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Boca Raton, Florida
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With photography there are a lot of general settings ideas that can help, but also a lot of situations where a certain method might just be better than what will work for most other use-cases. Your hummingbird attempts are an example of where a simpler solution probably would have helped make that a little easier. Rather than trying to focus on the small hummingbird as it comes up to the feeder, which can be difficult, especially with a well-lit and contrasty tree right behind that the focus system can be too easily drawn to - you might instead switch your camera to AF-S (single focus mode), keep the spot focus area selected, and before the hummingbird arrives, focus on that nice, bright red feeder. Once you've got the feeder in focus, you can even switch the camera to manual focus (or lens if you have a focus switch on the lens) and don't move it - as long as the feeder stays the same distance and you don't move your position, any bird approaching the feeder from left or right will be at the same focus distance, and therefore be in focus - you won't even need to move the focus or use autofocus for that type of situation.

As for why your camera missed focus - could be a few things. First, the center of the frame doesn't appear to be on the feeder, or the bird - unless you cropped it afterwards...if that's the case, that narrow focus area you selected might have been centered right on the tree behind. You need to make sure you're using a smaller focus area, then make sure that focus point or spot is only on the subject you're trying to shoot. If you find the hummingbird is just too small or not contrasty enough where the camera can't seem to find it, try putting the AF point at the feeder and seeing if you can focus on that - then back to the bird. Cameras and lenses will sometimes have an easier time 'finding' the small subject if you get the lens a little closer to the right focus plane - once it 'finds' that tree in the background, 200 attempts to refocus are probably going to go right back to that tree. But get that tree to be way out of focus and blurry, and the focus on the feeder, you'll be much closer to the correct focus on the bird and easier for the camera's focus system to recognize the bird as the subject and focus on it.

Sometimes with really tiny subjects like a dragonfly 10 feet away on the tip of a reed - if I were to try to focus on that dragonfly, with a bunch of well lit reeds and leaves behind him, the camera would probably try to focus on those reeds every time, and ignore the tiny dragonfly that's only 5% of the frame. BUT, if I first find a big, bright flower that's about 10 feet away from the camera, I can first autofocus on that flower...then when I point back at the dragonfly, the lens is already focused for a subject 10 feet away - and the dragonfly is almost focused already in the screen - when I half-press to autofocus again, the lens only has to move its focus a few millimeters and it 'sees' that dragonfly and locks on, ignoring those bright background leaves and reeds which were all out of focus and blurry to start. Anytime your subject is a small part of your frame, or has low contrast and doesn't stand out, find something else to focus on that's about the same distance away to give the camera and lens a head-start.
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CT
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Originally posted by cruises42
I’m sorry to keep bothering everybody but I really don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. I have ISO set to auto, focus mode is AF-A Auto-servo, AF-area mode is single point AF and shutter was set to 1/800
#1 - are you doing the half-click to acquire focus before taking the picture? If so you should be able to tell what you are focused on.


#2 with AF-A and single point AF, you're gonna have to get the bird focused in the focus point (the one highlighted in the viewfinder) and then keep the focus point on the bird (while keeping the button half-clicked), otherwise the camera will focus on something else. I don't know what other modes the D3400 supports but if possible you might want to try one that will allow you to lock focus on the bird (with the half-click), then the camera will track the bird if it "moves" to other focus points.

What might be easier than that is to set the camera to AF-S, prefocus on the feeder itself (with the half click) and then take the picture when the bird takes a little sip.


The key with all of this is the half-click.
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Thanks again for the input. I have more things to try. Part of the problem is that the hummingbird doesn't stay there very long and I'm trying to hurry to get it in focus. I have tried focusing on something else then bringing it back to the bird, sometimes it works. I don't intentionally take a blurry photo, sometimes I have the bird in focus and when I go to take the picture the camera focuses on the tree, other times I accidently press the shutter button too hard when trying to focus and it takes the picture.
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Originally posted by cruises42
Thanks again for the input. I have more things to try. Part of the problem is that the hummingbird doesn't stay there very long and I'm trying to hurry to get it in focus. I have tried focusing on something else then bringing it back to the bird, sometimes it works. I don't intentionally take a blurry photo, sometimes I have the bird in focus and when I go to take the picture the camera focuses on the tree, other times I accidently press the shutter button too hard when trying to focus and it takes the picture.
I don't know how much practicing you have been doing with focus points, exposure modes (P, A, S), using the focus/shutter button, etc. on stationary subjects, and preferably not through windows, but if you haven't really gotten a good comfort with the camera settings on such "easier" subjects, I would suggest doing so. And in terms of birds, try starting with larger, slower birds (sea gulls, for example, if you are near any), or even some sleeping dogs or cats, rather than small, flitty birds. (I've found that a zoo is great place to practice with a new camera or lens.) Way back when I bought my first DSLR, and took it to a basketball game, I could not figure out why so many of my photos were not focused on the players but on spectators behind them. There's a learning curve to all this, no need to jump in at the deep end.

