Painterly and Artistic Effects in Bird Photography

Someone recently asked me online about how to create a painterly and also an artistic effect for bird photographs.

This video is all about these two points…

1. How to simply create a painterly effect

2. How to make it artistic

So, let’s take a look at a quick example of how to achieve both these goals in Photoshop.

I have selected a recent shot from my balcony for this purpose which should be good enough to illustrate the basics of how to achieve this goal.

Okay, so a “Command” or “Control” + “E” would take this image from Lightroom to Photoshop.

Now, as illustrated in earlier videos, we just do a basic cleanup on this image.

First, we duplicate the image which puts it on a layer and we retain a backup in case we need to re-do the process. Command + J is a shortcut for this. Now, we can make the background layer invisible since we do not require it anymore.

A command + 0 fits the image to the window for a better view…

A simple select subject, and mask out the subject. Just use the selection and brush tool to clean up rough edges. Maybe try the colour range selection as well, if needed.

Now, let us see how to simply create the painterly effect.

Select “Stylize” from the “Filters” menu and choose “Oil paint”. Feel free to play around with the settings in this dialog box.

You can always use the help built into Photoshop to find out more about the settings in this dialog and what each option does.

Once you are done with that, just press “Enter” or click “OK” and we have our “painterly” effect.

Now, what about the “artistic” effect?

As it turns out, the person who asked me about this was looking for multiple copies of the same image put together in different sizes.

This is how I went about it…

Just duplicate the layer we already have. Use the “Free Transform” from the “Edit” menu to modify the copied layer. You can make as many copies as you want and pretty much apply any kind of transforms to each.

The art and concept belong totally to you and what you choose to create!

This is just an example that I came up with just to illustrate the concept.

Of course, you can also try to “Oil Paint” one layer at a time to give them all a different artistic look.

That’s it for now…Have fun, till the next one!

MI 10T Pro – What you should know!!!

I am recording this on the device itself so we can get a better idea of what I want to share here.

First, the biggest drawback of the new MI phones…Not just the 10T, but also the other MI models.

The default MI Dialer and Messages applications have been replaced by the Google ones. This is a shocker for any MI phone user since the Google Dialer and Messaging applications are pathetic by comparison.

Although there are alternate Dialling and Messaging applications, nothing I have seen so far comes close to being as good as the MI applications.

Okay, with that negative point out of the way, the rest is all good!

The screen is a high-quality LCD with a refresh rate of 144Hz. As a person who is into photography, I prefer the high-quality LCD to an AMOLED screen since the LCD has truer colours.

While most people would talk about the blacks on an AMOLED screen and the small area of an always-on display, just the blacks do not do a whole lot for overall colours. On the lighter side, this is a phone, not a watch that I might want an always-on display.

In short, you can actually use this screen to check images for actual colours in case your monitor lacks sRGB colour gamut support. Of course, we have might have better colour screens on the AMOLED side sometime, but, that is not the case so far…

Talking of photography, I will go through the default Camera and Gallery applications that come with this device and my recommendations to get the best out of the camera. Let us take a brief look at the camera settings first, and then the variety of modes this application offers.

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Since the normal auto mode of the camera seems to be manipulating the image from the sensor, it is smaller and not as good as the one you can get from the Pro mode. My recommendation would be to use the Pro mode in full auto mode as a substitute for the normal camera/video modes for better results. #Xiaomi #MI #MI10T #Photography

Walk-around Birding – How To and Settings…

There are quite a few of us who indulge in walk-around birding. In short, we walk around parks and general birding hotspots and try to get whatever shots we can. For a vast majority, this happens on weekends.

I am just going to discuss one technique that I have learned over the years during my walk-around birding. This is about the settings I use on my camera and how.

Most of us already know that we can find birds just sitting around or ones that just fly past. We mostly miss out on the flypast ones. The shutter speed is the culprit in all these cases that I have seen so far (besides focus, but, that remains otherwise as well).

This is a technique that I have shared with my colleagues and friends which helps in dealing with such scenarios for the most part.

Generally, we would use slower shutter speeds for sitting birds than BIFs which would require a much higher shutter speed.

I will not get into which camera mode you choose to shoot in or if you use full manual or auto-ISO. The kind of metering mode you use will affect any “auto” that you use. That part is all yours.

The only mode in which you cannot use this technique is the Aperture Priority since this is based on shutter speed.

Personally, I use full manual (excepting for Auto-Focus and Auto-White Balance) and you can and use manual mode with Auto-ISO for similar results. I spend a lot of time round-tripping my shots from any new gear to figure out the response to light and distance and prefer to set the ISO manually instead of depending on the metering on the camera.

Now, when you are at the spot you want to start birding, just take a test shot to make sure that you have the camera working as expected.

Then, set the shutter speed to your favourite BIF speed. I generally use 1/1250, although, I have started using 1/1600 with my Nikon D850 and I will explain why in another video.

Now, take a test shot again and just make sure it is not too dark on the histogram of the LCD on the camera. I would not advise looking at the image to figure that out.

This is actually it!

Always walk-around with the camera set for BIFs. You will have enough time to reduce the shutter speed for still targets, but, if any bird flies past, you might not have the time to bump up the shutter speed at that moment.

Whenever you take a sitting bird shot, let us say with a shutter speed of around 1/640, make sure you switch right back to 1/1250 after that.

