There you go. So your movement, like I said, it comes down to the focal length of your lens. But let's not go too specific on this because we want to give you some tools and some axioms to take away that are just universal. Like you, go out with a wide angle shooting this kind of scene, make sure you have this fast enough shutter speed. If you're using a zoom, telephoto, it's this, and again we're going to break into two parts. So we're not talking about the wildlife movement, this is just simply you. So let's say you're photographing a sleeping lion in the Serengeti, you're not worried about the wildlife moving. Of course, if you're photographing a lion, a chase or a hunt or a cheetah running, that's a whole different story. But we're talking about things where the wildlife movement doesn't play a part, but your movement certainly does. And the first is just simple movements. Let's say, your body is still, you are able to be as still as possible. You're not in a moving vehicle, a boat, a car, a plane so you're really just worried about what your hands are doing. How much are your hands moving? Now, this is where a brilliant technological innovation has come through Image stabilization or vibration reduction. They're all kind of the same. Every lens and camera manufacturer has a slightly different way of calling it, but most of today's major brands Sony, nikon, canon, olympus, even Panasonic and some others they all have their own system for this, even third-party lenses, tamron, sigma, etc. They have their own system for vibration reduction and this plays most of its role in this exact scenario where you're not moving a lot, the wildlife isn't moving, but you do need to minimize your hand movement. So when this comes into play, usually when you're trying to get a really big depth of field or you're in really really low light and therefore you are trying to push the envelope for how slow of shutter you have, like you're trying to get 1 over 30th of a second, 1 over 50th, heck, 1 tenth of a second, whatever it might be, and you're pushing that envelope. That image stabilization will go with the Canon no more clay drink, I'm a Canon guy. That image stabilization is intended to minimize that small bit of hand movement. So when you're photographing is still seen. You are photographing at relatively tack, sharp focus from a shutter speed perspective. So this is great, like vibration reduction, image stabilization. It's a kind of must have today and it's usually for things like wildlife in landscape or just general landscape shots, travel shots, et cetera, et cetera, where there's not a lot of movement in your scene. You're just worried about yourself. So how to eliminate the possibility of blurring that photo? Well, of course, having image stabilization on and then having a little bit of knowledge of what type of image stabilization you have. And the best way to look at this is usually in the review of a lens. Most image stabilization is on a lens. Some of the newer mirrorless cameras have it in body. So the marketing, the reviews, the information on even the camera body and lens will tell you how many stops STOP, how many stops of stabilization it has. And so the reason this is important is a stop is a unit of light. Basically. There's a lot of ways we can define this, so let's not go too far down that rabbit hole, but a stop is basically a unit of light, and so every stop basically is either cutting your shutter speed in half or doubling it in terms of the equivalent. So what that means is if you are shooting at one over 500 of a second and you have a one stop image stabilization system, you can shoot at one 250th of a second, exactly half, and get the same stabilization from your hand movement as one over 500. You see how that works. So one stop means at half of that shutter speed, which is slower, it's more risky. You get the same protection. A two stop system means you can cut that in half, so like one over 120, one over 125. A three stop is another half, so like one over 60. Another half is one over 30. So you can see some of these lenses and bodies claim that the body has a five stop image stabilization system and then the lens on top of that has a three stop image stabilization system. So you're kind of scratching your head and you're like, holy cow, do I have an eight stop image stabilization system? Can I shoot at like one full second? Because if you kind of double and double and double and that that would be equivalent to one over 100 to the shutter speed, not so fast, it doesn't work quite that well. Generally and this is the big takeaway generally I will think of any system of lenses as like a two or three stop system, like effectively, it might say it's six, it might say it's eight, but we're looking at like two or three stops. Now I may have lost you here. Come back to ground. Come back to me. We're gonna explain why this is significant with what's known as the inverse focal length rule. I probably should have started with this, because this is the most important part. So if you wish to freeze the motion from your own hand movement, what you need to do is shoot at one over talk about shutter speed here one over the focal length of your lens, that's it. So think about this if you have a 100 millimeter lens and you want to reasonably freeze hand movement and this is assuming you have a relatively steady hand, you don't have to be a surgeon steady but you also don't want to know that you are a little bit unsteady with your hand or your body One over 100 for a 100 millimeter lens is gonna freeze that hand motion. If you have a 300 millimeter lens, one over 300, if