Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Following the (bird photography) rules

American RobinAmerican Robin, Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve, Hillsboro, Oregon on February 25, 2010 by Greg Gillson.


There are several "rules" in bird photography that help make a pleasing composition. There can be times to break those rules. In this photograph, however, I stayed within the rules for pleasing results.

First, get the bird's eyes in focus. Most people agree that if the subjects eyes are in focus that the photo as a whole is in focus--even if distant parts of the bird may actually be out-of-focus. And get a catchlight in the eye--that little sparkle of light. If the eye is in shadow and all dark, it doesn't appear as "alive" as it should.

Secondly, give the bird extra space both above the head and in front of the bird in the direction which the bird is facing.

Third, get on the same level as the bird; do not shoot up or down at the bird. In this case, the foreground and background fade away pleasantly as I crouched down to get as close as I could to the bird's level.

Fourth, use natural light or, if necessary, use only a subdued fill-flash. Flash may garishly brighten a bird's colors and make the bird look like a two-dimensional cut-out. In this case I used only natural morning light. The morning light has a pleasing golden cast and the directional side lighting creates shadow for a realistic, three-dimensional shape.

Other techniques come down to personal taste--the photographer's style. I have been following Rich Ditch's photography blog. His personal taste is for understated colors and earth tones. This photo falls into that category. Rich also prefers to back off--not cropping tightly--and show more of the bird-in-habitat. I believe this photo is in the style of Rich Ditch.