How to capture amazing images of birds: Part 2

Key Area One

Why are the eyes the key?

 bald eagle in a tree

One of the key areas to focus on in any bird image is the eyes. Now realize some birds do not have pupils or have very dark or black eyes. In those cases, you cannot focus on the eyes. After all if the bird, like this eagle, it’s rather easy to do, the eagle has a pupil and the sharpness of the eye and its feathers and the rest of the image details blurred out by focusing on the eye is what makes this image. People have seen black oak bark before and tree branches so they are not critical to the image. There is no point in having them in perfect focus and detracting from the eagle. Interesting phenomena is the eye naturally looks at the lightest sharpest portion of an image then the darker in focus areas so it makes sense for a bald eagle or another light bird have their eye in focus and then the feathers with as much detail as possible. This shallow depth of field was achieved with a 70 x 300 lens on my camera manually focusing low ISO and shooting on a tripod.

Key Area Two

Really? Feathers or Actions are the second points of focus?

Killdeer on its nest

The feathers are the second important area of focus. When at all possible manually focus so the feathers are in focus with the eyes. In the case of motion the feathers will not be in absolute focus but as close to in-focus as possible. This barn owl was about to fly. Notice that the feathers are not in perfect focus but the details are still rich given that capturing motion and stopping it is difficult. Expecting to see motion in an image like this is normal and actually enhances the image. If the owl was just sitting there one would expect the feathers to be absolutely sharp and distinct. If you can nearly count all the feathers on a bird that is not in motion you have done a fine job if the feathers are slightly blurry on a bird that is or is about to be in motion then you have done a great job as well.

Key Area Three

What about the bird’s color?

Lorikeets Kissing

On some birds, the color and setting are what’s going to make the image. That is the case with this image of the lorikeets. Now many other components are “in focus” but had they not been the color of these two birds would have made the image. Pay attention to color when it comes to shooting birds. If you shoot in sports mode or high iso you lose the color depth. Losing color depth on a color-rich image such as the lorikeets would definitely be a detriment to the image.

In Summary

How do I find a good balance with all these components of the image?

flying hummingbird
Hummingbird in flight

In every image, you want to combine as many components of the subject as possible as is the case with the hummingbird. Its eye is black but the face is sharp, the colors are vivid, the wings show motion but the definition on the body is very good and the flowers it was after are mostly out of focus but present and the grass that was the field behind it is totally out of focus. The combination of these elements really makes for this “once in a lifetime” image for me. By the way, all the decisions for this image were made in pretty much a split second, hummingbirds are really quick.

I hope this short tutorial helps the readers out there. Happy shooting!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Click here to read: How to capture amazing images of birds: Part 1

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Author: Chris Flees

I am an artist, art promoter, and art marketing professional who specializes and blogs primarily about art topics and the "behind the scenes" of my subject and images. Occasionally I blog about Christian topics.

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