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Thread: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

  1. #1
    Suzan J's Avatar
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    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Hello Everyone: I'm still trying to improve my bird shots, but so far there have been very few spring arrivals. Thus, I was stuck with a few ordinary Chickadee models. The last two are technically not wild bird shots. The rooster is a year round resident. The backgrounds are not that pleasing, but I liked the texture in the rooster's comb. I would like to know what you would consider a "severe crop". How do you describe a crop. If the crop is 25% of the original size, would that be called a 25% crop or a 75% crop? I always look forward to viewing this site to see the shots that some of you real "birders" submit. Very inspiring! Eventually, I would like to tackle some BIF (bird in flight) shots, but for now I am focusing on BSOB (bird sitting on branch)
    Thanks in advance.

    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?
    _DSC0084 by Soo J, on Flickr

    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?
    _DSC0096 by Soo J, on Flickr


    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?
    _DSC0003 by Soo J, on Flickr


    Angry Bird!
    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?
    _DSC0019 by Soo J, on Flickr

  2. #2
    Brownbear's Avatar
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Fabulous photos Suzan! I especially like the first two (especially the composition of #2)... Somehow you made the branches in the background look nice, something I'm still struggling with.

    I adore #4... Wow! Great capture! Focus, composition, clarity all look perfect to me. Stunning photo! I like the background and I think this photo is special.

    About cropping, I don't know but I look forward to reading others replies.
    Last edited by Brownbear; 27th April 2013 at 02:09 PM.

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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Suzan, my favourite is the first chickadee. It's close enough to be a good portrait of the bird but still has enough context of the bird's habitat. The angry rooster is what I'd call a severe crop (unless the original was a real closeup and didn't need cropping!).

    As for percentage descriptions of crops, I haven't got a clue. Hopefully someone will provide a convincing answer.

  4. #4

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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Hi Suzan,

    There really aren't any "rules" per se with regards to cropping - only "consequences". The less you have to crop then the more options you have to work with in terms of what you can do with the image (because you have more information and less apparent noise to work with.

    Case in point ... I like this little grab shot of mine ...

    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    and this is the frame it was cropped from ...

    Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Bottom line is that because of the resolution, it's fine as an internet-only image, but I wouldn't be able to sell it as a larger print (unfortunately the bird wasn't particularly close).

  5. #5
    ucci's Avatar
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Hi Suzan
    Okay I am just an EO ( = enthusiastic amateur). Colin's comment gets to the core of the matter. The end result really needs to reflect what you are aiming for with your capture. So comments I might make about your posts reflect mainly my point of view which may be the direct antithesis of your intention.
    From my standpoint I reckon your backgrounds are just fine. As for cropping? Well I personally I think #1 is pretty good. With #2 I would crop some of the space from the RHS to bring the focus back onto the bird. I agree with the comment above about #4's frame. Maybe if it were possible to have been able to see more of the rooster's comb, top and bottom, would have been better. But probably in backing off to do this you might have found a need to crop a bit from both sides to keep balance and focus. And as a final suggestion, if you are into this sort of fiddling, maybe cloning out the two lighter green strips behind the rooster's head in #3could help?
    I am sure there are others more skilled than me in these matters who will have contary and probably more valid opinions to mine. As I said, apart from the basic technical thingies, much of it is in the personal reaction of the observer. But the bottom line is that it is your capture and your story!

  6. #6

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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    How much you can crop an image depends on the quality of the original and what you plan to do with the crop. How much is too much? When it looks bad

    I have a severely cropped image that I've sold in a 12in x 24in metal print. Metal shows hyper detail so not very forgiving to noise, blur, etc. The original is 2.5MP cropped from an original 12MP image then resized to 300ppi at that size. That's 21 percent of the original then increased 10X. If you start with good pixels you can do a lot with a little.

    Regarding the second part of the question, unfortunately there is no standard. People say it both ways. Some say 20 percent crop meaing that much removed and others mean that's how much of the image is left. For that reason if I'm trying to explain I usually say "60 percent of the original frame" or something like that.

  7. #7
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Suzan, nice images. I really like the composition of #2. I tend to like wildlife shots that have that kind of 1/3 composition/positioning (though I do like tightly framed shots of wildlife in certain cases).

    I echo some other people regarding the crop...to me, a severe crop would be one that doesn't allow you to do what you really want with the image. So in some cases it would mean you cannot print the image, or sell it, etc. On the other hand, for web display, you can get away with crops showing the image at 100%, as long as it's in good focus and sharpened properly.

    I, too, refer to a crop as "how much % of the original," such as "cropped to 10% of the original image".

    Colin, nice shot you presented.

  8. #8
    Suzan J's Avatar
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I guess the bottom line is that I must sharpen my "tracking skills" and learn how to really sneak up on my subjects. Colin, your example really illustrates the point for me. I would never have thought that your final version was such a small fraction of the original shot. I see this morning that about a dozen robins have arrived in my yard. They have no idea that they are about to be stalked!

  9. #9
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzan J View Post
    learn how to really sneak up on my subjects...they have no idea that they are about to be stalked!
    Suzan, if I may suggest a few quick points:

    - research wildlife photography field craft, which is basically skills and techniques you can use "in the field"

    - stalking animals, in some cases, can work, but if you want to get really close, they would generally have to be accustomed to people and it would help to move extremely slow, stay low to the ground, and pretend you are not paying attention to them. It helps if they are distracted by feeding and other activities

    - two more points on stalking:
    1. Most birds have extremely good vision, so it's hard to stalk them well. You might come across some tips if you research field craft
    2. heavy camouflage can be really helpful for photographing wildlife. Sometimes people think it's ridiculous or silly, and/or think it's unnecessary. In my opinion, it helps a lot, and the fact that many pros use camo says a lot about it being a legitimate element of field craft, where appropriate. If you go the camo route, make sure it's the 3d type of camoflauge (leafy looking suits or ghillie suits) and don't forget to camo your face and gear as well. You can stalk in this, or just position yourself and remain still.
    3. Blinds are another option but are best when you know animals will be showing up, because they are not as mobile as wearing camo

    - Some people (pros included) use bait for certain wildlife. Birds are a common case. In your yard, you may want to just put a feeder out with some branches around it and get positioned nearby and wait. There was a gentlemen on this forum that had mentioned the branches technique (which is how I learned it, so thank you to him), where the birds will land on the branches as they approach the feeder, so you can "shoot" them while they are on the branches and be prefocused there.

    There are plenty of other things to know and research, but I hope this helps

  10. #10
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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Suzan - great shots.

    I like #1 and #3, and #3 is my favorite of the set. I love the contrast of the red, white, green, and yellow. The image is tack sharp, and there's just a hint of a catchlight in the eye.

    I think they are all cropped just about right. They only one I would change is #2. I think you could lose some of the are on the right.

    Well done!

  11. #11

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    Re: Working on Bird Shots - How Much Crop is Too Much?

    Quote Originally Posted by Suzan J View Post
    Colin, your example really illustrates the point for me. I would never have thought that your final version was such a small fraction of the original shot.
    That's the very think a lot of people don't realise about the camera mega-pixel wars race; a generously sized image for internet display would contain probably no more than around 1 million pixels - and yet we have cameras that typically start at 18MP and go up significantly from there. For the most part, we just don't need that many pixels, although some times we "luck in" an can use them to crop severely and still get a nice image.

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