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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre Bird Talk
Thread started 29 Mar 2017 (Wednesday) 09:02
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Settings for bird photography with a Canon 40D

 
padmoo
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Joined Mar 2017
Living in Atlanta, from Germany
Mar 29, 2017 09:02 |  #1

Hello bird enthusiasts!

I've gotten a bit more serious about my bird photography and been watching some youtube videos and read a lot of blogs. However, most of the advice is aimed at the newer camera bodies. I thought the manual shooting was a great advice until I realized my body does not support auto ISO. So I'm wondering what settings would be most useful for bird photography with my 40D. I'm thinking about setting it to Tv to freeze the birds in motion and raise the ISO to 800.

What settings are you shooting in or do you recommend?

Thank you!




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Tom ­ Reichner
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Omak, in north-central Washington state, USA
Mar 29, 2017 11:27 |  #2

.

Hello, Padmoo! Welcome to our wonderful forum! It's nice to have you with us.
.

padmoo wrote in post #18313970 (external link)
I'm thinking about setting it to Tv to freeze the birds in motion and raise the ISO to 800.

I will tell you what I would do if shooting birds with a 40D. What works best for you may be different, but I have good reasons for shooting the way I do and will share them with you.

I would mostly shoot in Av mode, a.k.a. Aperture Priority.

I would set the ISO to 400 and leave it there. Noise is a horrible thing to see in bird photographs.

I would give the exposure as much light as I could, without blowing out the highlights. I figure out what this exposure will be by shooting a test image, then looking at it on the LCD playback screen. Make sure that the blinkies are enabled. Increase the exposure of the test images until some blinkies appear, then back off 1/3 of a stop. The reason for this is that light is the enemy of noise, so if you give an exposure as much light as possible, you will be keeping the noise at a minimum.

For situations in which you do not have time for the above "test image method", I would have it on Av mode, set it to the largest aperture (lowest aperture number), and then dial in +2/3 of a stop exposure compensation. This is a good "catch all" that will give you the most chance of success when you don't have time to do fine-tuned exposure adjustments. But please do add the exposure compensation - the 40D, like other Canon DSLRs, seems to always underestimate the amount of light that is needed for a proper exposure. In other words, do NOT trust the 40D light meter. In fact, you may find that in many situations, adding a full stop of exposure compensation may be better than adding just 2/3 of a stop.

So basically what I am trying to do is to shoot an image that is brighter than what I want it to be, and then pulling the brightness down when I edit the photo on my computer. Doing this will result in the least noise and the fullest, richest colour gamut.

I would not worry about shutter speed unless the birds are flying or engaging in some type of fast, erratic behavior, such as fighting with one another. For most images, the birds will be still, and you can shoot great portraits at very slow shutter speeds. Many, many bird photographers mistakenly think that they need a lot of shutter speed, and this thinking usually keeps them from getting technically excellent photos in low light conditions.

As for White Balance, I would either use the auto WB setting or the "K" setting. When using "K", shoot a test shot at any temperature, then compare the image on the LCD with the scene in front of you. Make it warmer or cooler as needed to match the scene. Sometimes you may have creative reasons for not matching the actual scene in front of you, and the "K" setting is great for this, as it allows a great latitude of adjustment in either direction.

In giving you advice as to settings for the 40D, it would really help if we knew what lens you were using, and how frequently you use a tripod. I can't really offer any good advice about stopping down for sharpness unless I know what lenses you use for birds.

All of my above suggestions are based on my personal philosophy about bird photography, which is that I want excellent images. I do not really care about "getting the shot" unless the shot can be technically excellent.

What good is a photo if that photo has noise grain in it? What good is a photo if the background isn't perfectly rendered? What good is a photo if some of the highlights are blown? What good is a photo if some of the feather detail won't come up because the image is underexposed?

This is my thinking - that if conditions won't allow me to get a really good photo, then I don't want any photo at all. In other words, if I have to bring the ISO up to 800 (on a 40D), then why bother taking a photo at all? In that case I will just put the camera down an enjoy bird watching.

The way you feel about bird photography may be very different. You may want to take some photos even if they cannot be technically excellent, because you want to have a photo by which to remember your encounter. That is fine, and if that is the case then by all means push that ISO up to whatever you need in order to "get the shot".

