Choosing the Shot: Is Your Subject in Focus?

Andrew Beck All Authors, Andrew Leave a Comment

For many photographers, the hardest part of their worklflow comes down to choosing the images that will “make it through to the next round” for editing purposes. This is a crucial part of any digital workflow and being able to cull the 40 or so images from that awesome cheetah sighting you witnessed, down to a handful of images can be a tough process.

In this series of blog posts I will run through some of the criteria that I like to use when working through and selecting my best images from sightings.

The first thing I will check is that my subject is sharp and in focus as this is something that you cannot fix no matter what software you are using. As someone once said, you cant polish a turd (Mythbusters experiments aside). This can easily be done on the camera for a preliminary check but you really shouldn’t delete anything off camera unless your subject is obviously out of focus and you missed the shot completely.

Viewing the image on your computer screen at 100% resolution will provide you with a far better idea of whether your subject is sharp and in focus or not.

As an example, here are two images I took on our recent trip up the Botswana’s Chobe River. Viewed as thumbnails they both look fairly decent.

Choosing the shot Andrew Beck Wild Eye

Choosing the shot Andrew Beck Wild Eye

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zooming into 100% in Lightroom however, we can see that there is a significant difference in the sharpness and clarity of the Jacana’s eye (remember that they eye is one of the most crucial focal points to use when photographing animals) and face. Given the low light and the movement of the Jacana, my shutter speed was clearly not fast enough to freeze the movement of the head, rendering it soft and slightly blurred.

Choosing the shot Andrew Beck Wild Eye

Choosing the shot Andrew Beck Wild Eye

The second image is clearly the sharper of the two candidates and will”make it through to the next round” of the editing process. After making a couple of adjustments in Lightroom and adding a subtle vignette (to compliment the natural light and draw attention towards the subject), my final image is ready.

Choosing the shot Andrew Beck Wild Eye

This is a very simplified version using just two images of the same subject but you can take the principles from here and apply them to any series of images from sightings you might have been a bit trigger happy with in the past. Remember that this is the time to be critical of your own work and ensure that only the best of the best make it thorough to the next round.

On thursday, I will look at the next step in taking a number of images from a single sighting that are all sharp and in focus, and cutting those down even further as we get closer to picking our best images in a sequence.

Andrew Beck

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