Professional Bird Photography Tips

One of my favorite photographers to follow is Scott Bourne. If you don’t know of him, just do a search on the Internet. Scott’s name will show up many times because even as a very talented and gifted professional, he gives freely of his knowledge to help others advance their skills.

Blue Heron
Picture by Jeff Ross, Scott Bourne’s pictures would be much, much better!

One of Scott Bourne’s favorite subjects is birds. I enjoy photographing birds as well, but I am a rank amateur. I do my best, but as indicated in the referenced articles below, capturing the best bird pictures is hard!

Scott provides twenty tips for capturing your best shots in the articles:

10 Down & Dirty Quick Bird Photography Tips

How To Photograph Birds | 20 Tips & Some Resources

Here are three of the tips just as a sample…

Start Big. Practice with larger birds such as pelicans, gulls and herons. Also practice at local zoos. Captive birds will give you a chance to study behavior, hone your skills and become familiar with bird photography (and your gear) and guarantee enough keepers that you won’t be frustrated.

Track the Sun. I’m not much for photography religions but if I were – this would be the one I would practice. Photograph birds with your back to the sun. Especially when you are just starting out. Birds look best when front lit. Sidelight may be the landscape photographer’s friend, but it’s the avian photographer’s enemy. Keep the sun at your back, or in other words, point your shadow at the birds. Believe it. Practice it. Live by it. You’ll get better shots.

Shoot Shutter Priority. When shooting birds in flight, use shutter priority. A fast shutter speed is essential to capturing birds in flight. Unless you want to blur the subject for creative reasons, a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second should be your minimum preferred shutter speed. Also use the lowest ISO you can and still get a fast shutter speed.”

Notice Scott’s advice about side light which may be good for landscape, but not for birds!

You can also find Scott Bourne on the photofocus website which I believe he founded.

Of course, one of the best ways to improve any photographic skill is to get out there and practice. Take pictures and examine them. Which are good, which are best, which are worst? Find out why and you are well on your way to doing your best work.

Should You Be Using HDR Photography with Your Cell Phone?

Whenever I am out and about with people and we are taking pictures; me with my bridge camera (Canon SX 50HS) and others with their smartphones, I often ask if they are shooting HDR images. A few will know what I am speaking of, but many are puzzled.

To put it simply, and HDR (High Dynamic Range) image is one that is composed of three separate photos that are then combined to increase the “degree” of colors and details. Many smartphones can be set to do this automatically, i.e. they take one picture focusing on the shadows, one exposed for the mid-tones and a last exposed for the highlights. These are then combined to render details in all three exposures. The theory is that this will provide the most color and details.

This logically leads to the next question: “Well, how much better will the HDR photos be?” An article written by Eric Renno for Photofocus answers that question.

If you are interested in the technicalities, please read the details in the article noted above. For anyone interested in photography, I believe you will find it interesting especially if you like to edit your photographs after you take them.

SUMMARY – Shooting in HDR generally makes a difference and in most cases you will get “better” pictures that way. Keep in mind, however that the files will be larger so storage space may be at a premium.

NOTE – My wife’s iPhone captures HDR, but also keeps the mid-tone image as well. In such scenarios, it is then up to the user to decide which photo to keep. Your smart phone might do the same thing so it would be a good idea to review them periodically and delete those pictures which are not significantly different. The only drawback is that it is sometimes difficult to discern this on the small smart phone screen. It is still worth a try if your phone storage is pressed for space.