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Bird Photography.....Canon DSLR with 55-250mm lens settings in AV mode

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  • Nov 24th, 2010 8:59 pm
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Dec 24, 2009
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Bird Photography.....Canon DSLR with 55-250mm lens settings in AV mode

So help me out here folks.....

For my canon xsi dslr that has a 55-250mm lens attached to it, set to AV mode, what other settings would you recommend I make in this mode to shoot birds at my feeder, 15-20 ft away from my patio door?

I don't need the background, I just need the bird to pop out. Here are 2 examples of pics I took in auto mode and not happy with, hence the reason I changed to AV mode

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288793
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288874
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288903
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288992
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290289049

Cheers
52 replies
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Jul 18, 2005
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There really isn't anything you can do on the camera side of things. Those are already shot at the maximum aperture. To help increase background blur and subject isolation, you will need to bring the camera closer to the birds. Cropping the image will help a lot too.
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May 6, 2005
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You'll want to either get closer or crop.

I use AV mode as well, but you have to ensure you're getting at least 1/250s shutter speeds (ideally minimum something like 1/600) and so to achieve that you may have to pump up the ISO

I have the 55-250 and it did well for zooming but I did not personally like it for wildlife photography. Too slow and the quality wasn't there...
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[OP]
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Dec 24, 2009
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So Kaitlyn....which lens do you use now then for wildlife? Also does an ISO of 400 sounds good and what i sthe best program for cropping?
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syndicate1 wrote:
Nov 21st, 2010 6:53 pm
So Kaitlyn....which lens do you use now then for wildlife? Also does an ISO of 400 sounds good and what i sthe best program for cropping?

I use the 70-200mm F4L IS but if you are on more of a budget there is the non-IS version:
http://www.adencamera.com/prod-overview ... Category=7

As for ISO - it depends on lighting. On a bright summer day you could do ISO 100. On a cloudy day ISO 400 may not even be enough with the 55-250...
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The biggest issue here is that you don't have enough lens. You could add a tele-converter to what you are using, 1.4x or 2.0x. You need to get to 400mm or 500mm for small wildlife and often that is not enough. I know of plenty of people who use blinds and others who "salt" their shooting locations and then spend hours getting the wildlife comfortable with their presence.

For birds try to get a shutter speed up higher than 1/400th sec to eliminate blur from their twitchy head movements and over 1/1000th sec to freeze their wings in flight.

Do your best to have the sun behind you so that their side that is to the camera is fully lit to bring out the detail and colours.

A lot of the small birds here were shot from about 20 to 50 feet and most were shot with a 50-500 Sigma.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/75485754@N ... 005997668/

.
[OP]
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Dec 24, 2009
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Ottawa and GTA
All am looking for here is.....with the equipment and accessories I have listed above, what individual setting would "you" use in AV Mode if you were taking pics of birds in the environment like mine above?

Anyone able to use their photoshop trickery to show me how cropping can eliminate the crap in the background and bring the bird closer?

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Newbie
Jun 9, 2006
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Etobicoke
Not to sound like captain obvious... but one good way to "bring the bird closer" is to bring the feeders closer. At this time of year and through the winter they are highly motivated to feed on the easily acquired calories. The radius that they will tolerate intrusion is much smaller with this drive for food.

Dave
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Nov 1, 2006
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I'm puzzled - OP says the feeder is 15-20 feet from the patio door and he's using a 55-250mm lens. Assuming that's with a crop body, it's the equivalent of 88 - 400mm. Those birds should be filling the frame! There is something off kilter with the information provided, IMHO.
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Apr 20, 2005
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More important, I think there needs to be a better a understanding of the relationship between aperture, ISO and shutter speed.
The 55-250 is a 4-5.6 lens and this makes is tough to use a really fast shutter speed without a high ISO.

What is the aperture you are set to when using the camera in AV mode? I would think you need it set to 5.6, since this is the widest it will go at 250mm.
Then set your ISO to 800 and take some images, see if there are any noise issues with them, or if you are happy with the results. The shutter speed will be automatically set by the camera at this point, as that is the remaining variable.