This is why I cannot tell you what settings will be best for you. All I can do is to tell you what I would do if I were shooting birds with a Canon 40D.

.


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padmoo
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Joined Mar 2017
Living in Atlanta, from Germany
Mar 29, 2017 12:11 as a reply to Tom Reichner's post |  #3

Hi Tom,

thank you very much for your insights on camera settings. I will take your advice to the field next time I'm out and see how it works for me.
I'm currently using a Canon 100-400mm f5.6 L IS USM for bird photography and I believe I can get a lot more out of this nice lens by working on my technique and settings. I do not use/have a tri/monopod.
I think my main issue is that my images are not as sharp as I would like them to be. And I would like to think that is because there is something wrong with my AF but it most likely it is me, not knowing what I'm doing. I currently go birding early noon as I would like the most light possible to get a feel for my camera+lens and the effect of different shutter speeds and apertures. Increasing the shutter speed really stuck with me as I think I'm going to slow on that.

I've noticed the issue with the light meter on the 40D. I'm always +1 stop.

I've also set my camera to back button focus and hope this will help me with birds in flight.




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Tom ­ Reichner
"I am a little creepy"
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Joined Dec 2008
Omak, in north-central Washington state, USA
Mar 29, 2017 12:58 |  #4

padmoo wrote in post #18314132 (external link)
I do not use/have a tri/monopod.
I think my main issue is that my images are not as sharp as I would like them to be.

These two statements are probably connected. As in, the one is the cause and the other is the effect.

padmoo wrote in post #18314132 (external link)
I currently go birding early noon as I would like the most light possible to get a feel for my camera+lens and the effect of different shutter speeds and apertures.

On clear days, these are the worst possible times to photograph birds......or anything else, for that matter. What you want is not just quantity of light, but quality of light. The light in the early morning and the evening is soft, and makes everything beautiful! The noontime light when the sun is high in the sky is real harsh light and gives you all sorts of problems - poor light quality, poor light angle, and heat distortion. On clear days it is often impossible to get a great photo of a bird between 10am and 5pm (in the summertime - adjust times for different times of the year)


padmoo wrote in post #18314132 (external link)
Increasing the shutter speed really stuck with me as I think I'm going too slow on that.

Fast shutter speeds are unnecessary unless you are shooting birds in motion. If you use a tripod and develop good, steady technique with the tripod, you will be able to get GREAT bird photos at shutter speeds like 1/50th of a second and 1/60th of a second when shooting at 400mm on a 40D. Handheld, forget it - you're almost always going to be chasing the exposure triangle and be forced into making compromises on ISO that will result in unsatisfactory images.

padmoo wrote in post #18314132 (external link)
I've noticed the issue with the light meter on the 40D. I'm always +1 stop.

Excellent for most situations!

padmoo wrote in post #18314132 (external link)
I've also set my camera to back button focus and hope this will help me with birds in flight.

It's great that you use back button for focusing. With back button AF and the focus mode set to AI Servo, you can do things that you cannot do otherwise.

.


"Your" and "you're" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"They're", "their", and "there" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one.
"Fare" and "fair" are different words with completely different meanings - please use the correct one. The proper expression is "peace of mind", NOT "piece of mind".

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Snydremark
Myth-informed
17,852 posts
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Joined Mar 2009
Issaquah, WA USA
Mar 29, 2017 13:32 |  #5

As usual, Tom's got some great pointers; I would say that you're fine up to ISO 800 if needed, as long as you're shooting "to the right" on the histogram. I mostly shot the 40D in Manual mode, 5.6 and Spot metered off of something static in the direction that I would be shooting at the time. In general, trying to keep the shutter between 1/320 and 1/800 [Using the 100-400 v1). As a hobby shooter, I'm a *little* less stringent on the results than Mr Reichner is :) but the 40D does pretty well when properly exposed, all the way up to the 1600 ceiling if necessary (I do not recommend "expanded" ISO unless you simply need a reference shot of something).

You can look through my birds gallery in my signature to find my results from the 40D, although they're mixed fairly heavily into my 7D/7DII images, as well. They'll primarily be in the earlier pages of that gallery, but Flickr seems to mix them up in a weird order and intersperse them a bit.

