Is it my lack of skill or my gear?

Messages
15
Name
Abi
Edit My Images
Yes
Hi there!
I've just finished my master's degree which means I am now free to pursue my photography, which I'm excited about. I really don't know what needs to be worked on though - my gear or my skills.
I currently do mainly wildlife photography and use a canon EOS 4000D usually with a Tamron 70-300mm lens.
I'm constantly disappointed with the images I produce. Attached are the best I've got, still pretty dodgy. I struggle with sharpness and exposure (I can't go below F5 on my lens fully extended).
Do I just need to practice more (maybe explore sharpening with photoshop?) or is my gear not up to scratch?
Pleased to hear any advice.
Thanks
Abi
 

Attachments

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Keep on with the practice, but try between f5.6 and f8 and on Spot metering.
 
Messages
580
Name
Paul
Edit My Images
No
Personally I'd say its a lack of both, but the most important thing to realise is that even if you went and dropped £5K on camera equipment its not really going to help very much if you don't have the skills to use it.

Oh, and forget sharpening with photoshop. You need to get it sharp in camera first.

Before you get to all the technical aspects, you really need to work on your composition. Quite honestly the images are really boring. Setup as they are, even with a top end camera in the hands of a very skilled experienced photographer the images would look flat and boring. Yes, I'm sure they'll produce images that would be dead sharp and with more lively light and colours and dynamics and interest, but whats more likely is that they wouldn't push the button when viewing that angle. They'll find something better before they do.

Look at professional examples and see what the difference is. Get a book or two on nature photography.
 
Last edited:

Stephen L

I asked a Stupid Question Once...
Messages
5,194
Name
Stephen
Edit My Images
Yes
Photoshop can’t work miracles if the image isn’t good in the first place. Practice, practice, practice, and get to know your camera intimately. Forget wildlife until you’re competent at general photography.
 

TCR4x4

Wishes he had a couple more Inches
Messages
8,619
Name
Tom
Edit My Images
Yes
Both.

Image composition plays a huge part, yours are all smack bang in the centre of the frame and are boring for want of a better word. Despite the technical failings of the images whether those be the limitation of you or the gear, if the composition is bad, it matters not how sharp or well lit the image is.
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Photoshop can’t work miracles if the image isn’t good in the first place. Practice, practice, practice, and get to know your camera intimately. Forget wildlife until you’re competent at general photography.

This is the best advice above.
 

sirch

Official Forum Numpty 2015,FPOTY 2020
Messages
10,471
Name
Chris
Edit My Images
Yes
I would suggest improving your skills before gear but you are also going to be limited by your gear. Primarily you need to practice getting closer to the subject which is nothing to do with camera gear, also you are going to struggle to get close if there are other people, dogs, etc. around.

In the first shot the background is bright and the bird is in shadow, make sure you have the light behind you and that the subject is in the light. For the second shot you are going to struggle to shoot butterflies without a macro lens and I usually manually focus for butterflies because autofocus will tend to be hit and miss, here again practice quickly manually focusing. Small birds as in shots 1 and 3 tend to move quickly, I would suggest practicing on larger birds, gulls, ducks, swans, etc which move more slowly and/or put some feeders in your garden if you can and practice on those.
 
Messages
13,851
Name
Rich
Edit My Images
Yes
Small wildlife is a hard subject to learn on, need a good lens to get a decent size photo of the subject at distance. Also focussing can be tricky with branches and leaves to lock onto in error.
Why not go out and practice your technique on a larger static subject?
Easy to get downhearted and once you get some better photos confidence will grow.
 
Last edited:
Messages
222
Name
Neville
Edit My Images
Yes
Don't be downhearted Abi. You've only just started, and you have to learn to walk before you can run. You'll get there.
 

Sky

Messages
1,453
Name
Trevor
Edit My Images
Yes
Hi Abi, welcome to the forum and congratulations on your Masters - no mean feat. :cool:

Don't worry if your images aren't what you expect them to be - they never are when you first start. There's not a person on this forum that hasn't been where you are now.

