Now, these are seven things that I think you should think about, in the field, while you taking pictures. Also, there’s a bonus tip at the end, so eight tips today and then I’m gonna include a summary at the very end. The first thing is to get the bird off-center.
You don’t have to worry about the rule of thirds, the golden spiral, any of that kind of stuff as long as the bird is off-center, a little bit, it’s going to be okay. Here we have a Bobolink and it’s smack dab in the middle of the frame and this is what want to avoid. I had to crop this to put it in the middle of the frame. Here’s the original photograph, so the Bobolink is off a little bit, I’m looking up at it so I put a little bit more sky above it and it’s not in the center of the frame.
That’s all it has to do, not be in the center of the frame. And then, here, with this Osprey it’s above the center of the frame, the eyes are slightly left of the vertical axis in the center of the frame. Now, the next thing to think about is balance while you’re taking a picture. In this title slide, here’s this song sparrow and he’s over here and there’s so much white space, the white space becomes an element in the photograph and, so, that’s the balance that the title slide has.
7 Guide for Bird Photography
 Typically, we think of it as,
here’s this Yellow Warbler and it’s bright, it’s pretty small but it’s balanced by these loose open lighter-colored leaves from that willow tree. And then here with this Rufous Hummingbird, nicely balanced, there’s the hummingbird, there’s the flower, a bit of balance in your image so that it just looks well composed and well thought through. Now, we want to include lines in our pictures when we can. Lines can create eye movement. Vertical lines can maybe evoke power, curved lines can evoke calmness and tranquility, bold lines help the eyes focus on them so that the eyes move faster through the picture.
This barb-wire’s very catchy so you’re catching this barb-wire, you’re following it to the ends over here and, so actually, it would have been better if the bird was facing the other direction and the barb-wire led the eye to the bird. Then here, our line through here is this diagonal edge of the rocks that this Ruddy Turnstone is walking down.
And then here, with this Northern Shoveler, there’s a line that, kind of, goes right through the middle of the image. And I did that on purpose because I’m combining that line with a little bit of symmetry, at least, vertically, you know, the top half and bottom half of the frame because the reflection is so sharp.
 Little blurry
It’s a little blurry ’cause it’s a reflection and this water’s obviously moving but there’s some symmetry there, so we’ll talk about symmetry in a minute. Point of view and perspective. Point of view, I talk about this all the time, it’s really important to get eye level with the bird, as much as possible. I’m looking slightly down on this bird. Here I’m pretty much eye level with the bird.
Point of view is your relationship to the bird and are your eye level? Do you need to move right or left to change the background? Do you want to look up at it, so that it seems more powerful? Or down at it so that it seems smaller? Those kinds of things. Perspective is backing up some and including more of the habitat or using a wider angle lens and perspective and point of view are different.
 From the point of view you are changing where you are taking the picture from and perspective you’re changing the lens or you’re changing the distance to the bird. You’re changing how the bird is in relationship to the background. And then, backgrounds, we’ve all been taught that we have to have a smooth soft background, like this picture. And it works, it’s good, it separates the bird from the background, it makes a pleasing picture in the mind or focusing on the bird.
So, all of that stuff is going on and it’s a good basic guideline but I think we use it as a crutch too much. So, we’ll talk about a different thing in a minute. Sagebrush Sparrow singing, it’s on some sage that’s shown in here so I’m showing its habitat. The background is pretty much blurred, we’ve got these sticks, little twig things coming in here. I don’t mind those because it kind of gives you a little bit more information about the habitat of the bird and then also, it does give a little bit more depth or interest to the image.
 Symmetry, earlier I said don’t put the bird in the middle of the frame. But if the bird looks straight at you and the bird is staring right down the lens at you, push the shutter button, get the picture because symmetry will work. Now, I cropped this image, I took it as a vertical but I cropped it for today’s tutorial. And you can see that the bird is pretty much in the center of the frame here, the eyes are above the centerline, usually, that’s what happens in most of these kinds of images.
