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Bird Photography: Design the visual effect


Bird photography is my greatest passion. I will show you how you can improve the quality of your photos – with simple means.

Before I show you how the image design affects the whole photo, I would like to share a few thoughts. Photography has changed a lot in the last decades. Sensors are becoming more and more light-sensitive, cameras are equipped with more and more technology and it is ultimately a matter of “fighting” the competition for the last 0.2 f-stops in the dynamic range. Of course I am also interested in the technology behind the camera body and the latest developments and trends in the camera market. But do we as nature photographers really perceive all these minimal changes so strongly that we have to go straight for the better camera?

Remember: the equipment you have is only as good as you are!

Please always respect nature!

Always be sure not to destroy a habitat for a photo and pay attention to the warning calls of native birds during the breeding season. A longer disturbance often impairs the breeding success. So I can only warmly recommend that you deal with the animals beforehand and get to know their behaviour. The welfare of the animals should always have the highest priority.

Harmonic design effect

The composition of the image also determines whether you look at a photo for longer than three seconds in bird photography itself, but also in post-production. If it is clumsily chosen, without meaning and without space, it does not appear harmonious. In the following, I will describe how to create a photo harmoniously and which mistakes you should avoid. One of the “mistakes” that I see most often is the central positioning of the bird in the picture. In a few cases this position in the picture is harmonious.

Bird Photography: Design the visual effect 1
Ring-billed Gull | 400 mm | 1/1600 | ISO 800 | +0,7 EV | f7,1

In this photo the central positioning is quite advantageous. The seagull flew over the roaring stream of the river before the water in Niagara Falls falls into the depths. Due to the spread of the wings and the impact, however, the alignment is definitely suitable here.

The “golden” rules

Bird Photography: Design the visual effect 2
Great crested grebe| 500 mm | 1/800 | ISO 2000 | +0,3 EV | f5,6 | bean bag

It is often important that the screen layout is created according to certain design rules. One of the most important and simplest rules is the rule of thirds.

It finds the largest application in the field of landscape photography. Here the image is divided into nine equally sized pieces. The rule says that the subject should be placed at one of the four intersections or a line to make the image look harmonious. You can have this one-third grid displayed in the viewfinder and on the display as well as in post-processing in every camera.

Bird Photography: Design the visual effect 3
Partridge| 500 mm | 1/500 | ISO 2500 | +0,7 EV | f5,6 |free hand

The golden section is another rule for image design. Once you have mastered the rule of thirds, you shouldn’t find it so difficult to learn the golden ratio. As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that the vertical and horizontal lines are each shifted a little further to the center than you saw in the Rule of Thirds.

The parts of the motif that are particularly important to you in the picture are then oriented along the edges of the cut or diagonally along the middle rectangle according to the rule of the golden ratio. The golden section usually stands for a harmonious and balanced image composition. In contrast to this, the rule of thirds, which works with a little tension, stands in contrast to the golden section.

Play with rules and exceptions

Important for your bird pictures is that you should apply one of the two rules in order to give your subject exactly the attention you intend to pay when taking pictures.

But: exceptions confirm the rule. And this of course also applies to bird photography. If you break the rules, the picture can look very exciting.

One last tip: You should always leave room for your subject. If the bird looks to the right, give it space to the right and vice versa. Not “breathing” pictures seem to be constricted and crowded. Unfortunately there are still too many of them. Here you can definitely stand out from other bird photographers.

At this point I wish you a lot of fun experimenting in bird photography and learning the golden rules. I promise you that they will improve your photos in one go and make them look more harmonious. Have fun!

vogelfotografie. bird photography
Steinkauz | 500 mm | 1/640 | ISO 1250 | +0,3 EV | f 5,6

My present to you!

In my free e-paper I have summarized this tip and five more tips with pictures and easy to understand photo analyses. Download the e-paper and benefit from the easy-to-understand tips and tricks so that you can take even better pictures of the local birdlife in the future. Improve your bird photography!

Stay up-to-date!

Also follow me on Instagram to see new pictures and motives regularly and to get a look behind the scenes. At the end of each month I also organize the so-called “Monthly Votings”, where the photo of the month is chosen. Four months a year you can take part in a competition and win great prizes.


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