Here's a sample ISO 800 bird w/ the 40D:

IMAGE: https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4057/4550159532_8f9de5ee8a_b.jpg
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/7W5K​Uq] (external link)Black-crowned Night Heron-8716 (external link) by Eric (external link), on Flickr

- Eric S.: My Birds/Wildlife (external link) (7D MkII, Canon 10-22 f/3.5-4.5, Canon 24-105L f/4 IS, Canon 70-200L f/2.8 IS MkII, Canon 100-400L f/4.5-5.6 IS)
"The easiest way to improve your photos is to adjust the loose nut between the shutter release and the ground."

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rrdubya
Member
Joined May 2012
Mar 29, 2017 14:56 |  #6

I'll put in my two cents as well.

I whole heartedly agree on not shooting at noon. I've gotten some of my best bird photographs on bright overcast days too. Shadows are a real problem when shooting birds. When shooting with the sun, make sure it is directly behind you, avoid the shadows.

I also use a 100-400 for my bird photography and you can get some very nice photos with it. I do shoot it hand held quite often. If you're going to continue to do that, I'd keep the shutter speed up for camera shake. The version 1 of this lens is only rated for 2 stops of IS.

One of the biggest things that I have found in trying to get the feather detail I like in my shots is that you have to be close to the bird. If your shooting a small bird, say a Robin for instance, and it's 100 feet away, you aren't going to get the detail. I try to shoot smaller birds at 15-20 feet at 400mm.

The advice on the noise and exposing to the right is something I also do. I hate noise.

Anyway, that's what I do.




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Bsmooth
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New England
Mar 30, 2017 08:56 |  #7

I use to shoot in AV as well, but recently switched to manual. Granted you always have to be checking the light this way, but you will get more detail in darker areas. I also shot with the 100-400, and it nds lots of light to function well, regardless of what camera body its on.
Just get your light reading off a nearby tree thats in about the same light as your subject.
I didn't want to get away from shooting in AV, but the switch to manual has improved my images quite a bit, and it also makes you more aware of what light your shooting in as well. Its also great for birds in flight, as your camera isn't fooled by backgrounds any longer


Bruce

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padmoo
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Joined Mar 2017
Living in Atlanta, from Germany
Mar 30, 2017 09:15 |  #8

Thanks everyone, I'll try to use your advice this weekend.

I've been playing around in my backyard yesterday, testing the manual setting. It will take some getting used to but the pictures look a lot better. I also tested my AF and it seems that I should get the lens checked. The 40D does not have microadjustments unfortunately.

In regards to mono/tripod usage, can you recommend one?




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Larry ­ Johnson
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May 07, 2017 14:49 |  #9

so much info in this free online book.
http://www.digitalbird​photography.com/conten​ts.html (external link)


_______________
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Shooting 7D2 with Canon 400mm, f/5.6.
60D, canon 18-135 EFS, and 1.4 extender in the bag.
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MalVeauX
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Post has been edited 4 months ago by MalVeauX.
May 07, 2017 16:44 |  #10

Heya,

You can bird with a 40D, or any old camera really, just fine. No fancy settings for it.

I too use AV very often. I set aperture to what I want, and I meter around the area I will be shooting, and I look to see how slow the shutter reports while metering at the darkest points. I raise ISO until I get that value to constantly be better than 1/1000s or so, as a starting poing. I much prefer 1/2000s for BIF as a good safe bet. But you get the idea. I shoot with my aperture slightly stopped down, so if my lens is F4, I generally shoot at about F5 or F5.6 for BIF for example (no real rule of thumb, I do it for performance and depth of field). I don't mind higher ISO, even on older cameras, because today's software for denoising and clean up are superior to older days, I'm happy to shoot at ISO 1600 if needed, because I'd rather have a sharp BIF photo with noise than a blurry one. I also use a little EC here, as I tend to slightly over-expose the birds so I set EC generally to +1/3.