you have a 600 millimeter lens, one over 600, you can see here how, as we get to these longer, more wildlife typical focal lengths, all of a sudden I'm telling you about pretty fast shutter speeds, like one over 600 for a good wildlife lens. That's pretty fast. Like we don't really shoot that if we're in low light conditions or if we're shooting a relatively sedentary animal. But this again is where those stops of image stabilization come in. So let's just use this 600 millimeter example. If I am going to use my own rule of like, two to three stops is a pretty good average of like. Yeah, the vibration reduction, the miscivilization does something. But I'm not gonna get too carried away. I'm not gonna take a half, six, seven, eight times from a starting point of one over 600. What I will do, though, is say okay, one stop with my 600 millimeter lens gets me down to one over 300. I can shoot at one over 300 with my 600 millimeter and know that my hand movement is not a problem. I can shoot two stop. I can know it's probably not gonna be a problem. One more have over that. So we did one over 300, one over 150. One over 75 is kind of like the limit in my mind. If you're shooting slower than one over 75, one over 80, I don't think shutter speeds really go to one over 75. So you'll be stuck with one over 60 or one over 80. That's just the increments that most cameras work in. That's about the slowest I'd go with the 600 millimeter lens. If you start getting below that, you better have some other stabilization device, like a monopod, like a tripod, like a railing of a vehicle, something like that. But again, when I'm using my telephoto lenses, I'm not really going past three stops, even with the latest image stabilization. If you have an older camera or you don't know what your lens rating is, don't go past two. Don't go past two, because, again, one over 150 is relatively slow for a 600 millimeter lens. So that's a really really key learning moment here is that you need to think about the inverse focal length rule, so one over the focal length. And so let's just use an example here. If you have a 100 to 500 lens, what is your inverse focal length? Well, it's whatever focal length you're using at the moment. So if you're using 100, it's one over 100. If you're using 500, it's one over 500. If you're shooting at 400 millimeters because you're framing a shot, you're not zooming all the way in, it's one over 400. So then again, take a half of that number Two or three times, and that's the slowest you're gonna want to go. Now, keep in mind here caveat again, this is not the shutter speed I'm advising you to use, necessarily. You know it's. It's the slowest, meaning if you go beyond that you run the risk of a botched, blurry photo. You know when in doubt, if you can go higher than that let's say you're shooting at midday and you get plenty of light go with that inverse focal length rule, just completely raw. Shoot at one over 500, shoot at one over 600 if you're using a 500 or 600 millimeter. And then you know, with that added image stabilization, again, as long as the wildlife is not moving, as long as you're the only thing You're controlling image stabilization, for then yeah, you're gonna get a tack sharp image each and every time. So there's kind of like tears, let's. Let's say there's a hierarchy, a little Russian nesting doll thing. The safest place you can be with shutter speed since minimize your own hand movement is the inverse focal length rule, whatever the focal length that you're using, and if you want to be a little bit riskier but also more cautious because we're gonna get into, you know, iso and some other things in a second, as to how you might not get your cake and eat it too with shutter speed is Kind of like having it two or three times because you probably have a stabilization system built into your lens or camera. Okay, so this is all, like I've said multiple times, this is all assuming that the wildlife is not moving. It's an entirely different ballgame when the wildlife is moving and this is where a lot of mental calculation has to come in pretty quickly and pretty on the fly. So if the wildlife is moving, almost assuredly you're going to need to basically throw that handshake movement equation Out the window and instead, you know, don't worry about freezing motion of yourself, because almost always, the wildlife is going to be the limiting factor, meaning the wildlife is moving enough that your shutter speed needs to be faster than this inverse focal length law with Instabilization. So therefore, make sure that you always focus, always think about the wildlife movement first. It actually does simplify things. I think it makes it a little bit easier for you. You no longer have to worry about your own movement per se or doing that calculation. You're just seeing about the wildlife. So there's some general rules of thumb and this is. This is very loosey-goosey, but it gives you a general framework. Obviously, when we're talking about freezing motion, of anything you know, you might be wondering well, why don't you just shoot one over 2,000 to the shutter speed? Why don't you just shoot one over 5,000 to the shutter speed? Um, yeah, that that would be the best thing possible. Like, we're not. We're not trying to slow it down purposely here. This is not again, this is not long exposure photography. We're doing this because we have other things in the equation. We have aperture, we have ISO that we're gonna get to next but the shutter speed we're really kind of. The rule of thumb is you're shooting as slow as possible, because usually, if you can shoot a little bit