The only way to improve is with study and practice - I'm sure I don't need to tell you this. I certainly won't insult your images - in a few years time you could be shaming every one of us.

My advice would be to put the camera on its 'auto' setting if it has one and then concentrate on your holding technique and composition. You need to be relaxed and as still as possible when you take your pictures, not out of breath because you've been chasing your subject. Try and control your breathing and slowly press the shutter rather than quickly pressing it. This will/should eliminate any movement showing in the image as 'camera shake'.

Next, you should look at using the semi-automatic settings called 'aperture priority' and 'shutter priority' depending on what you are shooting. It will help you to understand these if you look into manual settings and what's called the 'exposure triangle'.

There are lots of tutorials on YouTube that will help you with any of the above and they're mostly free. Just ignore the ones that are heavily promoting sales.

Once you've got to grips with the basics above, come back here and do what you've just done and post your pictures for advice and guidance on how you can improve them or correct any errors.

Lastly, don't be put off by some of the harsher comments on here. Everyone wants to help, but some are less able to put that fact across as well as others. ;)

Good luck, it is a great hobby. I started in 1969 and I'm still at it - and still learning . . .
 
Last edited:
Messages
2,440
Name
Kev
Edit My Images
No
I don't know how the camera and lens you have perform but it may be worthwhile shooting at 250mm and closed down a bit to see if the sharpness improves.
Sharpening in photoshop etc. will improve the pictures, I have downloaded your pics and tried it! although as others have said it will not work miracles.
I would disagree about not taking wildlife until your technique has improved, take what you enjoy and improve whilst doing that.
I do agree about composition and lighting though, a good place to study these is https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/
 
Messages
26,366
Name
Alan
Edit My Images
No
I'm going to disagree a little with the above and say try and get off auto and instead use one of the semi auto modes such as aperture or shutter priority. Unless of course the auto mode is selecting sensible settings, I say this as my Canon DSLR's didn't but admittedly that was years ago, shoot raw and process for best effect. Also I doubt that the 4000D and lens are state of the art. I remember my days with a Sigma zoom and it was pretty poor really for sharpness. And then there's the light and how close you can get to the subject or how big you can get it in the frame.

The main thing is to keep at it and keep critiquing your photos and thinking of ways to be happier with them.
 
Messages
30
Name
Ian
Edit My Images
Yes
Well done for asking hard questions - it's never fun to read feedback (as opposed to hear it in person) as it's hard not to read it more negatively than it may be meant.

All of the above advice is sound, so my suggestion might be a more practical "ok, how do I get better at composition then ?" type approach. Reading up on the subject, watching YouTube etc. are fine for seeing how others approach things, but what do you need to change when you go out with your camera ? Even taking concise notes and summarising the guides, it can feel like there are often so many exceptions to consider that 2 sides of A4 aren't enough for a 'simple' compositional summary on a single subject.

I've found that my level satisfaction with my images improved when I started asking myself things like "what is the most important part of this image ?", and "why would anyone want to view this ?" / "what is it about this scene that I like the most ?" whenever I hold the camera up to my eye.

Asking that internal question helps guide the next level of technical adjustment - in the first image the background if brighter than the bird, but if you ask yourself why you took the picture, the bird would be the primary reason. So that means you need the technical skill to work out how to get the best exposure on the bird: it doesn't matter if your camera is telling you the background would be overexposed - it doesn't know what you consider to be the subject. Equally, if you have to explain an image, it could be a sign that you didn't compose it as well as it needed to be to make the most of things.

The difference between an ok shot and an outstanding one can be environmental too - your butterfly would be more interesting if it was in a shaft of sunlight, for example - so don't get down if you apply better technical and compositional skills and you still have "meh" results. Technical skill, artistic skill, and then some good luck/planning are often all required at once to get images you'll be truly proud of.

