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Came a calling this morning

By Roy_Perryman  
Robin perched on a fence in light rain. Think I got the aperture about right for this to give a shallow depth of field while leaving the bird fairly sharp. I would be interested to hear if you think it could be improved. Had to crop as the bird was at a distance but this makes the background predominantly white to show off the red of his breast.

Tags: Robin Wild bird Wildlife and nature

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dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 769 England
18 Feb 2021 11:32PM
It's a subject that's very popular on this site.
I guessed this was a crop, amd as such I'd have gone for more space in front of the bird. The empty space ion the right doesn'e add any visual or environmental information and makes the composition. You can upload the original as a mod so others can suggest alternative compositions.

You were at maximum aperture so couldn't have gone wider for a more diffuse background but this background looks fine. Stopping down to f/8 would be better for lens performane and wouldn/ have made much diffence to the background.

However, this isn't sharp and the primary cause is the relatively slow shutter speed. At that focal lenght and shutter speed movement is going to be anb issue. Were you using a tripod? Even with VR, handho;ding is a risk.
And VR only stabilises the image, not the subject. It's interesting to note how living creatures, especially small ones, can move even if it's a twitch. Slow shutter speeds can be used, as you can see if you take a look at Mike_Young's portfolio.
Cropping will only highlight any errors in focus or technique.

The shutter speed could so easily have been higher. Using ISO 100is fine in good light but to be fair ISO 400 is so good on modern gear there's no reason not to use it for shots like this. Even 800 would be fine. So you could easily be using 1/500 or higher in these conditions.

In my mod I cropped wasted space on the right, then made a Levels adjustment for a full rangw of tones followed by a Curves adjustment to boost brihtness and contrast. A little warming finished off the image.
19 Feb 2021 7:40AM
Hi darklord,

Thanks for the feedback. This was a snap, literally. I was making the early morning tea when the robin perched on the fence so I grabbed the camera and took a quick handful of shots, handheld through my kitchen window. I had checked the white balance as I had played with taking shots of the fire indoors the previous night.

I will try the suggested settings next time a bird comes calling, they frequent that bit of fence as we have feeders there. I will take a look at Mike Young’s portfolio thanks.

Have a good one Roy
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1848 England
19 Feb 2021 10:55AM
Remember that ISO is part of the Exposure Triangle: in relatively dull light you need to raise it, and quite a lot for a subject like this and 250mm on the zoom. I'd have wanted at least 1/500 - having said that, wildlife is definitely not my thing.

Colours show up better, as a rule, against a dark background, for future reference - have a try with something indoors!

Were you shooting through a window? That doesn't necessarily destroy images, but it really takes the edge off, sometimes!
19 Feb 2021 11:23AM
Hi Dudler, yes I was showing through a window, it was a grab shot as I was making tea! funnily enough I am sitting in what is laughingly called my office playing with ISO aperture and shutterspeed to try and work it all out. be prepared for some strange pictures!! Roy
dudler Plus
17 1.6k 1848 England
19 Feb 2021 12:35PM
Thanks for the full-frame shot (though it's a different frame, as the bird's pose is not identical). It's even softer, I think.

Robins are friendly, and will get very close to people they see regularly.
dark_lord Plus
17 2.8k 769 England
19 Feb 2021 12:35PM

Quote:they frequent that bit of fence as we have feeders there

That's good as the birds will be used to coming down and you can set yourself up accordingly.

When warmer spring weather arrives, depending on your house of course you could shoot through an open window or door. It is possible, if you're still and quiet to sit just outside and the birds will come closer if they don' perceive a threat. Robins are bold, especially when they have young to feed.
pamelajean Plus
15 1.5k 2216 United Kingdom
19 Feb 2021 1:03PM
As Keith says, this is a popular subject on this site, especially at ChristmasSmile.

These birds are one of the friendliest and, once used to you, will have little fear. They are territorial, so you will see this one often and the two of you can become good friends. Sit fairly still outside, camera ready, settings already sorted, and be patient. This way you will get a much closer and much better shot.
Your camera settings have been dealt with above.

Keith comments upon the empty space on the right. This is a massive crop, so you can compose your desired crop very easily. This is all about Negative Space, and HERE is an EPZ article about it.
You haven't placed your robin dead centre, which is good, but you have offset it in the wrong direction, with more space behind it than in front of it, whereas the idea of negative space is to have more space in front of it and less behind it.
Always make sure your subject is looking towards the area of negative space, and this applies to people, animals and even things like flowers and insects.

Should there come a time when you want to pursue bird photography more, try setting up some attractive perches near to your feeding station, and you will find birds settle on them waiting their turn at the food. That way you get a shot that excludes feeders. You can also make sure those perches are in front of a good clean background that is free from distractions. Work done.

banehawi Plus
16 2.4k 4239 Canada
19 Feb 2021 4:26PM
If you like bird photography, and plan to do more, you will not be happy with that focal length, unless you are shooting close with captive birds.

You need to get to 400mm, which will be 600mm equivalent on your camera.

We mentioned using Aperture priority or shutter priority previously, and you should explore these modes, superior to Manual for what youre doing,as you will have access on the fly to effective exposure compensation and can adjust quickly. Using shutter priority here I would have uses at least 1/250th, maximum aperture, with auto ISO.

I have uploaded a much less cropped version of your original original so you can see it can look decent without being a tight crop.


19 Feb 2021 6:37PM
This is all very well if what you want is basically a record shot... nothing more than yet another ten-a-penny iteration of "bird-on-a-stick."
But another angle you could perhaps consider would be to try and make a "picture" that people might enjoy looking at, that would say "Robin" in a slightly more interesting way. So how about maybe trying a slightly different compositional approach, showing the bird as a living thing in its environment??
I'll upload a mod to illustrate the point.

I didn't do much apart from the crop, just selected the bird and tweaked the sliders in 'Levels' to make it stand out more.
Just a suggestion... you might like it, you might not.

What do you think? Is it an idea worth looking at?


Addendum: I was typing while Willie was uploading his mod, which takes a similar approach.
chase Plus
15 2.1k 562 England
19 Feb 2021 6:45PM
That's one heck of a crop which has added to the softness and the noise in your image and you are at the top end and perhaps beyond the capabilities of your lens.
As Pamela has suggested if you want to go further with bird stuff you have to bring them much closer to you, Robins in particular will oblige, they are brave little birds and setting something up in your garden with a good bg would be the way forward.

I would have liked to have seen much more space infront of him and a little less behind so I did a mod.... increased the canvas size and copied over a section of bg. I also flipped the frame horizontally and cropped from behind him as generally we read things from left to right.
I did lighten the little catchlight in his beady eye, that is really important to bring your subjects to life.
I attempted to sharpen a little but this really is soft and I couldn't get where I wanted to be with that issue, sorry.

My second mod has a sky replacement, just to demonstrate the difference a plainer bg would make to this, not generally recommended tbh, simply to show you something different.

1/100th isn't really fast enough to get a steady image of little birds, they move so very quickly unless there is something of interest nearby and you do really need a much longer lens.

20 Feb 2021 8:13AM
Thanks for all the help everyone, I am continually amazed by the generosity of the help freely given. There is a lot of food for thought. Thanks again Roy

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