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CrowingHen

shooting baby chicks (with camera) - focus issues

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I'm having trouble with my baby chick photos and wondering if you can offer some suggestions.  I don't know if it's a problem focusing or a problem with the shutter speed, or some other problem.  

 

The camera on the beanbag with the button on a cord so the camera stays still.  I set it on manual with the graph thingy (can you tell, I'm still learning?) mostly off to the white side because on auto/p/Av/Tv it makes the white look grey.  I had to set the ISO at 200 to get the shutter speed up to 1/60 and the lowest aperture on this lens at this focal length is f8.  Here's an unedited (except to turn it into jpeg)

 

focus-question.JPG

 

45mm

1/60

f8

200ISO

I'm not happy with the 'white' of the background but I hope I can fix that in post somehow.  The focus is on the face of the left one which isn't in focus.

 

Most of them are out of focus or too soft.  I tried the 22mm lens (crop factor 1.6) at f4 and these were worse but this lens is slower to focus.  I tried the face tracker focus (apparently chickens don't have faces) and the touch the screen where I want it to focus (spot).  I'm half pressing the shutter, then taking the shot when it says it's focused.

 

I don't know what to try next.  I'm getting really frustrated as I only have about 12 more hours before the chicks refuse to stay still.

 

(also, I want to find out how to make catch light in their eyes, but first the focus issues)

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I'd stay with F8 and raise the ISO to get the shutter speed up. The thing about animals is that they are ALWAYS in motion because of breathing and tiny waving feathers or fur. I would also pull the histogram all the way to the right. I don't know what you are using to process but I find Lightroom will usually take care of any over-exposure. People will probably be better able to help if you tell us the camera you are using. One of my first images failed QC because it was a peacock and although the body was in focus the wee hairs on the tail feathers were moving. The faster the shutter speed the better with animals, especially birds. Happy Easter!

 

Paulette

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Posted (edited)

A wink of on-camera flash, cut down a couple of stops, may give you the catchlights you're after. But that background may be a bit too dark to blow out in LR. I'm guessing, but as Paulette says I suspect you could give at least a stop or two more exposure with no problems- LR highlight recovery is very good on RAWs. But as Paulette also says, do it with the ISO.

Edited by spacecadet

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Thanks.

I'm using a Canaon M5 but I can borrow a T7i (not sure the lens he has) from my housemate.

For the M5 I have the 22mm F2, the kit lens (15-45mm), and a 55-200mm f4.5.  (crop factor 1.6 on this body).  I also have a 35mm  f1.7 fully manual prime, but I don't focus well.  I tried the first two lenses 

I'm using the light box (white background) I usually use for product photography, but with a bit of printer paper to catch the poop

 

poop.JPG

 

45mm
1/125
f6.3
ISO400

 

Right now I'm very frustrated at myself for not getting this right and especially for not seeing what I'm doing wrong.  but it is also the whole point of this exercise, to learn a new skill.

 

I'll try upping the ISO some more to get the shutterspeed faster.  My manual says I want to have at least 1/300 for live animals.  The flash is a good idea too.  Thank you very much!

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Posted (edited)

Hi CrowingHen,

I do a lot of macro/still life style photography and you've set yourself a very difficult challenge! I believe it's an almost unbreakable rule with photographing any sort of animal (I know you can break all rules, so please don't all pile in here!), that one of the eyes needs to be tack sharp. Unless you've got a very intelligent autofocus that can recognise chicken eyes - which you don't - I would forget autofocus. Unless you are able to burst shoot and hope for the best that one comes out ok?

 

If you've got a mirrorless system, you can try manual focus shooting with peaking, which shows which parts of the picture are in focus in real time. You can also zoom in on a particular point in real time to see if it's in focus. I have to say that it is pretty difficult even to do this quickly on an object that isn't moving and get sharp focus the first time.

 

If the chicks aren't moving much, you can try manual focus shooting, moving the manual focusing ring incrementally, taking a new picture each time,  and only check your photos after you've taken a few. A tripod would be very useful here.