Try things at home that you delete straight away - get a shot of an apple or a drink can and make sure it's tack sharp. Practice the technical stuff on boring subjects at any time, so you know what a +2/3 change to the exposure does to your image, and find out how fast the shutter needs to be for handheld telephoto shots for you. There are plenty of suggestions (1/the focal length, etc.) but try it for real. Find out what you as a photographer can do, and then you have a better set of mental tools to use when you go to find something less boring.

But above all - it should be fun ! Learning is part of the fun, but keep at it, and you will improve !
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
When I got my first Canon 1100D I never used the Full Auto mode, so like woof woof said put it on either Aperture/Shutter or P mode and just play around. If you have a garden then try and focus on something that does not move at all. With practice you WILL get better and really start to love your photography. Look at Youtube and the internet for the Canon EOS 4000D watch and read then get a lot of practice, as the set up you have is good enough for a lot of photography now days and best of luck to in your journey.
 
Last edited:
Messages
5,062
Name
Dominic
Edit My Images
Yes
For wildlife a fair bit of field craft is involved. For example, insects/butterfly's, getting up and about early in the morning, while the temperature is cool, is your best bet at getting close to your subject. Getting close means there will be less cropping to get the subject filling more of the frame. This will help keep the image quality up. There's nothing really wrong with the set up you're using, but wildlife photography is generally more gear orientated. Big lenses, fast auto focus, and good high ISO capabilities (generally full frame cameras). That's not to say fairly good results can't be achievable with lesser gear.
Practice is the best policy and learning from your mistakes.
 

Sky

Messages
1,453
Name
Trevor
Edit My Images
Yes
When I suggested using the camera in auto, it was to enable the practice of taking the shot without shaking - not as a means of getting results. :facepalm::banghead:
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Your camera is good enough, here is a Flickr group showing what can be done with it and all of them would of been new camera users at the start.

 
  • Like
Reactions: Sky

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Why spot metering?
What use is changing metering pattern for someone who hasn't yet learned the basics?

It was just a bit of advice, as when I'd shoot birds and butterflies I used spot.
 
Messages
23,901
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
It's not a dig (honest)
But the OP's biggest issue is sharpness - changing metering mode won't help with that.

It was just a bit of advice, as when I'd shoot birds and butterflies I used spot.
And a question to help you understand your answer:
Why do you choose spot metering, what do you decide to meter off and how do you do that exactly?
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
It's not a dig (honest)
But the OP's biggest issue is sharpness - changing metering mode won't help with that.



And a question to help you understand your answer:
Why do you choose spot metering, what do you decide to meter off and how do you do that exactly?

For me when I had the 70D I always had it on spot as I found it easier to focus on animals eyes, since coming to Sony I use all of the metering modes.
Maybe it was wrong to say use spot metering, and just practice a lot more and try to focus on things in the garden.
 
Messages
23,901
Name
Phil
Edit My Images
No
For me when I had the 70D I always had it on spot as I found it easier to focus on animals eyes, since coming to Sony I use all of the metering modes.
Maybe it was wrong to say use spot metering, and just practice a lot more and try to focus on things in the garden.
How's the metering mode linked to focussing?
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
How's the metering mode linked to focussing?

To focus you have to have Light, so for me when I use spot I hope it will focus on the one bit of light I need to make the shot.
 
Messages
26,366
Name
Alan
Edit My Images
No
A couple more thoughts...

The OP's pictures remind me of the jpegs I used to get from my Canon 300D and Sigma zoom which was the first lens I got to use on a digital SLR after moving from 35mm film. Anyway, the pictures often left me disappointed and I eventually replaced the long zoom range Sigma with a Canon 17-85mm which was an improvement and I then replaced that with a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 which was better again.

Keep at it and good luck with it all Abi. It's all a learning experience :D
 
Messages
2,559
Name
thomas
Edit My Images
Yes
I find that what makes a sharp bird photo (no talking artistically but purely sharpness) is how close to you the bird you are and how much you fill the frame.

