Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Bird Photography III: The Trick To A Sharper Image

A good bird image is one with even sharpness throughout, well positioned, a sparkle in the eye and, above all, well lit up. I use the singular form “eye” because a bird is best presented when shot from the side – the profile view – either right or left. Never from the back or front. Only if you shoot the bird from the front, you will see both the eyes – an image you do not want. Also, the profile shot is better because it is able to show parts of the head, throat, belly, back, tail, the underpart and the rump of the bird - frontal or rear shot will not show all that.

For the uninitiated and the novitiate, the following image will look like the last word in bird photography. But in the professional world, the image will earn no respect. There are many problems with the image: the head and shoulder may be tack sharp – but the legs are totally out of focus – so is the tail. And, there is a disturbing shadow to the image.

Many problems with the image

The uneven sharpness is the result of me being in a wrong position when shooting the frame. I would have to have been in an angular position – that is why the head and shoulder are tack sharp – while the tail and legs are out of focus - soft. It is also apparent that the point of focus is wrong. However, the biggest problem is that I was too close to the bird which is not a good thing.

Getting very close to the bird can get you sharp images because the lens can pick up better feather details. The other good thing about being close to the bird is that any camera shake will be less pronounced. But being very close to the bird has one terrible disadvantage – it will result in very shallow DoF – giving you an image that will most likely be uneven in sharpness – like my above image.

From the image, an expert will see that the image was shot under a sunny condition – the shadow of the bird is proof of it. Shooting in sunny conditions is not good for bird photography. The image will be very harsh and most often the colors are not rendered faithfully.

On the other hand the image below is the kind of image one should aspire for. Everything falls into place in this image: it is tack sharp and the sharpness is even throughout, there is a glint in the eye and there is no clutter around the image. And the lighting is mellow and subdued – showing off the bird in all its majesty. The subject separation is near perfect.

A good image that is well exposed and well framed

Getting a perfectly exposed image is every bird photographer’s dream. But that also means the photographer must get out of the habit of saying: it is OK – it will do. As they say in the professional world:


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