This process has two advantages…

1. You will generally be able to get birds in flight that pass by since your camera is already set for that.
2. For smaller/tiny birds, you would need a higher shutter speed even for sitting shots and even if you take those shots at 1/1250 or just one rotation of the shutter speed dial lower, you will still get them. Assuming you are working with the camera default settings of 1/3rd stops, a single rotation of the dial will set the shutter speed to 1/1000 which is good enough for most tiny birds.

To summarise, always keep your camera set to shoot BIFs. Change the shutter speed only when needed for sitting targets and switch back to the BIF settings right after that shot.

Last, but not least, is that you should keep your shutter speed to what works best for you for BIFs. The lowest reasonable speed from my experience is 1/1250. Feel free to go higher than that when needed. For example, small birds would be better at 1/1600, the tiny ones would require 1/2000 or even more.

Try out this technique and do drop in your experience with the same in the comments.

My Flickr stream has more images with the complete EXIF at Flickr in case anyone wants to look at the settings and the details related to the same.

Wildlife Photography – Nikon D500/D5/D6 or D850?

While most people are talking about the latest and greatest new Nikon D6, in this video, we will try to figure out which of the Nikon bodies is more suited for wildlife and why.

When I talk of wildlife, I include birding, macros (insects), as also mammals (large and small).

In general, the gear you use would depend largely on your usage and budget. In my case, I share images on the web and also print some. Personally, I like to have details in the subjects that one would not see via the naked eye which presents the beauty of nature from a different perspective.

Before we move on, all my image reference numbers are based on my Nikon 200-500mm at the full 500mm regardless of which body I use it on as also the fact that I like to fill the frame where practically possible.

Now, I also put some images on stock sites occasionally and most such sites, if not all, require at least 3000 px on the long edge.

Now that we have all this talk done, let us look at what the two most discussed features of any new camera:

1. The AF or the Auto-Focus system
2. The low light performance or ISO response range

Yes, there is the frame rate or FPS as well, but, that part I have already discussed in an earlier video.

Let us take these one-by-one and see how they impact wildlife photography.

The ISO or low light performance first. This definitely impacts the image quality in low light and there is no doubt on that part.

Unfortunately, this improved ISO performance comes at a cost. The cost is generally the resolution of the sensor. This is also reflected in the latest Sony A7 III which is a 12 MP sensor as also in the top end Canon bodies. The most often used term in this regard is the larger “pixel” size. There are details on the sensors available on the internet for those who might want to know more about this.

Once again, your gear depends on your purpose/usage and budget.

Now, let us look at the AF part. The AF is not relevant for macros or super macros (1:1 or higher). That leaves us with action shots of birds and mammals.

Most mammals are large enough so one could easily use just a single focus point. The same applies to large birds. I would say the size of crows and larger.

Most of the issues we look at the AF system is when we are dealing with smaller mammals (squirrels and the likes) and small to tiny birds.

Now, there are actually two issues here…First, these subjects are small and unless you can get close to them, you will not really get any detail. Second, when you get close enough to these small ones, every AF, as also you, would be hard-pressed to track/pan them.

Getting close to a subject can be achieved in two ways.

1. Getting physically closer, or
2. Using a longer lens

Let me talk of a couple of specific examples. If you have ever tried to shoot a running squirrel around a 10-meter distance, you already know what happens when you try to pan the camera with it. The same applies to a tiny sunbird or tailorbird. Although you might get a squirrel running across a wall or the ground, the birds would be even faster and more erratic.

If you cannot move the camera fast enough to track, the AF cannot do much since the subject is not within the AF range. The 10-meter distance that I mentioned is just about good enough to get some detail on these subjects even though you will have only a quarter of less of your frame with the subject.

Before we look at some images to figure out the above-mentioned points, let us look at some of the Nikon bodies and their image resolutions…

D5200, D5300, D7200 – 6000 x 4000 (Approx. 24 MP)
D7500, D500, D5, D6 – 5568 x 3712 (Approx. 20 MP)
D850 – 8256 x 5504 (Approx. 45 MP)

Excepting for the D500, D5 and of course, D6, I have owned all the other bodies and used them for years. My current gear is a couple of D850s, a D7500 with a Nikkor 200-500mm as my long lens and a Tamron 90mm as my macro lens besides some others.

Let us now look at some of my shots to see what becomes more relevant for wildlife and why.

I will use ON1 Photo Raw 2020 for this purpose for two reasons.

1. It shows the subject distance as seen by the camera
2. I have not processed the images in any way in this application

To summarise what we just saw…

The resolution is perhaps the most important part for wildlife photographers. The AF, regardless of how good it is, cannot do much unless you can pan the camera and keep the subject in the frame. For long shots, the AF would not really make a difference in practice as also for larger subjects.

The sensor resolution detail would be limited by the lenses you use, so, keeping a reasonable balance between the resolution, lens and your budget might be a prudent choice. Getting the highest-resolution sensor around might not be the best choice.

In my case, I try to figure out the maximum ISO at which the image quality is acceptable to me at given distances for every camera body. I do not shoot if I have to go beyond that excepting in some cases or to test.

Ultimately, it is your choice as to what is more important to you as a wildlife photographer. Of course, there is also a possibility that all this would change in the future as technology moves ahead…