How do I get all of an animal in focus

waterjug

Senior member
Jan 21, 2012
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Pic related. See how the duck's head is in focus but the back isn't? I get this ALL the time. It's usually not this dramatic, I'm just using it so that it's clear what I'm talking about. Even if the animal is completely still, the part that's further away, or further down their body (If I'm aiming at the eye) comes out 'fuzzy'. Is it as simple as increasing depth of field?

cropimg1102.jpg




Also, another quick question, when I open an image in photoshop and then save it, even at quality setting '10' the file size drops a TON from what it was after I take the jpg's off my camera...why is this? Is there some degradation in quality that I'm not noticing?? They look the same...
 

DarkRogue

Golden Member
Dec 25, 2007
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Yes, increase the depth of field if you want more of your subject in focus. Stopping down your aperture to f/8~11 or so might help. After a while you start fighting diffraction, though.
Otherwise, back up some more, and/or use a wider focal length.

As for the JPG's, it's a lossy compression. When you re-save it as a new JPG, it goes through your file and throws out more bits to get the file size down. Are you sure you're not cropping it or otherwise resizing it at the same time?
 

CuriousMike

Diamond Member
Feb 22, 2001
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The exif data shows you shot it at ƒ/5.6 at 400mm at ISO 800 with a 1/400th shutter.

The fact that you zoomed in so much is going to conspire against you having more in focus.

As noted above, try clamping your aperture down to f/8 or f/11.

That looks like a pretty bright day... any reason shooting at ISO 800?
 

slashbinslashbash

Golden Member
Feb 29, 2004
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Yes, you need to increase your depth of field. Several ways to do this....

*Smaller aperture (bigger number)

*Not-as-long focal length ("not as zoomed in"), i.e. 100mm instead of 300mm, etc.

*Get farther away from the subject

Of course, not all of these will be practical. For a shot like the duck, there is very little you can do. If you want the duck to fill the frame, you will have to be relatively close and use a long focal length. Even using f/11 on that shot, a good part of the duck would still be out of focus. The eye is in focus, but it starts going OOF right below the neck (where the brown feathers turn gray). The gray feathers are OOF.

Animal photographers always try to get the eye in focus. If the eye is in focus, all the rest can be blurry and your brain will be ok with it; but if the eye is out of focus, it's jarring.

The exif data shows you shot it at ƒ/5.6 at 400mm at ISO 800 with a 1/400th shutter.

The fact that you zoomed in so much is going to conspire against you having more in focus.

As noted above, try clamping your aperture down to f/8 or f/11.

That looks like a pretty bright day... any reason shooting at ISO 800?

ISO 800 was appropriate if the photographer was achieving 1/400s shutter speed with a 400mm lens. Going to f/8 or f/11 would require either bumping the ISO even further, or slowing the shutter speed (bad news for moving subjects at long focal lengths). I believe the right trade-offs were made in the duck photo. Narrow DOF, but that's better than a shaky image due to slow shutter speed, or excessive ISO noise. I *might* try for 1/200 and f/8, but I'd probably stick with 1/400 and f/5.6. The chances of a usable image are much greater at 1/400.

Using a flash might be an option to increase the amount of light available to give more flexibility in the exposure. Dedicated bird photographers use a flash extender such as the Better Beamer to get better distance out of their flash units. You can get some surprising results. The following set of photos was taken at 200 feet.

heron-200ft.jpg


http://www.digitalbirdphotography.com/7.9.html
 

fralexandr

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Apr 26, 2007
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waterjug

Senior member
Jan 21, 2012
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Yes, increase the depth of field if you want more of your subject in focus. Stopping down your aperture to f/8~11 or so might help. After a while you start fighting diffraction, though.
Otherwise, back up some more, and/or use a wider focal length.

As for the JPG's, it's a lossy compression. When you re-save it as a new JPG, it goes through your file and throws out more bits to get the file size down. Are you sure you're not cropping it or otherwise resizing it at the same time?


Thanks! How do really good photographers get all of their subject in focus at like f1.8 and such? I've seen a lot of nature photograph and it'll be of a large bird or other subject, and the whole animal is in focus, and it's at an incredibly wide open aperture.


As for the JPGs, they come off my camera at about 7 or 8 megs; without changing anything and saving at a quality level of 10 in photoshop they end up around 2.
 

waterjug

Senior member
Jan 21, 2012
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Yes, you need to increase your depth of field. Several ways to do this....

*Smaller aperture (bigger number)

*Not-as-long focal length ("not as zoomed in"), i.e. 100mm instead of 300mm, etc.

*Get farther away from the subject

Of course, not all of these will be practical. For a shot like the duck, there is very little you can do. If you want the duck to fill the frame, you will have to be relatively close and use a long focal length. Even using f/11 on that shot, a good part of the duck would still be out of focus. The eye is in focus, but it starts going OOF right below the neck (where the brown feathers turn gray). The gray feathers are OOF.