Good luck!
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Originally posted by Turtles06
I don't know how much practicing you have been doing with focus points, exposure modes (P, A, S), using the focus/shutter button, etc. on stationary subjects, and preferably not through windows, but if you haven't really gotten a good comfort with the camera settings on such "easier" subjects, I would suggest doing so. And in terms of birds, try starting with larger, slower birds (sea gulls, for example, if you are near any), or even some sleeping dogs or cats, rather than small, flitty birds. (I've found that a zoo is great place to practice with a new camera or lens.) Way back when I bought my first DSLR, and took it to a basketball game, I could not figure out why so many of my photos were not focused on the players but on spectators behind them. There's a learning curve to all this, no need to jump in at the deep end.

Good luck!
Almost all the pictures I've taken so far have been using the Auto or Sports settings. When I mentioned my focusing problem a week or so ago several people mentioned trying S mode. So not much practice.
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Originally posted by cruises42
Almost all the pictures I've taken so far have been using the Auto or Sports settings. When I mentioned my focusing problem a week or so ago several people mentioned trying S mode. So not much practice.
People suggested S mode because you were trying to photograph a possibly moving bird, and to get you out of sports mode where you had less control over the focus.

You might not want to drive yourself crazy trying to photograph a small flitty bird through a window right now and instead spend more time learning the basics of your camera, and then move up to more difficult subjects. Just a suggestion.

Enjoy!
CT
346 Posts
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Originally posted by cruises42
Thanks again for the input. I have more things to try. Part of the problem is that the hummingbird doesn't stay there very long and I'm trying to hurry to get it in focus. I have tried focusing on something else then bringing it back to the bird, sometimes it works. I don't intentionally take a blurry photo, sometimes I have the bird in focus and when I go to take the picture the camera focuses on the tree, other times I accidently press the shutter button too hard when trying to focus and it takes the picture.
At least some of the focusing issues are probably related to using AF-A mode. The camera is basically deciding for itself whether you are trying to take a pic of a static scene or a scene with movement in it, and not always getting it right.

You might want to read about the different focus modes here, starting on page 69:
http://download.nikonimglib.com/arch...0RM_(En)03.pdf

If you want to pre-focus on the feeder and take the pic when the bird comes in - use AF-S.
If you want to attempt to track the movement of the bird itself - use AF-C and use an "AF Area mode" (page 74) of dynamic area or 3D tracking.

Either approach requires locking focus with the half-click and holding it until ready to take the picture. Focusing on the bird in AF-C requires locking focus on the bird with the half click in the first place, then keeping the shutter release half-clicked while keeping the bird within the other focus points in the viewfinder until your ready to take the picture. for AF-C it might be a good idea to practice on other birds (any anything else that moves) that aren't quite as erratic as hummingbirds to get some subject-tracking practice.
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One of my better attempts.


Still having a hard time focusing. Will keep trying. Does everyone focus immediately after half clicking or does it take a little time?


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Originally posted by Turtles06
People suggested S mode because you were trying to photograph a possibly moving bird, and to get you out of sports mode where you had less control over the focus.

You might not want to drive yourself crazy trying to photograph a small flitty bird through a window right now and instead spend more time learning the basics of your camera, and then move up to more difficult subjects. Just a suggestion.


Enjoy!
Thanks. I do have a lot to learn (not just my camera but basic photography).



Originally posted by CT Sean
At least some of the focusing issues are probably related to using AF-A mode. The camera is basically deciding for itself whether you are trying to take a pic of a static scene or a scene with movement in it, and not always getting it right.

You might want to read about the different focus modes here, starting on page 69:
http://download.nikonimglib.com/arch...0RM_(En)03.pdf

If you want to pre-focus on the feeder and take the pic when the bird comes in - use AF-S.
If you want to attempt to track the movement of the bird itself - use AF-C and use an "AF Area mode" (page 74) of dynamic area or 3D tracking.

