Bird thread - with Canon FF camera's

Started May 9, 2014 | Discussions thread
TimR32225 Veteran Member • Posts: 3,405
Re: Kenny

Thanks for your generous compliment, Kenny.

I try to get it right in the camera a much as I can, but when a photo needs editing, I do most of it within Adobe Camera Raw. Since so many features have been added to ACR in the last couple versions, I usually find it unnecessary to do much if any editing in Photoshop itself. The software I am using is Photoshop CC.

I tried DPP years ago, it was slow and lacked features, so I stuck with Photoshop. Since I'm perfectly content with Photoshop, I don't feel it's worth revisiting DPP. But before discussing software, first some basics about capturing the image...

The most important thing is to get the exposure as close to perfect as you can in the camera, so little if any editing is necessary. Understanding exposure and using the exposure mode that gives you the best chance for consistent success is the key.

I shoot raw, and almost always shoot BIF in full manual exposure mode, because it's the easiest and most consistent.   In manual mode, the camera will not adjust the exposure if the brightness of the background changes, like it does if you are shooting Av or Tv. This is why there are a lot of frustrated bird photographers shooting Av or Tv. If a bird flies from a blue sky to a background of darker trees or water, you are dead in Av or Tv because it's very difficult to adjust exposure compensation quickly enough and still get he shot, and the difference between those 2 scenarios is about 2-stops. In manual exposure mode you just shoot away because your exposure is correct no matter the background.

On a typical day with blue sky, you want to meter off the sky and choose shutter, aperture and iso settings that cause the exposure meter in your viewfinder to register +1. You can adjust slightly if necessary after a couple test shots. It can be any combination of the three, but be sure to choose a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action, and an aperture to give adequate depth of field. I typically like a shutter speed of 1/2500 or higher for BIF but it can be less with slower birds. I typically shoot with an aperture about 1 stop from wide open, but sometimes I shoot my 500 f4 wide open at f4. If you are shooting a slow lens like the 400 f5.6, I suggest shooting it wide open.

I like to use a flash and better beamer to throw some light on the underside of the bird. I seldom shoot bursts because I find that good timing is better than the spray-and-pray approach that some use. Also, your flash does not recycle fast enough to fire on consecutive shots in a burst anyway. There are times when a burst is appropriate, but you can't really do it effectively when using flash unless you are using a quantum-turbo external flash battery. But why I don't do that is a story for another time.

There is not any specific workflow I follow, but here are a few typical practices I may use when needed. If a photo is under or over-exposed, I will correct that in ACR, along with possibly some tweaks to shadows and highlights, if needed. If you have to raise shadow detail more than a little, you may find it useful to move the 'clarity' slider to the right to restore any crispness you lose by raising the shadow detail. I also check for color casts and adjust the white balance if necessary. It's important that you do your editing on a calibrated monitor.

I typically also view the image at 100% and set the amount of sharpening (and if necessary) add a little noise reduction. If any one color in the image is too strong or weak, you can raise or lower the saturation or luminosity of individual colors in ACR. I hardly ever make that adjustment but occasionally I might. All of this is done inside Adobe Camera Raw. When finished, I convert the image and open the JPG. Usually it does not need further editing in Photoshop, but sometimes I check shadows/highlights again, and tweak if necessary. I also double check for color casts and make one final observation on exposure level. Occasionally I find it beneficial to raise the exposure a little bit more and finally safe the JPG.

I'm not sure if any of the software talk is relevant to you (if you are using DPP). But the tips on how to set the camera should be helpful.

Good luck, and thanks again for your kind compliment on the photos.

If you care to, you can see lots of my wildlife photography on birds and other animals, on my photo blog here:


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 TimR32225's gear list:TimR32225's gear list
Canon EOS 7D Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Canon EOS-1D X Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM +13 more
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