Beginner

Autofocus and light Metering

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When you start taking shots, before even going through the different parameters of your device such as aperture or speed, you need to master autofocus and metering.

Autofocus

The autofocus on safari is the mechanism that will allow you to focus on the head of the creature and not on the grass twigs in front of its face.

Blurry leopard
The camera has chosen here to focus on the grass more contrasting than this Leopard

By default, on 99% of cameras, you trigger the autofocus by half pressing the shutter / release button. You feel a first resistance and you see / hear your camera focusing.

Autofocus modes

There are generally 3 modes AFS – AFC – M

AFS (Auto Focus Simple)

This is the default mode for cameras, it is the simplest but also the one you will use the most on safari.

In this mode, once you have pressed the shutter button halfway, the focus will be set and it will not change until you take the photo or release the button.

It is ideal for motionless subjects, a bird perched on its branch, a lion looking at the horizon.

If your subject is moving, it’s not ideal because between the moment you focus and the moment your camera takes the photo, as your subject moves, it will be blurred. That said, it all depends on how your subject moves in relation to you. If it stays the same distance and moves from left to right, you can use this mode.

If the subject is moving away or closer to you, it’s more complicated, you need to go to AFC mode

AFC (Auto Focus Continuous)

As you can guess, in this mode the camera focuses continuously, as long as you keep pressing the shutter button halfway.

This is ideal for subjects that are moving away or closer to you.

It is also the default mode for video since in general you will change the main subject during the video. If you film a group of elephants, you will change the main subject, if you are in AFS only the first subject on which you have focused will be clear.

M (Manual)

Lets you focus with the manual lens adjustment ring. Forget this mode for now.

The autofocus area

It would be nice to define the area where we want to focus.

Automatically, the camera will generally choose on the whole screen the area which presents the most contrasts and you will see small squares indicating the areas which will be sharp.

Focus point
AF zone automatic

Note that the device can actually focus only in one geometric point, but it believes here that everything in the green squares will be perfectly sharp.

Reduce the size

Obviously, if you have in front of your beautiful elephant a nice bush well contrasted with shadows, the device will “think” that the interesting thing is the bush.

To avoid this you will have to reduce the autofocus area to get a square that will only fit on your elephant, you can reduce it to a single point. Consult the manual of your camera and practice adapting the size of the area to your subject (often the head of an animal).

Different areas on the X-T2

Several techniques

Once the size is well defined, if your subject is not in the center of your shot or if you just want to leave it on one side 3 solutions are available to you:

  • Move the autofocus point (very easy on the touch screen of the Lumix FZ300 for example)
  • Lock the autofocus and “recompose” ie move the camera slightlyto place the subject where you want
  • Keep the subject in the center and edit the image on a computer later

The first case is the best, you take the photo with the focus point in the right place.

The second case, you see it often if you are sometimes photographed, you are targeted then just before pressing the shutter button the photographer will move his camera. There is a link with a more technical subject which is the depth of field because you understand that you have moved so the point where you chose to focus has moved too. That said, considering subjects more than 25m away and your level in photography you can use this technique with your eyes closed.

The third case is just as good as the first but requires additional work since it will be necessary to rework each photo afterwards.

So remember that you choose AFS mode unless you have a subject that is moving away or closer to you or that you are making video, in this case it is AFC.

You just have to adjust the autofocus area, do not hesitate to take an area as small as possible. If only a spot of the leopard clearly protrudes from the foliage and you have chosen an area the size of a point and you put this point on this spot, then the device will ignore the foliage and the leopard will be sharp.

Of course if the area is small and you zoom a lot, it may be harder to keep it on the subject while taking the photo because you will move a lot.

Practice a little, enlarge, shrink and move. In 30min you should … be ready.

Light metering

Measure the light, this is what you do on your smart-phone when a subject is too dark, you touch on the place of your subject and your smart-phone will lighten your subject and the rest of the scene will be either too bright or too dark.

It is actually a rather technical subject, managing the exposure well to get what you want requires both technique and knowledge of your material.

18% Grey

Middle grey
The middle point is not 2 times less bright but about 6 times less in this example

Your device will place your reference point in this gray at 18%. What is darker will be towards black and lighter towards white.

To choose the area or measure the light, it’s a bit the same principle as the autofocus areas. You can choose a single point or choose an area. Your device will average in the area you choose.

Measuring modes

You generally have 3 modes:

  • Matrix or Multi (almost the whole screen)
  • Centered weighted
  • Single point

If you have a scene with few light contrasts, like at the start of the morning or late evening, the Matrix / Multi mode will give a very good result because the light is soft and fairly homogeneous throughout the scene.

If you have a very hard light, at 2 p.m. for example, the Matrix / Multi mode will darken your subject too much if it is not in the sun.

As a beginner I advise you the center weighted, it considers with a great weight the center of your viewfinder but also takes into account what surrounds it with a lower weighting, train with it.

The single point mode is mainly used with techniques that you find in the intermediate and advanced levels.

In any case consult the manual of your box to learn how to change and configure this mode.

Advice for Beginners: If you do not manage to obtain a correct exposure (either too dark or too white) and if you shoot in RAW or RAW + JPG, keep the dark version you will be able to get something out of it in post-processing because the data is present. In JPG there is nothing to do, try to change the angle of view.

Dark shot recoverable
Here we were able to retrieve the details in the shadows
Improved eagle photo
We managed to save the dark shot of the eagle in post. The clear shot cannot be recovered

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