 

As other users have stated, a higher F number together with higher ISO will increase your shutter speed and importantly, will increase the depth of field. Some sort of catchlights for the eye would be good too, they're a bit too black at the moment, and it would also help with the focussing.

 

Good luck!

Steve

 

 

Edited by Steve F
changed 'manual shooting' to 'manual focus shooting'
  • Upvote 1

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I'm a bit confused and am digging out my camera manual - even in "m", if I raise the flash (that lives inside the camera, I don't have a speedlight yet), it limits the shutter speed to 1/200.  I suspect this is something to do with sinking (sp?) which is a word I heard on youtube and from photographers but filed away under "learn later".  

 

I think I'm heading in the right direction. 

 

slight-improvement.JPG

 

45mm
1/400
f8
ISO800

 

(forgive the poop - trying to get them to pre-poop is an issue) I used an LED to get some catchlight which makes them look much more alive.

 

Going to try pushing the shutter speed and ISO much stronger to see where the happy place is for baby chickens, then experiment with manual focus to see if I can get fast enough.  

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Hiya, sorry, I just meant manual focussing when I said manual. You can shoot on Aperture Priority mode so you can set the F number to what you want.

 

Flash photography is a whole other subject! Syncing and high speed syncing. It's a complicated topic too! You probably don't want to use the flash on your camera body, but you can try using the fill flash.

 

The LED lit shot looks much much better. That's probably going to be fine when you post process (if it's in focus; looks like it on my small screen).

Steve

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Posted (edited)

Try a lot more light, preferably natural.  Don't just rely on camera flash. It will give you more flexibility with your settings and help with Auto focus if that is what you choose to do

Edited by Martin L
More info

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Well, they are too excited and investigative now so I can't get them to stay still.  But I got a few more shots with my longer lens and it's showing improvement. 

 

chick.JPG

100mm
1/1000
f8
ISO3200

 

still need more practice before I can get good enough.  But I think I have two or three shots in focus (a disappointing ratio considering how many I took)

 

Thanks guys.  I'll put more eggs in the incubator and try more of your tips in about 22 days.  

 

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Posted (edited)

try adding more light.  more light means you can use a higher f/stop (more field of depth), faster iso (less noise), and faster shutter speed.

Edited by sooth

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Don't worry about the hit ratio, you only need a couple of good uns.

I regularly only keep a very small majority of pictures that I take, wildlife is like that, they twitch, fidget, ruin the composition by moving at the wrong moment and a lot of the time you only get one chance to get it right so it can be tough to nail that one chance, so take loads of pics and don't worry about the number you are deleting.

The one picture people see is the one that matters not the hundred blurred, out of focus, head missing shots you had to take to get the 'one'.

 

In a way you are luckier as you have control of the environment and as has been said before what will really help is a lot more light to try and get the settings to something like f10, iso 200-400, 1/1000 shutter speed and different placed light sources to add a bit of depth.  Expose for the chick not the scene/background. At the moment it looks a little flat and the background a little 'muddy'. 

 

Seeing as you have got 22 days, if you are keen I would get a fluffy toy or something and practice on that to get the right light and play with your settings to get the effect you want. Then when the chicks are ready all you have to worry about is tracking them.

 

Good luck

 

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19 hours ago, CrowingHen said:

I'm a bit confused and am digging out my camera manual - even in "m", if I raise the flash (that lives inside the camera, I don't have a speedlight yet), it limits the shutter speed to 1/200.  I suspect this is something to do with sinking (sp?) which is a word I heard on youtube and from photographers but filed away under "learn later". 

 

Yes the syncing / shutter Sync is why the camera has a maximum shutter speed of 1/200th. But that doesn't matter as the duration of the flash is now the speed. An on camera flash is about 1/500 of a second. Depending on how bright it needs to be, if the camera is TTL flash metering, that number could be even faster. Since you are so close, you could use the on camera flash and a diffuser.

 

What you have to consider is flash + ambient light. If the flash is the main light, then your shutter speed could be 1/60th and it wouldn't matter. Say a very dark room. With light balancing, the flash is the fill light, at which point, you are at 1/200th of a second. There are other possible issues with color balance, say the flash is 6500K and your light is 5000K it's not going to be right and pretty much no amount of editing will ever get the white balance right. Mixed light.

