Tag Archives: howto

4 Simple Facts About Bird Photography Explained

A white ibis runs for the shoreline in a crashing wave.  He appears to have received the business end of a large wave and in his panic forgot he can fly. No doubt from a birds point of view the act of trying to find lunch in the crashing surf is a frustrating experience. I’m positive it’s almost as frustrating as actually getting that perfect bird picture.

If your one of those people who wish to hone their skill of photographing live birds, then this list may just help you.

1.  Equipment Matters-

 Equipment is at least 50% of your chance in getting a great action shot with birds. The Iphone will fail you as bad as most of the point and clicks on the market. Why?   The lens. A wide-angle lens is great for portraits, landscapes, and the weekend BBQ. But birds are small, and small means that you need some form of telescoping lens to get the bird nice and close. Unless your subject is a large Canadian goose looking for a handout, you’re going to scare your quarry before you get the shot. Your best bet is a DSLR and a nice telescoping lens that will close the distance between your subject and you.

Ibis in the Surf - Bird
Ibis in the Surf

2.  Fast Shutter Speed-  

One of the advantages of a DSLR is the ability to adjust the shutter speed of your camera. This changes the length of time your camera has its shutter open, thus allowing light into the camera. The quicker the speed, the better chance of capturing non-blurry action shots. Birds tend to be very quick. As a person who’s experienced being chased by a full size turkey, I can personally attest to how quick they are.   Notice in the ibis picture that the water from the surf seems to freeze mid-air. That’s what a quick shutter speed will give you.  How fast? The real answer is “as fast as your light conditions allow you to without underexposing the picture.”

3.  Aim for the Eye-

Remember that telescoping lens?   You don’t just pick up your camera, aim it at the poor creature and start shooting. Well you CAN, but your just wasting your time. No, a good picture takes a good deal of forethought. Once I have my camera set at an acceptable shutter speed. The very next thing I do is aim for the eye.   A focused eye is almost always a good start to an excellent picture. But, an out of focused eye is always a bad picture. Humans are rather finicky about faces. We have to see the eyes. Even animal faces are susceptible to this psychological need of ours. If you don’t get the eyes, you don’t get the picture.


4.  Prepare for Failure-

Yeah, patience is definitely needed. Remember that for every great photograph of a beautiful bird, especially an action shot, there are at least 200 pictures of out of focused blurs, wing flaps, moved heads, blurry feet, and tail feathers. You’re taking the picture of a living-breathing animal. This animal does not care that you are taking a picture. They do not listen to your directions to stay still. They are quick, they are small and they are almost always in movement. If you get one good picture out of an afternoon of bird watching then you’ve had a great day!

Remember that the most important thing about photographing any animals in the wild is to respect nature. Respect your subject and while you may not get that epic shot on the first try, there will be always a chance for a second, third, or even 100th try.



Why I Don’t Worry about Posting Pictures on Social Media.

As the owner of an art business, or for that matter just being an artist, I depend upon the selling of my work to make a living. But as I stated last week, that leaves me with a dilemma. In order to sell my art, I want my art seen by as many people as possible. Some artists refer to this as placing “eyes on canvas”. The logic is simple, the more people who see and enjoy my work, the more likely some one will purchase it.

Therefore, the most logical thing for me to do is to place my work in a location where the greatest number of people can see it all day every day.  For this purpose there are few places where this goal is reachable other than on the Internet. But just placing a web page up in the Internet cloud is not enough.   No one will visit your slice of the net if no one knows you are there. So, you need to go where the people are. The place for this exposure would surely be social media.

But, as we mentioned earlier, uploading to a place like Facebook is fraught with dangers. By uploading my work to their site I’m giving them permission to use my pictures for both data mining purposes and for possible advertisement usage. Now, that would give me plenty of exposure, but it does not place food in my stomach or clothes on my back and trust me, no one wants to see me without clothes.

Why then would I endanger my business by placing a picture on Facebook for the world to see if they can do this to me? The answer lies in the technology I use to make the pictures I place on the web.

I have to make each picture web ready. When I take a picture the size of the actual picture is usually somewhere near the 4272 × 2848 range.   This is a good-sized picture and you could format it to be useable in just about any product from a small wallet sized print all the way to a large 30”x30” poster without too much hassle.

I could put this raw file on social media, but then I leave a very tempting target for someone to misuse my picture. So, I want to make a picture that is too difficult for someone to misuse and yet good enough for my potential clients to enjoy, purchase, and brag about.

The first thing I do to a picture is add a watermark. Not a huge lumbering thing across the length of the picture, but something small and out-of-the-way. It simply advertises whom I am, and that the picture is mine.  It’s necessary that it does this without distraction, so I always put it in the corner of the picture.

The second thing is that I cut the picture’s physical size to no larger than 1024×1024. This produces a picture that allows you to use it on the web with no major drawbacks. The picture fits nicely on most monitor screens and is big enough to show all the necessary details a customer would ever want to see. But, if a less than honest person tries to increase the size they would quickly run into difficulty with pixilation, thus making the picture unusable.

Third and finally, I severely cut the DPI (Dots Per Inch). DPI is the lifeblood of printing pictures from a computer file. Basically, the larger the number of DPI the bigger and higher quality of print is available.  Inversely, quality prints cannot come from files with a low DPI. So, by reducing the dots per inch ratio from the usual standard of 300dpi or more to a mere 72dpi or less I can guarantee that the best anyone at a social media company could print would be at best a 4″x6″ copy of the picture.

Could Facebook or any other social media company still use my work?  It’s possible,  like any protection, there are weak points that would allow the unwanted use of my art. It’s a risk I must take so I produce the exposure that will guarantee my business’s success. But, by adding a watermark, physically making a copy of the picture smaller, and reducing each picture’s ability to produce any quality prints, I produce a major deterrent of wasted time and resource use for them to want to try in the first place.

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