Either approach requires locking focus with the half-click and holding it until ready to take the picture. Focusing on the bird in AF-C requires locking focus on the bird with the half click in the first place, then keeping the shutter release half-clicked while keeping the bird within the other focus points in the viewfinder until your ready to take the picture. for AF-C it might be a good idea to practice on other birds (any anything else that moves) that aren't quite as erratic as hummingbirds to get some subject-tracking practice.
Thanks for all the information.
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Originally posted by cruises42
One of my better attempts.


Still having a hard time focusing. Will keep trying. Does everyone focus immediately after half clicking or does it take a little time?


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What settings did you use for this? Increase the ISO so you can still use a fairly large aperture but have a higher shutter speed. As someone else mentioned getting a photo like this in focus takes lots of practice. Quality (expensive) telephoto lenses also help with bird photos so you don’t have to do too much cropping. Learn back button focus. You can find instructions for your specific camera (3400 right?) on line. I had a 3300 for a couple of years. Great beginner dslr. You can purchase guides for your camera that are very helpful. Also check out Moose Winnans. He has cheat sheets for specific camera & lens combinations that I used a lot while I was learning.

Maris


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Originally posted by Marvy Mare
What settings did you use for this? Increase the ISO so you can still use a fairly large aperture but have a higher shutter speed. As someone else mentioned getting a photo like this in focus takes lots of practice. Quality (expensive) telephoto lenses also help with bird photos so you don’t have to do too much cropping. Learn back button focus. You can find instructions for your specific camera (3400 right?) on line. I had a 3300 for a couple of years. Great beginner dslr. You can purchase guides for your camera that are very helpful. Also check out Moose Winnans. He has cheat sheets for specific camera & lens combinations that I used a lot while I was learning.

Maris


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Yes, I have the 3400. I was using S mode, shutter 1250, 70-300mm lens zoomed in all the way then in-camera cropping. Also part of my problem is I can't keep the camera very still. I have never heard of back button focus, I'll have to look it up. Thanks for the information. I might have to get those cheat sheets, the price seems pretty reasonable.
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This is a great guide. Goes in to very detailed explanations on absolutely everything your D3400 can do.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Buschs-.../dp/1681982307
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Originally posted by BigMike2018
This is a great guide. Goes in to very detailed explanations on absolutely everything your D3400 can do.

https://www.amazon.com/David-Buschs-.../dp/1681982307
Thanks for the information. Have you heard anything about the Nikon D3400 for Dummies book? That's the one I have. I also have Digital Photography for dummies. I really should be reading that first but I wanted to start taking photos as soon as possible.
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Originally posted by cruises42
Thanks for the information. Have you heard anything about the Nikon D3400 for Dummies book? That's the one I have. I also have Digital Photography for dummies. I really should be reading that first but I wanted to start taking photos as soon as possible.
Both of those are good, but I prefer Davud Busch's books. They literally cover everything

If you prefer watching videos I recommend the "Fundamentals of Photography" course available through Ultimate Courses Plus. It's an educational video streaming service online tht costs about $20 a month and they have a free trial period to try them out. The course is not camera specific but covers a lot of the techniques and art of photography.

https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/...of-photography
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Originally posted by cruises42
Still having a hard time focusing. Will keep trying. Does everyone focus immediately after half clicking or does it take a little time?
Keep at it. Try changing settings to enable back button focusing. It can help with action shots like this where you need quick reactions.
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Originally posted by BigMike2018
If you prefer watching videos I recommend the "Fundamentals of Photography" course available through Ultimate Courses Plus. It's an educational video streaming service online tht costs about $20 a month and they have a free trial period to try them out. The course is not camera specific but covers a lot of the techniques and art of photography.
https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/...of-photography
It's The Great Courses Plus and has a great abundance of courses which you can stream. If you prefer DVDs, they may be purchased from The Great Courses - the "Plus" is its streaming service.

They have an abundance of courses from Antropology to Zoology which you can view (and review) on their streaming service for about $200 a year. Fundamentals of Photography is a great course - but you should also see the course on Travel Photography.
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Thanks again! I do get the Great Courses catalog and have seen the Photography course. I wasn't sure if it would help me, but now I'll have to give it a look. Just started watching a YouTube video on back button focusing (Realworld).
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South New Jersey
23 Posts
Joined Jun 2018
Originally posted by tommui987
It's The Great Courses Plus

Thanks for the correction...I couldn't remember off the top of my head...happens sometimes after 40
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