 

I think the different bits of advice, faster shutter speed, closed down, try to keep the ISO as low as you can, before things get blurred again as the ISO will add noise. Your starting point you mentioned, 100mm, 1/1000, f8, ISO3200 looks pretty good. I'd guess that 1/500th should still be fast enough to stop the motion, in which case you can lower your ISO to 1600?

 

Pretty complicated considering it's just a cute little chick? Who'd have thought?

 

Here's something to try, if you are interested. Put a white paper napkin over the flash? That will soften the light and at the same time, make it less bright. Close up and on camera flash, where is that flash aimed? Something else inexpensive, is have a white piece of card or paper, over the top, so that more light gets bounced down, which will fill the back and also give some more overhead lighting to the feathers. You can still use the on camera flash.

 

If you cut the bottom off a bottle of alcohol, for example, that makes a nice flash diffuser. Any poly bottle and some rubber bands, say a milk bottle, you can make a flash diffuser. White translucent plastic.

 

Just suggesting that using the flash will give you much more light, close up and stop the motion, at which point you can use a lower ISO. You'll still want the higher f number because you are so close. Shutter speed with a flash only becomes a problem when the ambient light is enough to produce a shadow or show the motion.

 

Good luck, looks like fun.

 

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Thanks again for all the advise.  This is a huge help.

 

Looking at them again the next day, I don't think I got one that will make it past quality control.  Fair enough, I am new to shooting moving targets.  But I did get three or four that will do well for my personal website.  

 

The next batch of eggs are in the incubator and I have a better idea of my timeline for photography (aka, how long until they refuse to stand still) with the next batch.  I think I want to get an ap for my tablet to show me the strength of the light.  

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10 minutes ago, CrowingHen said:

Thanks again for all the advise.  This is a huge help.

 

Looking at them again the next day, I don't think I got one that will make it past quality control.  Fair enough, I am new to shooting moving targets.  But I did get three or four that will do well for my personal website.  

 

The next batch of eggs are in the incubator and I have a better idea of my timeline for photography (aka, how long until they refuse to stand still) with the next batch.  I think I want to get an ap for my tablet to show me the strength of the light.  

Hard to tell except at 100%, of course, but your last one here looked promising. Any chance of a look at a 100% crop?

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Here's my attempt at editing the last one

 

stock-apr-2020-66.jpg

 

I'm not great at layers yet, so the bottom looks weird.  Also, I don't like how the background turned out.  But not bad considering I've only been editing since the end of Jan.

 

And here's the big file to play with 

 

IMG_8160.JPG

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You've got a shadow rim that looks like movement blur on the leg to camera left.  If you can edit that out, it will be crisper, but I think you could still use more light.  Cheap way to get more light is shop trouble lights with a daylight compact fluorescent bulb or a day light or warm LED light.  Little things like that are also good subjects for a Godox AD200, bare bulb with a gridded 12 inch beauty dish (metal one around US $50, and also useful for small plants like African violets). 

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Just a thought, have you any coloured paper or card you could use for the background it would make it far eaiser as you start out, a pure white background is a difficult task without lighting it separately. I would break it down in to chunks, nail the focus and subject lighting with a complementary background colour then move on to white backgrounds when you have bought extra lighting be that continuous or flash.

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Oh, colour paper.  That's a good idea.

 

This is the light box I was using. https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01GIL6EU4/

For next month I'll try setting up a brighter spot, with a combination of sunlight and some LED.  I'm disappointed the light box wasn't bright enough, but this exercise expanded my understanding of light.

 

I'm going to upload the baby chick photo alone to see if it makes it through QC.  I hope I don't loose a star. 

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Posted (edited)

You have a lot of jpeg compression artefacts at 100%- see the jaggies and white lines?

I wouldn't upload until you figure out what's causing it. Probably overcompression, though I've never experienced it so I'm not sure.

Done in LR with tone curve. I could have blown the background a bit more but the bird was getting a bit colourful.

IMG-8160.jpg

Edited by spacecadet

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