- Some of my sharpest images are taken through the kitchen windows just because the bird is about the closest that my lens would let me focus. It's hard to get that close when out and about!
- Sometimes equipment doesn't make a huge difference but in this case, I think it does. For bird photo, if you have a 150-600 sigma C at 600mm, it's going to be much easier to fill the frame so easier to be sharp. Then because you avec big F number you need a camera that can handle a bit of high ISO but i think most camera can (I use a M4/3 camera so I bet any crop sensor would do better that my camera).

I started with a canon 55-250 and it was a great lens, I used to to a lot of seals photo and that was great. From time to time a bird would let me come pretty close but usually I didn't have the reach for small bird.
 
Messages
34
Name
Rob
Edit My Images
No
Hi Abi,
You will come across some wonderful bird and general wildlife images and wonder why you can't get the same quality?

Well, firstly you will find that the photographer is using high end gear. Fast long lenses are very expensive but pretty essential for wildlife and birds
However even with a very fast IS lens you would need good light and a camera support in most cases.

I could ramble on and bore you about this subject for ages but I won't
The best advice I can give you is to get as close as you can to your chosen subject.
So, invest in a portable hide. They can be put up in seconds and will completely put you out of view. Save for a camera lens poking out!
Put it up by a stream where you know there are say Kingfishers around and bingo.
Take lots of coffee :)
 
Messages
176
Name
Morris
Edit My Images
Yes
Take some time and watch this video. It covers off many of the basics and is delivered in a way that allows you to take a break and practice what you've been taught.

Starting from the basics is not admitting defeat, it's making sure you understand the principles involved in getting decent images which means in focus, correct exposure and interesting. You'll need to practice, practice, practice.

Photograph things in the 70-100mm range to begin with is also something I would suggest. I know it may not get you as close to the wildlife as you would like but it'll make things a bit easier in reducing the impact of camera shake and you can progress to the longer focal lengths as you improve.
 
OP
abiwildlifeandme
Messages
15
Name
Abi
Edit My Images
Yes
Thanks everyone. Sorry for the late reply, I didn't get the email notifications that you'd commented!

I feel I know what I'm doing with composition, rule of thirds etc. I don't know why I didn't apply it in these shots haha.

I am doing an online photography course - we've gone on to different types of photography, but personally I think I would have benefitted with more of the basics.
It's exposure/ sharpness that is bugging me at the moment. (I'm not too fussed at the artistically stunning stuff at the moment, I just want some nice quality record shots so I know what I have seen). I have a heart condition which makes my hands shake more than normal, so I think I'm fighting an uphill battle!
I am hoping the weather cheers up soon and I can get out and practice soon. I have played around with MF and Av and Sv a bit, but need to get better.

Thanks for all your comments.
 
Last edited:

Sky

Messages
1,453
Name
Trevor
Edit My Images
Yes
It's exposure/ sharpness that is bugging me at the moment.
Exposure isn't as tricky as it used to be with film; you get a lot more leeway using digital as adjustments can be made afterwards. What I think you must be referring to is exposure compensation; i.e. getting a subject exposed properly when the background is much darker or lighter. This does come with experience, but is easily learned.

General sharpness is achieved by minimum movement of the camera, so faster shutter speed and use of a tripod if necessary. Super sharpness comes with practice and higher quality lenses.

I have a heart condition which makes my hands shake more than normal, so I think I'm fighting an uphill battle!
Not at all. One of the things most of us get as we age is shaky hands and this can be overcome by increasing shutter speed, using a rest/tripod and of course technique (which can only improve with practice). Practice shooting inanimate objects at a slow shutter speeds and make a note of how blurry they are at the various speeds. Then do the same a few days later, a few days after that and so on. Look back and do a comparison after two or three weeks and I bet you'll see an improvement - remember to relax and control your breathing.