Animal photographers always try to get the eye in focus. If the eye is in focus, all the rest can be blurry and your brain will be ok with it; but if the eye is out of focus, it's jarring.



ISO 800 was appropriate if the photographer was achieving 1/400s shutter speed with a 400mm lens. Going to f/8 or f/11 would require either bumping the ISO even further, or slowing the shutter speed (bad news for moving subjects at long focal lengths). I believe the right trade-offs were made in the duck photo. Narrow DOF, but that's better than a shaky image due to slow shutter speed, or excessive ISO noise. I *might* try for 1/200 and f/8, but I'd probably stick with 1/400 and f/5.6. The chances of a usable image are much greater at 1/400.

Using a flash might be an option to increase the amount of light available to give more flexibility in the exposure. Dedicated bird photographers use a flash extender such as the Better Beamer to get better distance out of their flash units. You can get some surprising results. The following set of photos was taken at 200 feet.

heron-200ft.jpg


http://www.digitalbirdphotography.com/7.9.html

I'm going to look into the Better Beamer thing, had never heard of it before (I don't use my flash that often).

The photo of the duck is in a deep dell at the bottom of a 'bowl' basically, high land on all sides, with coniferous trees blocking much of the light. I tried using an ISO of 400, and had to slow the shutter speed down quite a bit.

It was actually quite interesting; I was out shooting with my gf, using the 400L I had just gotten. The ducks actually marched out of the water and walked about 18" away from us. I couldn't get any photos because they were too close to focus at that point. My gf got several though using her lens.
 

swanysto

Golden Member
May 8, 2005
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Were you shooting in manual? I am not sure which camera you have, but check to see which focus points you are using. I usually get shots like this when I only have the center point being used. You can manually choose which ones to use or you can put the camera in one of the predefined modes. Maybe try landscape, that uses many more points, and also auto configures your aperture.
 

waterjug

Senior member
Jan 21, 2012
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Were you shooting in manual? I am not sure which camera you have, but check to see which focus points you are using. I usually get shots like this when I only have the center point being used. You can manually choose which ones to use or you can put the camera in one of the predefined modes. Maybe try landscape, that uses many more points, and also auto configures your aperture.

T2i w/ 400mm 5.6

I do some center point only stuff with smaller birds, I believe this was an auto-select set.
 

SecurityTheatre

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Aug 14, 2011
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Thanks! How do really good photographers get all of their subject in focus at like f1.8 and such? I've seen a lot of nature photograph and it'll be of a large bird or other subject, and the whole animal is in focus, and it's at an incredibly wide open aperture.


The depth of field has a lot of relationships. It has to do with the distance from the subject, the aperture and the focal length.

However, shooting at f/1.8 means they are probably using a 50mm lens. Assuming 50mm f/1.8 at a distance of 10 feet, your depth of field is 1.2 inches. So if you really did see an image at f/1.8 at a range of 10 feet, the animal in question is only 1.2 inches thick.

I suspect what you are seeing is very creative use of angles, light, shadow and perspective to make the animal appear to be completely in focus, even when it is not.

Generally, you can also "cheat" a little by understanding that the depth of field applies both in FRONT and BEHIND the focal point. If you have a total DOF of 6 inches, you don't want to focus on the closest point of the subject, but actually 3 inches behind that. This means that you will get 3 more inches of DOF in the subject.


However, in your duck shot, I think the DOF is actually quite pleasant and I wouldn't stress too much about having the tail in focus, because the water and other background will also be in focus and be distracting. There's a fine balance to be had there.

Additionally, you could shoot it at f/11 but you simply don't have enough light. You are already shooting at ISO800 and 1/400. You will lose a lot of that shutter speed and risk getting motion blur if you stop down too much. Try it out and find a balance. You don't learn if you never play around.


As for the JPGs, they come off my camera at about 7 or 8 megs; without changing anything and saving at a quality level of 10 in photoshop they end up around 2.

That's probably fine. JPG quality loss is very very subtle at high quality levels, but can be apparent if you know what to look for at a per-pixel magnification level. Just be aware, each time you re-save a JPG (even at quality 10) they reduce in quality again. Doing it once is probably imperceptible, but do it 10 times and it will get more perceptible. It's much more pronounced if any of the save events was at a lower quality.

ST
 

DarkRogue

Golden Member
Dec 25, 2007
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Thanks! How do really good photographers get all of their subject in focus at like f1.8 and such? I've seen a lot of nature photograph and it'll be of a large bird or other subject, and the whole animal is in focus, and it's at an incredibly wide open aperture.


