I wanted to share a story with you that just happened and something that’s really important to think about when you’re getting tips, advice and suggestions from people.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The comments are already taking a tone of sticking up for me, etc… And I REALLY appreciate it – but that’s not what I’m looking for. I just want you to know these people are out there. I’m never going to stop them from commenting on my photos, videos and tutorials. But I’ve had 25 years of practice in ignoring them. You haven’t… and I want to make sure you ignore them too.

To quickly bring you up to speed… I have a video on on social media for my Bird Photography Course. The video is below if you want to see it. In short, it shows my “through the camera” view of a wildlife encounter that happened really fast in front of me. There was no way to be ready for it, but I was able to lock on quickly and capture the action.

How was I able to capture some good action shots? Because of a few things. First, I had my camera settings where they needed to be already. Fast Shutter Speed (probably too fast, but there was a lot of light), right aperture and Auto ISO so I didn’t have to think about exposure. Next, I had the right Focus Area selected, so when I did lock on, the birds were in focus. Lastly, there’s no doubt there was luck involved. I didn’t see this situation coming, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. And I hope there’s not anyone out there that doesn’t realize luck is a BIG part of wildlife photography.

Anyway, this webinar and video had has hundreds of great comments from people who watched and were truly helped by it. But, in the typical “keyboard warrior” age we live in, there are always those people that feel they need to inject their comments and opinions, even though nobody asked them for it.

Spray and Pray?

One comment I get A LOT on it is “Ah… the old spray and pray method. There’s no skill involved there”. I get it over and over again, and I delete most of them because I simply don’t care what those people have to say. I know it’s not spray and pray and their definition of it is wrong. But every once in a while, I’ll reply and ask “How would you have shot it?”. 95% of the time, I never get an answer back, which is pretty typical when you challenge people online.

But recently I got this comment from some one:

Photography was so much more fun when you had to have skill. Now it’s all spray and pray. Everyone has the same images and they mean nothing.

– From: Guy who gives his negative opinion even though nobody asked for it

First, it was fun. A Ton of fun actually… I got to capture some really interesting photos and it was even fun to look through them. Next, I know it’s not spray and pray. And people who say this are 100% wrong. Spray and pray implies that you’re spraying your camera around haphazardly, with no skill or accuracy, and praying you get something.

I wasn’t spraying my camera all over the place, I was simply using a fast frame rate to capture multiple poses because I know there’s no way my eyes can follow this enough to pick the perfect moment. Do all cameras have this frame rate and do you need it? Not at all. But is sure does help sometimes, when you’re looking for various poses – and as long as you’re a good critique of your own photos you can delete the hundreds of junk photos quickly once you find a few good ones.

Lastly, there was no “praying” because my camera settings and those green boxes let me know I am getting sharp and in-focus photos. I’m familiar with my gear and have practiced enough, that I 100% know the photos would be sharp and in focus.

So I replied back with “How would you have shot it”. And here’s what “Guy who gives his negative opinion even though nobody asked for it” replied.

How would I of shot it? Well in my sixteen years as an environmental photographer, I would have shot it on film and maybe using manual focus. Eventually that changed to digital but still sometimes (not always) I would use manual focus and wait for the decisive moment. If I was not confident I would shoot in short bursts. Probably three shots continuous max and using a 600mm F4 at the widest aperture I could.

With a camera using the capabilities of the one in the video I would probably use the same autofocus setting, Shoot aperture priority and have the exposure compensation set to -2/3 and a minimum shutter speed 1/1000 or more and the lens set wide open if one of those lousy 400mm 5.6 lenses or 1/3 of a step down from max if a quality faster lens.

– From: Guy who never learned if you don’t have something nice to say, DON’T SAY IT!

So… Why Is This Bad?

His reply makes things worse. Not only is he a keyboard warrior who surfs around social media writing negative comments, but he’s also some one who has no business advising people on how to shoot.

SIDE NOTE: Why is it always a guy. I so rarely ever get women who write negative comments and are keyboard warriors. It’s always “that guy”. Please gentlemen out there… stop being that guy. Here’s a great rule of thumb on the internet – and in life. If you read something you don’t agree with, but they didn’t ask your opinion or for a critique… be quiet. Put your keyboard away and/or close your mouth. You weren’t asked and you have no business weighing in.

Now, on to why this is bad. To me, I’m not upset that he wrote to me. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and have developed pretty thick skin. I won’t say it doesn’t bug me. But I do eventually brush it off pretty fast, because I’m confident in my skills. Does it annoy me? Sure, it would anyone so please don’t write “Matt, don’t let this annoy you”. It would annoy you if you read it every day. But Trust me, it doesn’t annoy me for long 🙂 And I’m not writing this because he annoyed me…

I’m writing this because “that guy” is among YOU – and he’s causing more issues for YOU – not me.

What does stick with me is the thought that this person probably belongs to a photo group or camera club of some sort, or has friends (though I’m not sure how many) that maybe he advises. If he feels it’s okay to write some person he doesn’t know on the internet to tell them how to do it, imagine what he feels about people he knows.