My thought is that setting the camera at 800 or higher will get you closer to the images you want. It also sounds like you are not really doing much with editor afterwards (based on the 'eliminating crap in the back' comment).
Start looking at picking up some kind of editing program, even if it is picassa or another free one, this will then get you looking at the images, cropping, framing and as you start doing this you will see the picture you take improve, because your eye will develop and when taking pictures you will have this information will you and it becomes a different approach to your work.
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syndicate1 wrote:
Nov 21st, 2010 6:10 pm
So help me out here folks.....

For my canon xsi dslr that has a 55-250mm lens attached to it, set to AV mode, what other settings would you recommend I make in this mode to shoot birds at my feeder, 15-20 ft away from my patio door?

I don't need the background, I just need the bird to pop out. Here are 2 examples of pics I took in auto mode and not happy with, hence the reason I changed to AV mode

http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288793
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288874
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288903
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290288992
http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a275/ ... 1290289049

Cheers

Welcome to photography! Fun world :-). I believe the following tips should help you:

- Get a sturdy tripod and mount the camera on it
- Definitely get closer, keep the camera outside and use a remote trigger if you have to from inside (Lock in the AF)
- Since your lens is SLOW, bump up the ISO so you can freeze the motion with a faster shutter speed
- If you don't have an external flash, shine a light source onto the bird-feeder
- Bump up your EV to +1.5 or +2 and speed up your shutter speed even further
- POST-PROCESS!!!
- Shoot in raw


Follow the above steps and post the results back here :-). Hope this helped!
Jr. Member
Sep 3, 2007
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syndicate1 wrote:
Nov 22nd, 2010 9:21 am
All am looking for here is.....with the equipment and accessories I have listed above, what individual setting would "you" use in AV Mode if you were taking pics of birds in the environment like mine above?

Exif shows these are taken at a focal length of 55mm? For a start, I'd set it to 250mm. Chickadees are small.

I'd move the bird feeders or myself so the background was more pleasing. Even the plain wood fence would look nicer, definitely less cluttered. You'd want the fence as far back from the birds as possible for maximum blurriness, but still close enough that it fills the background of the frame right up.

I'd move myself closer to the birds, they're chickadees, you should be able to feed them from your hand without too much effort, so close enough for a photo is pretty simple. Put out a dummy dressed in your clothes and leave it for a few weeks so they get used to "you" without you being there if you find they aren't currently tame enough.

I'd set the aperture to 5.6 for the most blurred background, though with a (relatively) cheaper lens like this you might have enough to gain for the sharpness of the bird at f/8 for it to be worth it. There's no right answer here, it's a compromise you have to choose to balance in some way.

ISO set to whatever will let you keep a shutter speed to take care of camera shake (1/200s or so, it depends on how steady you are, or if you have a stabilized lens). Or use a tripod. If you hope to freeze the chickadees movement when it's flying, you'll need an even faster shutter, so higher ISO or a sunny day.

IMO, on camera flash should only be used on birds to bring up the shadows, not as the primary light on the birds. It also makes that garish highlight down the centre of your tube feeder and those wonky eyes of the squirrel. I would just leave it off until you are comfortable taking available light photos of the birds, then learn to use it as a gentle fill light. If this means you are limited to sunny days or high iso, that's fine for now.
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Add on to what already has been said, you want the birds to 'pop' out which probably means you want the back ground de-focused (bokeh). You might want to try the Depth of Field button on the camera to see what the background looks like before you take a picture.

More on DoF:
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/dof-button.htm

If your still not able to take a picture with the subject in focus and background blur with the lens you have, you might probably need a lens with a bigger aperature.
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Dec 3, 2004
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Uncle Chester wrote:
Nov 22nd, 2010 12:47 pm
Exif shows these are taken at a focal length of 55mm? For a start, I'd set it to 250mm. Chickadees are small.
+11111

syndicate1, why are you shooting at the short end of your lens?! :facepalm: Zoom in, you should see different results. :)
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Mar 8, 2010
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Zoom in with the lens.
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