slower, you can bring that ISO down to get better quality. You can bring that aperture up to get more depth of field. So, with wildlife movement generally, if the, if the animals moving at all in other words, like if it, unless it's sleeping or just you know, an intense stare down with me I'm shooting at least one over 320th of a second. Okay, at least one over 320 if there's any movement at all, but very, very, very quickly. If that animal is is walking, if it's rolling around, then I'm at one over 500 very quickly. Um, and the thing is is you know my definition of walking. Your vision of walking or rolling around can be slightly different. So I say these things, but if you are a cautious person, air on the side of a little bit faster, aim for one over 600, aim for one over 750. And Although it is painful to be in front of an extraordinary scene like this and have a great sequence of photos and then stop midway to review your shots and zoom in on your camera's back screen to analyze focus, it's a pretty wise thing to do. It's hard to stop taking photos, but if you're on that edge, if you're playing the risky side and trying to get that slow shutter because of other Factors in your camera settings, then you might want to make sure. So again, any sort of movement, any rolling around, at least one over 500 when it comes like walking and whatnot. But very quickly a walk could turn into a saunter or a stroll or or a run, and so I'm pretty quickly thinking of getting to one over a thousand, very, very quickly. In fact, one over a thousand is a little of my sweet spot if I'm encountering a polar bear that is kind of, you know, rolling around about to walk up, or if I'm encountering some sort of African wildlife that is on the move but it's not moving real fast. One over a thousand is kind of my my general Sweet spot, starting point. But again, if that animal breaks into a run, I'm ready to go up one more level to one over 1500. And if it's all out action and you know, splashing hippos, battling brown bears, then one over 2000 is gonna be the safest spot to me. So you can see here it's is flexible, it's subjective. The only sure way to know is to try those shutter speeds, then quickly go back and review your photo, look for the sharpness. If it is sharp, then great. If it's not sharp enough, add another 250 or 500 to that denominator. If you're at one over a thousand, it's not fast enough. Go to 1500, maybe even double it, just to quickly get what you need. Because one of the biggest ways to get blurry photos is to not have a fast enough shutter speed. The reason I'm starting with this is it's almost always the culprit for photographers that they just didn't shoot fast enough. So faster the better. But also, as we're gonna get into next, you want to temper that, because it's not the only way to get Really sharp photos, or it's not the only way to eliminate blur. You want to think about aperture, you want to think about ISO as well. So we probably all know that the relationship between shutter speed and aperture and ISO are kind of this triangle. If you increase your shutter speed, you're limiting light. You know it's it's fewer amount of nanoseconds or milliseconds that light is ending your camera Via the opening, via the aperture. So therefore, if you ramp your shutter speed up, your aperture, ultimately it has to open up wider, which corresponds to a lower f number, these f stops we always talk about. So here's where it gets tricky. So so, brass tacks, to get more in focus in your scene. You want to get a bigger f number right. So if you're shooting at f 5.6, you're taking shots, reviewing them, they're blurry. Your shutter speed is already accounted for your. You don't think it's your hand movement, you don't think it's the wildlife movement, but why is it not tack sharp? Well, you might need to increase your aperture, and this gets a little bit of a funny Semantics nomenclature thing. But increasing aperture can be viewed in a few different ways. I, for the record and going, when I say increase, I'm always going to be talking about a bigger f number, technically speaking, and a lot of you out there might be savvy to this. So apologies if I'm insulting anyone, but technically speaking, a bigger aperture actually means a smaller f number. But again, we don't want to talk about inverses. I don't want to paint the picture in your brain. Let's just simply go with bigger f number, which means bigger depth of field. An f8 is a bigger depth of field. More is in focus than an f4. Okay, so just stick with me there. That's a really, really important point. So we're going back to that scenario where you're reviewing your photo and you're saying, golly, that didn't turn out how was expected. I'm photographing a bear at close range. It's not really moving. I've got great light. It's noses in focus, it's eyes are in focus but its ears are in focus. I want the whole thing in focus. Or it's eyes are in focus but the bridge of its nose is not in focus. Well, the the best thing to do. If you have any part of your scene in tack, sharp focus, like you're reviewing that shot and you say, oh gosh, those eyes are perfect, that is an indicator that your shutter speeds not the problem. It's in indicator that probably you don't have a big enough depth of field. So ramp up that aperture and I like to go up in in small Increments, but meaningful increments, and what I mean by that is just like we talked about stops of light with shutter speed Meaning for every double or half from a unit of shutter speed you're going a full stop. So 1 over 200 is a full stop, faster than 1 over 100. 