And the problem with this is that he may be advising people who are just starting out and don’t have a lot of confidence in photography just yet. Remember, giving advice and teaching is a SKILL. And not everyone has that skill. So this person could be a guy in your photography group advising people, when he is not qualified to do so. But because he’s probably so loud and confident in what he’s saying, people feel they should listen. Or they don’t listen and just talk about him behind his back.

And the worst part about it is his advice is bad. In some ways, he’s just flat out wrong.

Why Is He Wrong?

The statement that he would have shot it on film using manual focus should alert you that this person should not be giving advice. Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but his opinion would never produce the best photo.

First, film is prohibitively expensive to shoot fast action, low light wildlife photos. There’s a reason that today’s wildlife photography is jaw dropping, compared to what we would have seen 40 years ago. You didn’t have the frame rates, fast auto focusing, and low light performance to capture the photos that we see today. And that’s coming from some one who started in film. I know both film and digital, and I know what is better for wildlife photography.

Next, he says “I would have waited for the decisive moment”. Sorry but that’s a crock. There is no human that can follow that action in that video and decisively know what millisecond to press the shutter. As an example, no person would ever be able to watch this scene (see photo below) unfold in the 3 seconds it did, and know exactly when to press the shutter for this shot. I’d bet every penny I have that he would have missed it using his logic.

Finally, his settings. Aperture Priority will allow the camera to choose your shutter speed. With fast action photography, that is the worst thing possible because shutter speed is the most important component. You have to lock in your shutter speed and have control over it. And 1/1000th of a second would have not been enough shutter speed to freeze this action. So not only are his suggestions poor considering today’s tech, but they are wrong and would have produced a blurry photo. This isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact. 1/1000th of a second is not fast enough in this situation.

And the whole comment about a “lousy f/5.6 lenses” is just useless. I shoot a f/6.3 lens and I don’t think anyone can argue that my lens produces lousy results. Plus that whole 1/3 stop down from wide open is debunked. You do not buy a f/2.8 lens just to shoot it at f/4 because the quality is better.

His Final Comment

His final comment is where I’ll leave you. He wrote:

The problem with this is… You can literally hand that setup to anybody and even if they don’t understand how to use the camera they can put it on auto and fire away to get the same results. So my point is that photography was more enjoyable when everyone was not just buying the latest automated gear and getting the same automated result.

Here is where I believe he would actually do the BIGGEST disservice to the people he’s advising. He’s one of those guys that thinks photography should be hard and that “back in his day when he had to walk to school up hill both ways in the rain, blazing sun and snow all in one day” were the better times.

To me at least, his way and his thoughts sound stressful. It sounds like some one who followed his advice would always be wondering if they got the shot or had the right settings. That doesn’t sound fun – it sounds stressful. And if you’re stressed, you’re probably not enjoying yourself and probably not building a ton of confidence – not to mention probably not enjoying your time out in nature.

There’s a reason we have better wildlife photos today than ever in history. Because the camera now gets out of the way and people can concentrate on light, subject, creativity and the most important thing… getting that camera in front of something great. Photography used to be for the tech oriented people. Now, the creative person can thrive at it.

So, to what he said, YES YES YES!!! In fact, THANK YOU!!!… that is exactly what I hope to teach. You can literally hand that setup to anyone even if they don’t understand it, and they can indeed make a great photo. Who said you had to know all the technicals of a camera to have a good photo? Don’t today’s cameras leave room now for people that are creatively superior – and understand what makes a great photo, rather than understanding all the buttons dials and gadgets on the camera?

There is no definition that a great photo has to be taken by some one that knows all the ins and outs of the camera. A great photo can most certainly be taken by some one who knows how to put the camera in front of something great. Now, if you know both, even better – you have a leg up on everyone else around you.


I’ve talked about this before in a podcast and I’ll continue to talk about it. Beware of who you take your advice from. While this person’s feelings on the topic may produce great photos, it’s not the advice you should be taking. There are 100 different ways to get a great photo. And as the saying goes, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day”. I’m not saying what he suggests won’t produce a good photo, but it certainly doesn’t set you up for success no matter what your skill level is.

I believe the best thing we can do for anyone starting in photography (or any hobby) is help them gain a little confidence. As a VERY amateur golfer, I can tell you that the times I feel confident in what I’m doing are the times I score the best. It’s when I get 100 thoughts going in my head while listening to people that are way more advanced than I am, that things start to go wrong. I can tell you that EVERY time some one has walked up to me on the driving range and given me unsolicited advice, they were ALWAYS some one that had no business doing it. Not once has this been proven wrong.

Confidence will help you get better, and encourage you to seek out more and more – and better and better. Trust me, this stuff is hard enough as it is. I promise you… you will NOT master wildlife photography and get bored in your lifetime. There are enough subjects, in enough places, and enough uncertainty in how they’ll act to keep you interested and help you create unique photos. The camera, shouldn’t be the thing that holds you back from it.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope this helps some of you. Enjoy!


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