I decided to go down to our local wildlife sanctuary and take some bird shots. It was an overcast day but the birds were active so I had a blast. After returning home I was disappointed by how the photos turned out. They looked very muddy and lacked brightness and crisp color. I was shooting with my D40 and a 70-300mm VR lens w/UV filter. I was shooting in aperture priority f/5.6. Attached are a couple of shots to give an example.
First Photo Settings: Shutter - 1/320 sec Aperture - f/5.6 ISO - 200 EB - +1.0ev Focal length - 300mm White Bal - Auto Metering - Pattern
Second Photo Settings: Shutter - 1/2500 sec Aperture - f/5.6 ISO - 400 EB - 0.0ev Focal length - 300mm White Bal - Auto Metering - Pattern
#1. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 0
St. Paul, US
They look underexposed to me. I'm thinking the +1 EV wasn't enough. With that much bright-ish sky that the camera is trying to meter with, you are going to need to really adjust that EV compensation I think.Possible that the UV filter affected the image contrast I would think as well.
#2. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 0
I'm not sure what you were expecting for color - in those conditions, I'd say that you got pretty accurate color. To a first order, the light you get is the light you have to work with, and this light doesn't lend itself to the punchy color that people like.
I agree with the underexposure of the birds - with bright backgrounds like that, the matrix meter will definitely be trying to average everything out.
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
#3. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 0 Tue 11-Aug-09 07:26 PM by MotoMannequin
Livermore, CA, US
You can't use the matrix meter to shoot birds. The majority of your composition will be bright sky and the meter will pick that up. It will not even notice the bird.
For birds in flight, I'd recommend you go straight manual exposure. Keep the shutter 1/800" or faster, maybe drop to 1/640" in really poor light, but ideally you'd like 1/1250" or 1/1000".
The basis for your exposure settings will be the "sunny 16" rule, which states shutter = 1/ISO at f/16 in sunny weather. So, start with 1/200" ISO 200 f/16. Open up aperture 3 stops f/16->f/11->f/8->f/5.6 means 3 stops more light, to take away 3 stops of light by speeding the shutter 1/200->1/400->1/800->1/1600" So, sunny 16 says: f/5.6 ISO 200 1/1600". Since it's not sunny, you're probably a couple stops too dark now, so let's add a couple stops more light: f/5.6 ISO 400 1/800" This puts your shutter about as low as you want it. Now do a test exposure on something about the same color as the birds, and tweak before you find the action. Judging by your exposure values, you probably needed something more like f/5.6 ISO800 1/800". Discover the right settings, and you're good to shoot birds until the light changes.
Ideally, you'd prefer to shoot that lens at f/6.3 or f/7.1 or even f/8, but you'll be compromising based on how much light you have, how high you're comfortable raising ISO, and how fast a shutter you can get. On a very sunny day, I'd like to shoot f/7.1 ISO400 1/1250". I don't hesitate to open up the 70-300VR to f/5.6 in really poor light, but I like to stop it down a little whenever possible.
That should work great, unless you're in rapidly changing light (sun moving in and out of clouds) in which case you may try shooting spot meter, aperture priority or manual with auto-ISO on. Problem with this is, you'll throw away a lot of shots when the spot meter misses its target and picks up sky instead.
#6. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 3
Thank you all for your input. I never knew that buying a DSLR would be such a challenge to learn. I like a good challenge and am having a blast learning how to use it. It is easy to just put it on AUTO but if that was the case I would just put the Fugi point and shoot in the camera bag. LOL
Moto: This is a great tip (Sunny 16 Rule). I really like the way you have explained that rule. I have put it the camera bag as a reference. I am going to go back out tomorrow when it is suppose to be sunny and try it again.
JRP: I did something similar in PS using Auto Levels and applying a filter adjusting to my liking. Photoshop is a great tool and I use it all the time.
#7. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 6 Thu 13-Aug-09 10:13 PM by MotoMannequin
Livermore, CA, US
>Moto: This is a great tip (Sunny 16 Rule). I really like the >way you have explained that rule. I have put it the camera bag >as a reference. I am going to go back out tomorrow when it is >suppose to be sunny and try it again.
Just remember to test your exposure before shooting. Sunny 16 is for an subject in sun, but if you're shooting up at a bird, the side you're recording will be in shade, so I often end up a stop or 2 brighter exposure than sunny 16 recommends. For brown birds like the hawks I get around here, I'll test expose on a brown tree trunk in shadow first.
#4. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 0
Tallahassee, Florida, US
Another hint: Shoot with the sun behind you. In the morning, shoot toward the west; in the evening shoot toward the east. Of course, this isn't always feasible, but if you can do it you will get more color and definition in the birds.
#8. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 0
The key to wildlife (especially birds in flight) is blue sky, sun low on the horizon. Just about every high end image you will ever see was shot that way. Clouds are usually insurmountable because in order to get enough exposure on the bird, the clouds will usually be blown out white, and you still won;t get the same pop. There are exceptions, but you need a rather dark cloud base but with enough light (sun peeking through and behind you) to get the job done, which is tough. _________________________________ Neil Nikonians Team My Gallery
#10. "RE: Wildlife Photos (What am I doing wrong)" In response to Reply # 9
Thank you all again for your input. You have all been extremely helpful. Just waiting for another sunny day up here in the Pacific NW to get out.
>Pretty good efforts, actually. Overcast conditions with this >subject and shooting situation aren't going to give you eye >popping exposures or color. > >You've already received good advice here. In summary: > >- Know what to expect with various lighting conditions. This >is a must because, despite all this great technology we have, >your camera's meter does not balance light the way your >brain/eyes can. > >- Make good decisions to adjust your settings and compensate >for the light. > >- Use post-processing to tweak and "finish" your >image. >
dclarhorn: I took a look at your gallery on your web site and your wild life photos are absolutely amazing. I have to say my favorite is the shots of the Red Cardinal. My favorite bird.