Bird Photography: Western Meadowlark

| July 4, 2012
Bird Photography: Western Meadowlark

Western Meadowlark – 420mm, f/5.6, 1/250th, Canon 5D Mark III

Better Bird Photography with Exposure Compensation

I ran around our 2.5 acre yard with my nephew this afternoon showing him a few things about bird photography. After a few minutes of hunting with the binoculars, we spotted this Western Meadowlark. As I slowly approached him while he sat on a dead tree, he fled and landed long enough on this weed for me get a shot.

When photographing a bird in broad daylight, you may notice that the bird typically turns out dark, underexposed, and without the detail and color you had hoped for. This is usually because the relatively small bird is set against a big bright sky or background. As a result, the camera primarily exposes for the bright sky, which causes the bird to turn out too dark. The trick is to make sure the bird itself is exposed properly in order to capture its vivid detail.

For this particular photo, my camera was set to aperture priority mode. To properly expose the bird, I had to use the exposure compensation dial to increase the exposure by three stops. Although this caused my background to get brighter, It allowed for an optimal exposure of the bird. The lesson here is that you may need to use exposure compensation or manual exposure settings to get the right exposure for your photograph. Today’s cameras are awesome with their automatic exposure capabilities but they cannot make all the right decisions in every case.

Below is an example of the background driving the camera’s exposure settings instead of the subject. If I had used exposure compensation, this image would have turned out better. Learn how to manipulate the exposure settings on your camera and you will be taking pictures you love in no time!

The background is better exposed than the birds!

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Category: Bird Photography, Photography, Tutorials

Comments (2)

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  1. Terry says:


  2. A.Barlow says:

    Wonderful shot man, must have been pretty close with that one. Sweet color too!