Backyard Birds & Color Balance

Backyard Birds & Color Balance

These are a bunch more birds from my backyard bird shots.  I shot these guys over a period of a week, on and off almost every day, and was clicking away as long as the weather cooperated.

I received some nice feedback on these pictures and I think much of it is due to getting great colors.  Here I talk about a super easy way to do this.

Below are few more links to shooting birds in your backyard:

The Birds

You probably recognize all the guys here:  Tufted Titmice, Cardinals, Mourning Dove, Juncos, non-breeding Goldfinches, and I threw in a few bright yellow breeding finches from another shoot just for some snappy color.

The Perils of This Kind of Photography

Shooting pictures of this type took some work, experimentation, constant tweaking, and some reliance on my really cracked genetics.  You gotta be a wired a little wrong.  Ok, downright nuts.  Don’t let your friends know what it takes to shoot these pics.  Let them think you walked out there, put the camera up to your face, and peeled ‘em off.

If you are not married and dating…. NEVER let a prospect know what you are doing!  You are gonna be lonely if they think (or know) you are a geek.  They immediately think ahead when they will introduce you to their friends: “Hi, this is my geek boyfriend Bruce.  He would rather stand in a cold drizzle behind a camera than buy me things.”  Yea, you’re going home alone.

 If you are married, you are gonna pay for this obsession.  My wife has an amazing accounting system in her head and somehow, I always owe her.  She finds a value relationship between virtually every thing, action, and thought.  How taking pictures at a pond somehow translate into a new lamp is beyond what my little male brain can fathom, but I guess this is OK as we do have plenty of wonderful new lamps in our home to show for my photography efforts.

Getting Color Right – You Need To Do This!

I purchased a Color Checker Passport to use for setting white balance, also known as color balance.  For some reason, our cameras just can’t do it properly and you do need correct color on your computer in post processing.  You really don’t need the Color Checker Passport I own, but you do need a cheap gray card available at any photography store; I just like expensive gadgets.

To set white balance, just shoot a picture with your gray card or your Color Checker Passport in the picture.  Then, when you bring your RAW into your processing software, you just click your White Balance Eye Dropper onto the grey area and “POP!” your color is perfect!  You then apply these color settings automatically to your other pictures.  If you see the light change, just reshoot the card.  It is that simple and just look at the amazing results here.

The way a gray card works is that your eye/brain system sees no color in gray.  Technically, it does have color in it, but the red, blue, and green content are all equal in amount.  Your brain translates this equality into gray.  So your software has a real easy job… if it sees an imbalance, or inequality of color in a gray area where you clicked your dropper, it applies or subtracts whatever color it needs to compensate and drive color equality.  This formula is then applied to the entire picture.  Cool (or to be technically correct, neutral).

Why did I use a Color Checker Passport?  I don’t really know except that I like gadgets.  It comes with associated software and I can build color profiles specific to my camera and have them at the ready in LightRoom.  Sounds great but I have yet to do this as I am suffering from gadget overload.  I don’t have enough time and patients to dick around with all my stuff.  Really, all you need is a simple, cheap grey card and let your processing software do the work.

Notice in the before after pictures below (also in the scroll at page top), the “as shot” white balance had a odd cast.  The camera always gets it wrong because I don’t remember seeing so much blue in real life.  So, I almost always tweak white balance in my software and so should you.  Just go buy a cheap gray card and keep it in your bag at all times.  It works and is clearly needed.

My Obligatory Beer Reference

Why is it folks who don’t drink beer serve the most awful stuff at parties?  I am not referring to the slug ‘em down Bud stuff, but these expensive micro brews that taste like they were brewed in old Vietnam-era army boots.  “Made from an old European recipe…..” is always on the label.  Well there is a reason it is an “old recipe” and no one was using it.  American brewers must think the more awful, the more Euro it must be.  If you want Euro-style beer (and you should), buy it.  This American-try-to-hard swill also wrecks my photography – crap in, crap out.

The Equipment:

  • Canon 5D MkII
  • Canon 500mm L f/4.0 IS
  • Wimberley II gimbal head
  • Canon EOS Utility for remote, tethered shooting
  • IOGEAR USB 2.0 Booster Extension Cable
  • Color Checker Passport (or just a cheap gray card)

Location Types: Backyard. Galleries: Birds, Camera Tech, and Color Balance. Tags: 500mm and 5D Mk II.

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