As for the JPGs, they come off my camera at about 7 or 8 megs; without changing anything and saving at a quality level of 10 in photoshop they end up around 2.

As SecurityTheatre has stated, it's most likely creative use of lighting and shadows to create that illusion. Depth of field is related to several variables, all of which ST has also covered.

My suggestions were aimed to increasing your DOF via altering these conditions.

First, stopping down the aperture would be the simplest solution, and most people use this to control DOF. f/11 would give much more DOF than f/1.2. The price you pay, of course, is loss of light, leading you to crank your ISO, lower your shutter or require more flash power.

Second, backing up some more and/or using a wider angle (zooming out) would also increase DOF because you're changing the distance to your subject. DOF falls off with distance, so the closer you are, the faster it falls off.

Third, and this one you can't really control, is the size of the sensor. Larger sensors (full frame, etc) have shallower DOF. The T2i (I have one as well) is a 1.6x crop body, so you get a bit more DOF as it is. Point and shoots seem to have infinite DOF because their sensors are so small.

http://www.andylim.com/photo/depthoffield.php
There's a site that simplifies it a bit, but it's quite easy to see the DOF changing.

As for how things look sharp at wider apertures, I'll borrow some photos from a friend of mine who's a far better photographer than I am.

http://alucardleashed.deviantart.com/#/d4rjkph
This one was shot at f/1.4, which is a fairly wide aperture, so expected DOF would be small. However, it's at 35mm which is moderately wide, and he moved away enough to get a full body in, so that allowed the DOF to increase enough to make it appear sharp everywhere.

http://alucardleashed.deviantart.com/#/d4rjkrm
Here is another shot at f/1.4 and 35mm. However, since she is kneeling down, he got closer to fill the frame, which narrowed the DOF somewhat. In this case, her skirt spread all around her is clearly out of the DOF zone.

http://alucardleashed.deviantart.com/#/d4rjksw
This one was shot at f/1.6, which is slightly narrower than 1.4 of the above shot. However, this was at 85mm which is moderately long, and he moved in closer to only get a shot from the waist up.

Ultimately, I don't think everyone wants *everything* in focus all the time. People make use of the DOF to put only what they want your attention gravitating toward in focus, with the rest stirring out of focus. If everything was always in focus, it tends to become very confusing as now there are way too many elements that are in focus for your eyes to settle on.

I personally think that duck photo is fine, dof-wise.
 

waterjug

Senior member
Jan 21, 2012
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Thank you very much for this info everyone, I'm learning a lot.

I was going to ask how to calculate DOF, but it looks like slash posted a link, thanks!
 

JamesV

Platinum Member
Jul 9, 2011
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One thing I noticed, is that if your subjects are on a diagonal plane from you (ie. not all at the same distance), that it is nearly impossible to get them all in focus with a zoom lens.

turtles.jpg


Granted this was taken in a slightly wobbling kayak, but I took about 20 pics at different zoom lengths, and only the ones where I faced all the turtles directly (not at an angle) came out well.

I could have taken the shot less zoomed in to get them all defined, but then I lose the close-up details like the colors.

How would you guys approach taking something like this?
 

DarkRogue

Golden Member
Dec 25, 2007
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Remember, depth of field expands in BOTH directions around your point of focus - forward and back. You can take advantage of this, assuming you know how wide your DOF will be, by focusing on, say, the second turtle instead of the closest one, and let the DOF keep the front turtle in focus, while spreading it further back to the others.

In either case, it's going to be tough because from this angle, it extends pretty far and not on the same plane, so you'd be at like f/22 or something. Zooming out just a little would help as well.
 

SecurityTheatre

Senior member
Aug 14, 2011
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One thing I noticed, is that if your subjects are on a diagonal plane from you (ie. not all at the same distance), that it is nearly impossible to get them all in focus with a zoom lens.

turtles.jpg


Granted this was taken in a slightly wobbling kayak, but I took about 20 pics at different zoom lengths, and only the ones where I faced all the turtles directly (not at an angle) came out well.

I could have taken the shot less zoomed in to get them all defined, but then I lose the close-up details like the colors.

How would you guys approach taking something like this?

You could focus back a tiny bit like DR and I mentioned, additionally, you could stop down a tiny bit, to like f/11 or f/13. That would give you less light, so you might have to pull up to ISO 640 or ISO 800, or drop below 1/400.

Between those two things, you would probably get all of the turtles in focus without compromising exposure or shutter speed. But even pros miss that kind of subtle thing often unless you're checking the images very carefully. I've lost some great photos to shallow DoF many times. I prefer to shoot right on the edge of too shallow because I love the blur in the background - it really suits my style usually, but many pros I know intentionally shoot a little smaller aperture than they need (They might use f/4 where I am using f/2.8) intentionally to avoid missing shots due to blown focus.