Birds. And Some Findings Regarding Shooting and Editing

Hi friends!

It’s time for a new post about birds. But this time I’ll also include the editing part and share with you some of my learnings.

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First, the lens that I use for shooting birds is the Tamron 70-300VC. This is not a lens designed for bird photography but more like a general-purpose telephoto lens. Of course it’s not a problem to shoot standing birds from an acceptable distance. However when talking about birds-in-flight the story becomes pretty different as it lacks the focus speed and precision of pro telephoto lenses. Nevertheless for its price I can say it does a pretty good job even here if there’s plenty of light and the birds don’t have an erratic flight (forget about small unpredictable birds like kingfishers and so on). And of course the distance matter too!

Back to the editing part, I usually take the steps that are described here. I would however make a few additional notes:

  1. When photographing birds against blue sky I use direct sunlight (a.k.a. daylight) white balance. When using this setting the shadows cast on the bird might look blue-ish especially if the subject has bright colours. When this happens I do a local correction in Lightroom by using adjustment brush and changing the temperature colour and the tint until the blue shades disappear.
  2. For shooting birds-in-flight I adjust my ISO to at least 400 (with aperture priority mode). This naturally causes some noise which I also correct by selectively editing with the brush. Extra caution needs to be taken with the shadows cast on the bird, where the noise is more visible than on sun-lit body parts. If the blue sky can be corrected by selecting and putting maximum noise reduction, it’s not feasible to do the same thing with these areas as details might be lost and the subject might get an unnatural look. For this reason I consider it wise not to choose a local noise reduction higher than 50 in LR. Also it’s good to ensure a smooth transition, meaning the noisiest areas get high reduction (say 50), surrounding areas get half reduction (25) and the ones where noise is at its minimum get no reduction at all. Again, don’t worry about correcting the clear blue sky or other completely out-of-focus areas (as long as totally separated by in-focus zones), just crank reduction to its maximum (100).
  3. I recommend avoiding taking pictures with birds that stand in the grass, especially if they are small. For example even if the last picture with the sparrow is a nice one, it could have been even better if the background had been less distracting. I tried to correct this as much as possible using content-aware fill and the clone-stamp tool in Photoshop but this is the best I could get from it. By contrast the pigeon standing on the roof has a much clearer background. To conclude, it’s easier to prevent than to correct!
  4. A very nice and desired effect is the sunlight reflecting in the bird’s eyes. It makes a big difference (this is the case with people portraits too). A good example is the photo with the flying pigeon. It’s best to capture the bird with the sun behind you, however it’s not always so easy (as was unfortunately the case with the white pigeon).
  5. In my opinion it’s a great idea to capture standing birds from below. I can give the same roof pigeon as example for this. Again, try to catch (sun)light in the bird’s eyes (at least reflecting in one of them). And if there are any distracting elements, try to correct them using the Photoshop tools mentioned at point 3.
  6. Birds in the snow is also another moment I enjoy capturing. The great advantage that snow provides is that it is … white! (of course if it’s clean) This means no major distractions in the background and a very good contrast. Obviously the thing with the contrast is different if the bird is white too. As comparison take a look at the first two pigeon pictures. To sum it up snow is great for using as shooting prop for a wide range of subjects, not only birds. Also any distracting elements can be easily corrected. I do this by using content-aware fill in PS (it works great with snow) but the clone stamp might also be a great choice.
  7. Last but not least I discard any picture where the bird’s eyes are not in clear sight. As for insects or other animals at least one eye needs to be in perfect focus.

I hope you’ll find these hints useful.

Take care!

PS. Check this too: Birds (5)

2 thoughts on “Birds. And Some Findings Regarding Shooting and Editing

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