1 over 50 is a full stop, slower than 1 over 100. F 5.6 is a full stop. Wider depth of field than f4. Bear with me, f8 is a full stop, more than f5.6. The thing with aperture is you just got to memorize the numbers shutter speed and, as we will soon learn, iso is Actually pretty easy because it's all just numbers and math. It's just doubling or having the number. But aperture it's not quite linear like that, like in fact, the numbers might as well just be letters. You know aperture a, b, c, d, e, f. You know 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22. Those are almost like specific categories of depth of field. It's not like the distance from you know 2.8 to 4, which would be 1.2. It's not like that across the way, you're not like getting you know significantly better depth of field. For every 1.2 You're adding it's again 2.8, 4, 5.6, f, 8, f, 11f, 16, f, 22 and so on. So, with that being said, when I'm looking at my photo and I want to adjust the focus Meaning it's gonna I want a better focus I'm trying to fix this blurry wildlife photo I'm probably going up by a full stop each and every time. So if I'm shooting it f4 and I'm like that's not quite good enough, I'm gonna immediately go to f5.6. Most cameras. If you're shooting on aperture mode or manual or anything like that, it's gonna dial you into third increments, but I just go three clicks all the way from 4 to 5.6. Or if I'm shooting 5.6 and I'm not quite in focus enough, then I go to f8. F8 to f11, f11, f16 and so on. Frankly, once you get into the f8 and f11 territory, the difference is not gonna be as noticeable. Again, the the numbers is. It's one of the more complex parts of photography is understanding focus. So you may want to Listen to one of my episodes on perfecting focus for wildlife photography, because it's it's a lot more than to talk about here. However, it's really key to know that when you're looking at your photo and it's blurry or it's not in focus kind of the same thing Aperture is oftentimes a culprit, as long as shutter speed is Adjusted for. So again, one full stop is about what I typically experiment with, and experiment is the name of the game. I'm going to be taking the photo, I'm going to be reviewing it. I'm gonna say, ah, that's much better. On rare occasion, if I'm starting to take something at f4 and I say, whoa, that is not good at all, I might go two full stops, you know, all the way up to f8. But generally, again for tutorial purposes, I'm going in one stop increments. So you know good rule of thumb if you're going out for wildlife photography for the day is to start at a pretty decent aperture. You know, don't start at f4, don't start at those really small f numbers that have a very shallow depth of field. See if you can start at f5.6 or f8. Now, to add further complication, the bigger the number you have, the less light it lets in. So therefore, when I'm talking about, oh yeah, get a fast shutter speed and get a big depth of field, all of a sudden, if you're shooting at dawn or sunrise in Africa for wildlife, you're going to say, oh my gosh, how do I get those two things to actually take the photo, because I'm not getting enough light. Well, that's when the third thing comes in, which is ISO. So ISO when I'm just explaining this in a very raw form, it's kind of like your silver bullet, your magic unicorn. Iso does nothing else other than add light sensitivity to your sensor. In fact, what it does, it sends a very small electrical pulse through the sensor, which makes it more sensitive to light. Therefore, as you increase your ISO, you're actually increasing light sensitivity, and so what you'll get is you know, if you're stuck at 1 over 250 with this balance of light. If you double your ISO, you can then double your shutter speed. So it's a really magical, magical number. And you know, using ISO to your advantage is a huge boon when it comes to eliminating blur from your photos, because if you can ramp that ISO up confidently and know where your sweet spot is, know where too much ISO starts to come into the frame, you have a lot of flexibility. And this is where the bigger, better cameras really pay for themselves. These days I have a newer Canon R5 mirrorless and I'm able to shoot at ISO 3200, 4000, sometimes even like 5000, 6400, and have pretty minimal noise and grain. So this is where I'm going to start talking about how ISO can be a culprit for your blurry wildlife photos. So the first part of it is not knowing to use it to your advantage. If you don't know enough about ISO, you might want to start using auto ISO. It's actually something that I use now that I've gone back to this, this interesting manual system, which I'll describe in a moment. But not using ISO to your advantage is a cause for blurry photos. But there's also another cause that I want you to be very sensitive to, and that is if you're shooting at way too high of an ISO. So the downside, the risk of using auto ISO is sometimes if your camera isn't set properly, it'll just have that ISO extraordinarily high. And if you have a very basic intro camera or a point and shoot and you're shooting at 3200, 6400, the photo is going to look really poor. It's going to look very, very grainy and bad. So the key thing with ISO is it's not the biggest culprit. Shutter speed and aperture are way more important. But if you're shooting at a very, very high ISO, usually I tell my folks to not shoot anything over 1600. That's kind of a nice average across most camera platforms. If you're shooting it too high of an ISO, the whole photo is going to have this haze. It almost looks like you took your photo, you printed it out on copy paper