I’m not paying attention to the rule of thirds, not paying attention to the golden spiral or any of that stuff. I’m just, here’s the bird, here’s the intensity of its look in its eyes and symmetry can work this way. And then this Grebe picture, this time, I took this picture and the Grebe was looking straight at me, it was center focused, it was smack dab in the middle of the frame.
 I cropped it and moved it over to the left a little bit, just to show you that you can use those eyeball shots in a slightly different way, as well, and it still works. And then depth in the image. Background and depth, background, we’ve been taught for about 35 years that this is the kind of background that we want. But there’s a trend, nowadays, that we want depth in our bird images. So, herewith this Long-billed Curlew in San Diego, the palm trees aren’t 100% blurred out, you can tell that they’re palm trees and that just adds depth to the image and interest, right? You’re trying to figure out, wow, there’s a shorebird it’s at the shore, there are palm trees, where is this? That kind of thing.
It just makes it more interesting. These are all Dunlin and Western Sandpipers here. About 80%, 90% of the West Sandpipers and Dunlin that migrated on the west coast stop at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge each spring. That’s showing you 50,000 shorebirds or something.
But that’s, sort of, the foreground is those birds. Here’s some middle ground, is the edge of the bay here or the basin and then trees in the background. So, multiple layers in the image make for a more interesting image. And, of course, the Sandhill Crane at Bosque del Apache.
The crane in the foreground, the trees, here, are the middle ground and we have some distant mountains. So, that all adds up to make a more interesting image. And, look, we even have some water drops in the foreground. Hey if you haven’t already, hit the Subscribe button and click on the Bell icon, just so that you don’t miss any future tutorials. And so, here’s the bonus. This is TNT, try new things.
 Every time you go out, experiment a little bit. Try something different, try something new. So, with this Snow Goose at Bosque del Apache I wanted to get some wing blur so I shot at 1/30th of a second, f/22 in ISO 320. I was shooting in aperture priority mode, I closed down the aperture to f/22 so that the shutter speed would be lower and the wings would blur.
That’s one way to do it, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Now if you do this, if you’re shooting at f/22 or f/36 or something like that, to close down the aperture, if you’re sensor is dirty the dust will show up a lot more so you have to be careful about that. And then, here, 1/5th of a second, f/36 ISO 400. Now, I could have lowered the ISO down to 100 and I probably should have, then I wouldn’t have had to use f/36 but this just gives you the idea of what a long shutter speed will do when a bunch of snow geese blasts off at places like Bosque del Apache. The idea is just to experiment with your shutter speeds.
 Shoot at one 1/5th and then just go up to 1/10th, 1/13th 1/15th, 1/30th of a second. See how much blur you can get or not get, just by changing the shutter speed like that. I used to shoot in aperture priority mode and just change the aperture so the shutter speed would be lower, now I use this variable neutral density filter or I use a 5-stop neutral density filter, if I’m out and it’s bright and I want to slow down the shutter speed. That means I can still shoot wide-open, so I can have a shallow depth of field but I can get blur in the bird’s wings. And here with this Dunlin at sunset, I wanted to create some interesting movements and, so as I do in a lot of my pictures, when I use a slow shutter speed I also pan with the birds, so the background is blurred. You can see that I use the same technique here, I just close down the aperture so the shutter speed would be lower and I lowered the ISO.
Hey, if you want to learn more about bird photography, pick up a copy of my book, “Learn the Art of Bird Photography”. It is the complete field guide for beginning and intermediate photographers and birders. It’s available on Amazon as a Kindle and trade paperback. Here’s the summary that we have. The bird needs to be off-center, you have to think about your point of view, get depth in your image. If you can’t get depth in your image, make sure the background is clean and not cluttered. Balance the image visually, the right side and the left side need to weigh about the same.
Symmetry works well and you can put the bird smack dab in the middle of the bird’s looking straight at you, lines can be helpful to change the mood of the image, vertical lines, power, curved lines, calm tranquility. And so TNT, try new things. Every time you’re out photographing, try new things.