A recurring struggle I have with photography is in the sharpness of the photos that I take. I feel like I'm getting better in general, but I still struggle more than I would like. Take a look at this photo of a female brown-headed cowbird that I took back in February:
This is a really lousy photo in my opinion. To be fair, the conditions I was shooting in weren't great: it was a cloudy day and I was shooting hand-held through a kitchen window. Compare to this much sharper photo I took in March:
Again, I was shooting hand-held, but I was outside at the time and the lighting was better. The results are much better, though still not perfect. It's frustrating to get bad results when I know I'm capable of so much more. There are a few ways that I'm planning on improving my success rate:
1. Switching Camera Modes
I'm pretty bad about letting the camera make most of the decisions when I shoot. I need to be shooting in shutter-speed priority mode more often, which would help me minimize subject motion blur.
2. Using Camera Support
Using a tripod takes a lot of time, but it's almost always worth it in terms of results. Given that I've got two young kids, however, taking a tripod along on family outings isn't always ideal. I want to start using my monopod more often as a compromise. Though not as stable as a tripod, a monopod should provide enough stability to help minimize camera shake. It should certainly be a step up from hand-holding.
3. Better Utilizing Depth of Field
This is a tough one to master, but I feel like I don't put enough thought into best utilizing the given depth of field for each shot. Sometimes I'm way too close to my subject, resulting in a super-shallow depth of field. Other times, my lens aperture is way too low, letting in additional light at the expense of a reduced window of sharpness. I've got to get better at anticipating what any given scene requires, and then using that setup. Becoming an expert here will simply take practice and experimentation.
As with any hobby, a lot of the fun comes with improving your skill. When I look back to photos I took at the beginning of my digital photography journey (an example of which is shown below), I can see that I've come a long way.