and then you put it over a sand board and ran a ruler over it. It just looks like this whole. The whole photo has this like this grain and kind of noise to it and it's really distracting and it's kind of the antithesis of sharpness, to be totally honest. So you want to be very, very sensitive to that. But again, like I said, iso can be your friend if used properly. If you want to get a little more details on this, definitely check out one of my ISO podcasts and also maybe even check out the relationship podcasts that I have on these three things, because there's a lot more to talk about here. You know how to maximize this relationship between these three elements. So let's let's move on from here and talk about focus mechanisms. So we're always talking about blurry wildlife photos, and focusing is a huge part of all that. So one thing I'm going to say right off the bat, which is going to save you a lot of time, especially if you're just trying to listen to a little bit of this podcast, is is you know where you're focusing on. The animal or the person is a huge part of how the overall scene comes together. So you, you may be doing everything right. You may show me the photo and I say well, you know it looks good, but you're focusing in the wrong place is actually the takeaway. You know you might be photographing a scene with a mountain in the distance and beautiful wildflowers in the foreground, and you're focusing on the mountain, but the wildflowers are out of focus. You might be focusing on the animals shoulders, and I'm seeing that the eyes and face are blurry. So you didn't do anything wrong. You might have a perfect shutter speed, a perfect aperture, a perfect ISO. You're just focusing in the wrong place. Remember, it's very difficult and actually not what we truly want by having the whole scene in focus. It's only landscape photos, even even that, not all landscape photos, but wildlife photos. You don't want everything in focus, so you need to focus on the appropriate parts of the animal. People are the exact same way and, simply put, I told you this would be brief, it's anything but simply put focus on the eyes. Everything else can kind of be thrown away, and I say that you know jovially, but you know, if the eyes are in focus all of a sudden, the rest of the scene isn't as important. So the eyes if you focus on them, it provides great contrast and a great subject, a great aiming point for your focusing. And even if the ears are out of focus or the nose is out of focus, it's not as bad as if the eyes are out of focus at the benefit of having the ears or shoulder in focus or whatever. Now, that being said, the things I've talked with you about so far, about increasing aperture and whatnot is to, you know, get a photo where maybe the whole face is in focus, with the eyes, nose and ears. That's kind of like a nice way to do it. But again, start with the eyes, where to focus is a huge part of it. So always think about if you're getting blurry photos. Where are you focusing? Just where are you focusing? Always focus in the eyes. With landscape photos, always focus about a third of the way into the scene. That's the sweet spot there. We sometimes call it hyper focus and there are big, vast equations that you can use based on your lens and the brand and all this and the distance to the back of the scene and the front of the scene. Don't worry about all that. Focus one third of the way into the scene for any landscape photo and you're going to be pretty darn good with getting everything in focus. And then what are you doing to lock focus? So this is a pretty simple one, but basically what you want to do is you want to hold your shutter halfway down to lock focus, but are you letting autofocus still do a little bit too much of the work? In other words, what is the focus mechanism of your camera body itself? Is it a single point autofocus in the dead middle of the frame each and every time, or does it move around? Is that little focusing box moving around from shot to shot because the camera is picking at the focus point? I advise anybody, no matter how beginner, intermediate or advanced, but mainly beginner you might be, don't let the camera pick where in the scene you focus. Set your camera to center point, autofocus each and every time and use the simple trick of using that box aiming on what should be in focus, ie the eye or one third of the way in the landscape scene, and then hold your shutter button halfway down and then recompose. So that's a really, really key one. Are you doing the proper locking focus mechanism, then recomposing, or are you letting autofocus do too much of the work for you? So very, very careful thing there. Now, I told you I was going to tell you about my little manual auto ISO technique and this actually isn't really germane to this conversation, but since I mentioned it and since I think it has a good application with the shutter speed, aperture, iso balance for those of you out there that are comfortable shooting on aperture priority, which is something I've shot on for many, many years, is I found a really really great hack, so to speak, of newer cameras, cameras in the last three, four years, of actually setting on full manual but then auto ISO. And the reason for this is that you usually want to control aperture, right Like that's the main thing. You do want to tell it how much to be in focus, but then also, as we're talking about especially in this episode, you want to control shutter speed. But ISO is kind of a means to an end, right, like ISO, you want it low, but you don't really want to overestimate by just starting at 1600 or 3200 