The AF method you use matters too. In general, I use center point (only) AF for tracking the subject, with AI Servo, and back-button-focus enabled. I generally bump focus. So I will focus on the subject, then release and hit focus again and hold it, to get the AF engine to really latch on and predict where the subject is moving to maintain servo focus. I let it track a moment before attempting shots, because I want the predictive AF to do its job. I try to time my bursts of shots (in high speed continuous shooting drive mode) at different points where wing position is pleasing (and not just a bunch of images with flat wings or the back of a bird flying away). I just try to keep the center AF point that I'm tracking with on the breast of the bird mostly or any very high contrast point, depending on the bird of couse.

Then it's all about practing panning with the bird and timing wing position and simply being patient.

I like to get very close to the subject, and use a shorter lens, rather than trying to do it at long range with a long lens and a lot of thick environment, atmosphere, etc between the lens and the subject. It's harder to track, the closer you are, as the apparent movement across the FOV is much faster of course. But, I find it easier to use a short lens and get close. Cheaper too.

A monopod or a tripod with a gimbal can really help sometimes to smooth out panning, especially with a big lens.

I love tracking and panning with Terns at very close range. They're really fast and dart around. And I can get within 20~30 feet of them easy, with a 300mm lens. One of my favorite birding setups.

(With a 7D, but honestly, if you're just using center AF it's not much different to use a 40D/50D/60D, and I have a 40D too that I often use)

IMAGE: https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8157/28384918154_4e875aa823_z.jpg
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Kfh8​fA] (external link)IMG_3074 (external link) by Martin Wise (external link), on Flickr

Very best,

My Flickr (external link) :: My Astrobin (external link)

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Sibil
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Post has been edited 4 months ago by Sibil.
May 08, 2017 06:28 |  #11

Good thread and lots to learn from, here. As a novice birder, when I am walking around a marsh, wetland, lagoon, etc., the lighting conditions change a lot; not to mention, birds don't hang around long enough, and I find no time to do some of the adjustments and fine tuning of the settings, as discussed above :-(


Lots of gear, with lagging skills

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Levina ­ de ­ Ruijter
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Joined Sep 2008
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
May 08, 2017 09:49 |  #12

The 40D was my first digital camera and I shot birds with it for 3 years before going to a 1D body.

I agree with previous posters that ISO 400 is your best choice. It's what I used as default. You can go to ISO 800 or higher, but you need good light for that. Here's an example of an ISO 800 shot. The file hardly needed cleaning up. A bit in the background, but also surprisingly little.

HOSTED PHOTO
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And how's this for stretching it? ISO 3200, a pre-dawn experiment. Now this file needed quite a bit of cleaning up; I didn't do pre-dawn shots with the 40D again... :-P
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Levina
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Beekeeper
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Jun 02, 2017 02:23 |  #13

Levina de Ruijter wrote in post #18349087 (external link)
The 40D was my first digital camera and I shot birds with it for 3 years before going to a 1D body.

I agree with previous posters that ISO 400 is your best choice. It's what I used as default. You can go to ISO 800 or higher, but you need good light for that. Here's an example of an ISO 800 shot. The file hardly needed cleaning up. A bit in the background, but also surprisingly little.
thumbnailHosted photo: posted by Levina de Ruijter in
./showthread.php?p=183​49087&i=i246539880
forum: Bird Talk
And how's this for stretching it? ISO 3200, a pre-dawn experiment. Now this file needed quite a bit of cleaning up; I didn't do pre-dawn shots with the 40D again... :-P
thumbnailHosted photo: posted by Levina de Ruijter in
./showthread.php?p=183​49087&i=i33231866
forum: Bird Talk

Lovely work Levina de Ruijter.


Zach--C&C is welcome on my photos
https://www.flickr.com​/photos/46367607@N06/ (external link)
7DI Body Gripped|7DII Gripped|EF 85mm1.8|EF 50mm1.4|EF 100mm2.8L IS Macro|EF-S 10-22mm|EF 400mm5.6L|430EXII|580E​XII

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Levina ­ de ­ Ruijter
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Jun 02, 2017 07:30 as a reply to Beekeeper's post |  #14

Thank you very much, Beekeeper.


Levina
Please quote when responding to a post!!!
There is no such thing as ect. It's etc. (with period) from latin et cetera.
Colours are not complimentary but complementary.
My flickr (external link)

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Settings for bird photography with a Canon 40D
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