Most of all have fun learning and don't be too hard on yourself - your results WILL improve. As you've already learned; there's more to taking pictures than most people appreciate. ;)
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Thanks everyone. Sorry for the late reply, I didn't get the email notifications that you'd commented!

I feel I know what I'm doing with composition, rule of thirds etc. I don't know why I didn't apply it in these shots haha.

I am doing an online photography course - we've gone on to different types of photography, but personally I think I would have benefitted with more of the basics.
It's exposure/ sharpness that is bugging me at the moment. (I'm not too fussed at the artistically stunning stuff at the moment, I just want some nice quality record shots so I know what I have seen). I have a heart condition which makes my hands shake more than normal, so I think I'm fighting an uphill battle!
I am hoping the weather cheers up soon and I can get out and practice soon. I have played around with MF and Av and Sv a bit, but need to get better.

Thanks for all your comments.


You will get better with plenty of practice, with images of animals and people the main thing is always focus on the eyes. Every one has their own style of how they take an image, and my main thing for me is keep the eyes in focus and I'm happy. Not everyone would agree with how I meter but the big thing to remember in photography is enjoy it and have fun learning.
 

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Well that would be a grave misunderstanding of the cameras functionality.

I forgot to say, from your advice ages ago I now shoot in aperture mode as I now use the EC button more.
 
OP
abiwildlifeandme
Messages
15
Name
Abi
Edit My Images
Yes
Not at all. One of the things most of us get as we age is shaky hands and this can be overcome by increasing shutter speed, using a rest/tripod and of course technique (which can only improve with practice).
I'm in trouble when I do age then haha. My 24th birthday is next week!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sky

Fuji Dave

Teacher's Pet, of Borg
Messages
16,739
Name
PRINCESS
Edit My Images
No
Practice practice and practice is a great thing, plus remember any questions you ask will never be silly even if you might think it is as that is how we all learn.
 
Messages
1,306
Name
T
Edit My Images
Yes
Some sound advice from members above and I would suggest photographing family pets as they are comfortable with people and you can get close to them. Go to parks with ponds / lakes and photo dukes, swans etc as again they will be comfortable with people being round.
Watch plenty of YouTube videos on your chosen subject and on your gear for set up and application.
 
Messages
580
Name
Paul
Edit My Images
No
Ok, so the vibe I'm getting is 'Practice the house down and then maybe upgrade' haha. Thanks :)
I have a couple of books I can work through too.
Honestly one of the most important skills a photographer needs is to know what is a good and a bad photo.
Unfortunately a lot of photographers really seem to struggle with this. They barely see the difference between a top notch image and a very poor one. They'll say both are great.

There are several layers of this skill to break through, but each time you do you'll be a massive step forward to becoming a good photographer.
 
Messages
13,851
Name
Rich
Edit My Images
Yes
I think its important even with all the digital aids to understand exposure as in the relation between aperture, shutter speed and iso
Really is the cornerstone to getting what you want from your photos, worth getting your head around it.
 
Messages
300
Name
Steve France
Edit My Images
Yes
I cannot add anything to the sage advise above, only to say... enjoy learning and remember its about the journey not the destination !

I had similar issues (bad eyesight) but with advice, experimenting and perseverance I like to think my skills have improved and I hope will continue to do so . More importantly I have had great fun and the excitement of getting some 'good' shots :)
 
Messages
11,066
Name
Jeff
Edit My Images
No
In all honesty I think you should dump the tamron lens .. look for a genuine canon one ,400mm f5.6 / 300mm f4 + 1.4tc/ even a old 70-200 non stabilised lens will all give superior results . A sigma 150-600 C is also very good . But whatever you get never think a long lens means you can shoot further away ,completely the opposite . Fill the frame with your subject.
And it’s a continuous learning curve remember a lot of us have learnt our craft over many years and are still learning
 
Last edited:
Top