and just letting the the ISO do the work for you, kind of what. In my mind, what I've found is that if the camera does this calculation for you, I oftentimes get a much lower ISO than I would otherwise have just dialed in to get the shutter speed that I want. So it takes, I think, a lot of the guesswork out to set it on manual and then also set ISO to auto. And if you really want to be highly controlled, you can go into that same menu in most cameras and you can set an upper ISO threshold, meaning that, hey, don't go beyond a certain ISO, don't go beyond 1600 or 3200 or 6400. Because, yeah, if you dial in one over five thousands of the shutter speed and F11 and its daybreak with very little light, you're going to be shooting at like ISO 25000 and all but the very best cameras are going to really botch that shot. So that's a really interesting simple hack that I have been using for the last few years and I'll never go back Like that's absolutely the way forward, because I know the shutter speed that I want, I know the aperture I want, but then let's just let the camera choose the ISO. It works each and every time in a really, really fantastic way. So the final thing we're going to talk about today is the quality, and this does have an impact on sharpness or blur, and even though it's not the biggest bucket here, it is a pretty important one to be thinking about, especially if you truly believe that you're doing everything else right each and every time and you say, gosh, when I look at Jim's photos, they're so much sharper than mine. Why are mine never as sharp as his? Well, take a look at what camera and what lens he's using, and if he's using pro level camera stuff, pro level lenses, then that might be the reason. So what we think about here is there's a couple of ways to level up your camera and lens selections. One is to get a newer one. Of course, you know, something that's 10 years old is not anywhere near as sharp and as dynamic and is it's not going to look as good as something today. Even even the same line of camera model like, let's say, you're into the Canon Rebel series that same Rebel quality or category of lens sorry, category of body today is going to be significantly better because of the mechanisms, the computer and, most notably, the processor. But oftentimes the biggest difference with sharpness is not going to be the body, but it's going to be the lens itself. And so this is why I say, if you are looking to upgrade your system and your camera is of the most recent century, something in the last, you know, 10, 10 sort of years, then maybe think about upgrading your lens first. Lenses are a huge part of what's between you and the shot, and lenses have a massive difference in sharpness. When you look at two lenses and they have the exact same specs, so they're, you know, they're 100 to 400, f 4.5 to 5.6, whatever it might be, and then all those specs are the same and one cost $600 and one cost $2,600. I can tell you the primary difference that you're going to notice between those two lenses is the sharpness, and it's a really, really great investment. Lenses retain their value, especially new ones that have come out in recent years, and so if you're looking to upgrade and just can't you're scratching your head, you're banging your head against the wall, is like I'm doing everything right, but my photos still aren't as good as I think they should be Then look at your lens and then consider upgrading your body. The there's a lot of years of my photo education and guiding where the camera bodies weren't the first thing we look at, weren't more, wasn't even the second thing we look at, because DSLRs didn't really evolve at a really rapid pace. The sensors were, of course, better each and every time, and certainly as we get into video those capabilities. But nowadays, with this new mirrorless revolution, I can tell you that there actually is a very major difference between DSLR and mirrorless and it's just kind of it's sort of night and day. So you know I hate to end this podcast saying, yeah, go spend more money. You know, think about, think about upgrading everything. But it is going to make a big difference if these other things are just not cutting it for you, you know, with a preference on upgrading that lens first. So there you have it, folks. I hope you learned something today. We talked about how to never get another blurry wildlife photo ever again. Focus on that shutter speed, your movement, the wildlife movement. Think about aperture. You want a big aperture, but not too big to limit light and to affect that shutter speed. Definitely use ISO to your advantage, but not too much. You can see here I'm very Goldilocks only as recommendations. And you're focusing mechanisms. How are you focused? Where are you focusing? Are you locking and recomposing in the proper way? And the final thing is just making sure that you have a good quality setup to match your expectations. If you would like some help and advice on camera gear that I recommend I'm going to have some information in the show notes. You can also email me at wildphotographerpodcast at gmailcom. Again, that's wildphotographerpodcast at gmailcom, and I'd be happy to send you back some recommendations. I do this a lot for my guests that go with me on photo tours and I love talking to people about camera gear. As you can imagine, I have a whole podcast just talking about photography, so it's something I really like to do. You won't be a bother whatsoever. Shoot me an email and I'm happy to help you out there. Well, once again, thanks so much for listening and stay tuned for next time. Thanks, guys.