We Simplify The Technical!

Do you want your bird photography to stand out?  Bird Photographer and Educator Ray Hennessy suggests including more landscape and dramatic lighting, among other ideas in episode 189 of The Understand Photography Show!

Episode 189

Creative Bird Photography – Stand out with Unique Compositions and Lighting

Ray Hennessy teaches us ways to increase our creativity with bird and wildlife photography in this episode of the Understand Photography Show.  Ray’s photos are at the bottom.  

Show Notes

  • Break some of the lighting and composition rules
  • Backlight for dramatic rim lighting. The key is to have a dark background. Move your body until there are trees or something dark behind the bird, while the sun is rimming its body.
  • Backlight for silhouettes is cool too!
  • Lensflare can be a creative effect in bird photography. It’s tough to focus so try to focus on the rim of light.  You must shoot in full manual mode.  Ray suggests using the overall metering mode (matrix – Nikon, evaluative – Canon, multi – Sony).
  • Side light on the bird is dramatic, especially with a dark background. Wait for the bird to face the light. Be in continuous drive mode (burst).
  • Spot meter on white birds and underexpose a bit.
  • Overcast light is a pretty soft light.
  • Composition – leave a little of the landscape in the frame. It doesn’t have to be a tight shot of the animal.
  • Use a long lens for a shallow depth of field. Ray uses a 500mm f4 lens.
  • Remember to move yourself to get the right background.
  • A monopod will help you get around more easily than a tripod.
  • Purposely put something in the foreground to shoot through to add interest. The closer it is to your camera, the more it will blur.
  • Remove distracting elements like sticks but don’t destroy the environment.
  • Tell the story of the bird by having the bird small in the frame in its environment.

The Understand Photography Show is an interview-style show about travel, nature and fine art photography. Host Peggy Farren interviews famous photographers, beginner photographers, specialty photographers, travel gurus and more on this weekly show.  It airs on Fridays on the Understand Photography Facebook page, Youtube and iTunes.

The motto at Understand Photography is “We Simplify the Technical”. If you like things explained to you in a simple, step by step manner, you’ll love The Understand Photography Show! https://www.understandphotography.com


Ray Hennessy is a bird and wildlife photographer, instructor and podcast host.  He’s been a full-time professional photographer in many niches for twenty years.  Join him on one of his exciting workshops or listen to his podcast!


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