Texas Hill Country Images: Photographing Birds In Your Backyard, Part 2

They fly past the edge of your eye, startling, luminous, lovely…and are gone.


‘Portrait of a Male Cardinal’, PPA Print Merit Award Winner
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This handsome Cardinal was just so colorful and pretty!  I am so thankful to be able to photograph this beauty  – and its quickly becoming one of my personal favorite Wild Bird fine art prints! I love the catchlight in his eye, fluffiness, and you can see all of the tiny feathers under his chin and around his beak.
I kept the eyes and feathers surrounding the face & main focal point tack shape, yet softened the outer edges and background with Photoshop’s blur tool. Lastly, I added a soft texture layer around the edges as well – that’s it! I prefer only using minor Photoshop adjustments.

When the male Cardinals visit my homemade log feeder, they tend to linger for several seconds, carefully picking out their favorite seeds, while other birds patiently wait nearby for their turn. The male and female Cardinals often land at the same time, chirping, and sometimes they offer their mate a seed!

Portrait of a Mockingbird Mocking Bird

I’m enjoying the grey-on-grey neutral palette of colors in this image with the hint of the golden eye.

My-oh-my the Mockingbirds are the kings/queens of this yard!  This larger bird has made a habit of sitting down on the log feeder getting quite comfy & hogging it all for a long period of time. Which allows great photo ops! 🙂

During this time of the year, our background woods are mostly grey, and using a wide F Stop of 2.8. 4.0, 5.6 helps to blur out the background, or create bokeh, which helps to separate the main subject from the background. The faster the lens, the more light the lens allows, but the more expensive they are as an investment. Experiment with the fastest F-stop your lens allows to create bokeh. If you want to become a more serious photographer, its best to invest in the best optics you can afford. I use Canon ‘L’ Series lenses.

Distance: The distance between the subject and background, will also determine the amount of blur, or bokeh. Its best to have at least 6+ feet or more distance from bird to background.

Bright Skies vs. Soft Light: For these intimate style portraits, I wanted to keep bright sky spots out of the images, which helps to create a less distracting, subtle, background. Bright skies can be pretty, but they can also be very distracting. Sun spots on limbs, and bright sky spots can will compete with the main subject, drawing the viewer’s eye away from your subject when viewing any artwork. Try photographing your bird on soft, cloudy days, eliminating sky spots, sun spots, and all distractions from your backgrounds. Less is more.

Focus: Make sure your lens is focused on the eye. You may need to pre-focus on the area where they are expected to land, and shoot in manual focus mode.

Shutter Speed & ISO: For action shots, you’ll need a faster shutter speed to help stop the action at the feeder. Even if you have to push your lens/camera’s limits and kick up the ISO high, today’s digital cameras & Photoshop editing offer great opportunities to help reduce an over pixelated image. Keep in mind the pixels may easily show if you must heavily crop your image, then enlarge it to create a larger print.
Over sharpening your image may also show over-pixelated images, esp along any highlighted edges.
If your only creating small prints, or small digital presentations, a high ISO may not be all that bad, and may help to grab that action shot.
Since I wanted to create an old master style type portrait for this fluffy bird series, I kept my ISO to a minimum.

Creating a Series:
I’m designing these Wild Bird prints in a square format, esp since they all have a similar portrait style.   When displayed together, they will make a nice presentation.  
Just to test them out, I printed them as a set of 5×5 prints with a simple wide black wood frame  … its just a test.


Using my old cell phone here – I know these arnt the greatest snapshots. haha.

But I think these square format bird portraits hang well as a series. … what do you think?

Try creating a series of similar style, same crop format, same frames, all color, or all black & white images. A series of similar images may take your art presentation to a higher level, help draw attention to your display, and delight the viewers.

Its been fun peeking out the window,  watching the drama unfold in the bird world, just outside my ‘photography cave’ window. I’d like to do more bird photography in the future!

I hope by sharing this info, it may help to inspire others to set up a photography blind in their own backyard.

See Part 1 for the camera set-up.

Thanks for looking, and be sure to visit our shop for available artwork.

© Hill Country Images Fredericksburg Texas
Please do not print your own copies, or reproduce in anyway without first getting written permission from the artist.

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