Bird Photograph Types 3 and 4

We continue to define the four types of bird photograph.

Bird Photograph Type 3: GreatBirdPic

From its inception, as rough notes jotted down in pencil on the pages of a spiral notebook, this website had a goal; a site that would encourage photographers to show off their best work to bird photography enthusiasts around the world.  I dreamed that every image on the site would be an exemplary bird photograph – a Great Bird Pic!  How is a GreatBirdPic different from a Good Bird Photo?  A GreatBirdPic is in good focus.  The lighting is set properly.  The bird is well-positioned within the frame.  The head and body are relatively unobscured.  It may depict some action.  It’s interesting to look at.  In other words it is good enough to appeal to a broad audience (not just birders) just because its a great photograph.

I often look at one of my pictures ask myself if it is a Good Bird Photo or a GreatBirdPic.  To decide, I imagine framing it and giving it to someone as a gift – would they want to hang it on their wall?  If not, it’s a Good Bird Photo.  If they would like it enough to display in their house it’s a GreatBirdPic.  A couple examples of GreatBirdPic quality photographs follow below.

I love pictures with reflections of the bird in them.  This image has a very plain background and no action but the Roseate Spoonbill is in good focus and in an interesting pose.  GreatBirdPic quality.


This lovely Vermillion Flycatcher caught the morning sun.  No highlights (hot spots). Good focus and detail.  The head is angled slightly away from the camera.  Definitely a GreatBirdPic.


This image of an angry-looking Red-winged Blackbird is very good.  The focus is right and the action is interesting.  It could have been Award Worthy if it didn’t include a couple of distractions (sticks over the tail) and had more detail under the wings.  Still, it’s a GreatBirdPic.

We will learn more about what makes a GreatBirdPic quality photograph when we look at the individual components of the QSAR (Bird Photography Quality Self-Assessment Rubric).  Our last, and highest quality of bird photograph, is the Award Worthy type.

Bird Photograph Type 4: Award Worthy

The highest quality bird photograph on the QSAR (Bird Photograph Quality Self-Assessment Rubric) range is Award Worthy.  As the name implies, these pictures are so good they should be entered in a photography contest.  We don’t have contests on but there are lots of on-line photography contests out there.  Of the thousands of bird pictures I’ve taken only a handful of them would be considered Award Worthy (truth-in-telling – I’ve never entered a photography contest).

What makes a picture Award Worthy?  Of course the image has to be in excellent focus.  The composition draws your eyes to it.  The scene depicted is original – one you’ve rarely seen before.  As you look at all the elements of the picture it tells a story about the bird, or it is so beautiful a viewer will involuntarily gasp, “Wow!”  It’s just that good.  Below are a few Award Worthy photographs by our members.

My photograph of a Tricolored Heron coming in for a landing has a lot going on to invite the viewer to look closely.  The ripples of the water when it first touched the surface, the bird as it is about the set down, and the reflection of the heron all tell a story. It is in good focus and the composition is great.  Award Worthy!


This next Award Worthy photograph was recently posted by member Emil Baumbach.  The subject is common – a Great Blue Heron – but the composition, light and colors are outstanding.  


Our last example of an Award Worthy photograph is by Bajadreamer, who captured a Hooded Merganser shouting out.  Perfect placement of the bird, the colors are all beautiful, the action is evident.  It makes us wonder, “Why is he calling?”


In summary, we at want our members to share their best photographs.  Documenting Pictures are allowable if they have an interesting story included in the Description.  Good Bird Photos, particularly of a new species to our site or ones that capture an interesting pose or action, are welcome.  Fun Pics are allowed, too!  GreatBirdPics are always welcome.  We hope to see more Award Worthy images as our members use the QSAR as a guide to improvement.  Next we delve into the five Image Characteristics of every photograph.

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