Photographing Your Birds

by Clint Robertson



First of all I want to say that I am not a professional photographer. My interest in photographing pigeons stems entirely from my own desire to capture the progress of my own breeding program in images I can look back on and to promote my Jacobins. It has been a self taught progression in my case that could have been greatly assisted and sped up had I taken a photography course of some kind. On the other hand in order to take a good picture of a pigeon you must first know exactly what that particular breed is supposed to look like in order to get the proper pose that best highlights the birds most positive features. It is often just that split second when the birds strikes the pose that you must be ready to take the picture. I have found that a poor picture can make a great bird look terrible but a good picture cannot make a poor bird look much better than what it really is.

Certain basics in understanding proper lighting, focusing and how your camera works are a must. I have found that the digital camera has made the process of getting a good picture much easier and this is the only camera I use now. I use the auto focus most of the time so clarity is not normally a problem.

There are some very basic rules you should follow when trying to get a good picture.

1) Make sure your bird is absolutely clean - both plumage and feet.

2) Make sure the background and environment the bird is being pictured in is clean with no droppings or dirt of any kind. It is amazing how an unwanted object in a picture can draw attention away from the intended subject. Cleanliness also gives a much more respectable impression and rightfully so.

3) The birds feathers should be smoothed out and arranged if necessary to give the bird the best possible look.

4) The background should contrast with the colour of the bird being pictured so the bird will appear crisp and clear in the picture and will not just blend into the background. Sometimes you may find that a mild contrast such as a white bird against a green background is more pleasing than a white bird against a black background.

5) Try to eliminate other birds from the area so the picture focuses only on the one bird you want the picture of.

6) Be prepared to take lots of time to get the picture you want and do not be satisfied until you get it.

7) Only try to picture your bird if it is in peak condition. Often I see people display pictures of their birds that are molting or that have been trimmed for breeding. Then they say “this is not a good picture but just wait until it is in condition”. This is ridiculous and pictures of this kind should never be made public. No picture is better than a bad picture. In doing so you are only making yourself and your birds look bad.

8) It often helps to have someone assist you to get the birds attention and get it to pose properly so you can just focus on taking the picture.

In a breed like Jacobins where station is critical you will want to take your picture as the bird stretches to is tallest pose. To do this you will want the bird to be in a large judging pen where the bird has enough room to stretch up and move around. Take the picture from the side to show maximum chain extension. With Jacobins it often works to have someone gently tap the top of the cage or under  the bottom of the surface the bird is standing on to get the bird to perk up and stretch. It is very important to take the picture when the bird is stretching to the maximum to get the best photo.

If you plan on taking many pictures it is a good idea to set up an area specifically to picture your birds. Make sure the lighting is good and you can comfortably picture the bird without bending over. Try to picture your Jacobin directly from the side at eye level. I will sometimes use a clean piece of coloured or white material as a background. It is nice to have a cage that you can completely remove the front of, to picture the bird in, so your view is not obstructed by the wire. This works fine for Jacobins but obviously not for more flighty varieties.

You will find that Jacobins picture much better when they are warm. So if it is cold outside give the Jacobins a chance to warm up in the pen or in a box before taking the picture. Also give the bird some time to relax in the pen before you start working it for a photo otherwise you will frighten the bird.

 Some Jacobins are more easily pictured in the loft. If this is the case be sure your loft surroundings are clean. I like to then place the bird in the fly pen and give it some space. I will then use the zoom on my camera to get close up pictures. You will find that the sound or stimulation of other nearby Jacobins will often get your bird to show off for a better picture. The important thing is to keep the other birds out of the picture.

I have also had very good luck taking good pictures while the Jacobins are being judged at a show. It is important at this time to have your camera ready while you are watching the Judging process. However Do Not use your flash or you will distract the judge and you must never interfere with the judging in any way by attracting attention to any one bird or distracting the judge. Be very discrete and considerate and use your zoom so you do not have to get too close.

Once you have your picture you should then edit it. By this I do not mean altering the bird in the picture in any way. What I am referring to is cropping the picture to eliminate excess background and zoom in on the subject a bit and you may want to sharpen the contrast. All of this can be done with a variety of programs available for your PC.

A good picture speaks volumes. A poor picture should never be used. No picture is better than a poor picture. By this I am not referring to the quality of the bird being photographed but rather that you take the best possible picture of the subject you are working with. Never settle for anything less. At times I have used some blurred pictures to promote my stock however these still showed the strengths of the individual when I had no other pictures to work with. 

 Clint Robertson        Email:
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