This is a short post aimed at helping photographers train their eye to demand the most out of every image. Its part of my new focus on working out the last two percent of a photo to get the great shot not just the good shot.
I have two California Brown Pelicans here in breeding plumage. Both photos made on the same trip, in the same light, at virtually identical locations – at La Jolla Cove, in La Jolla, CA.
At first glance these might appear to be the same bird – but there are two different birds. One bird is smaller, has less color, and has feathers missing near its eye. The other bird has none of those problems.
One of the rules of all nature photography generally, and bird photography specifically is that you want the best specimen you can find to represent your subject. In this case, I had the smaller bird first and was happy with the photograph. Technically, the image is just right. But the bird isn’t as nice as the one I found later. The larger, more colorful bird with all his feathers was a better specimen so its a better photograph.
This also answers the question for those who ask me why I keep going to the same locations to photograph birds year after year. Its because I am always looking for an image thats just a little bit better than the one I already have.
NOTE: There’s one other “last two percent” factor to the better image. Do you see it? Did you spot the water drop coming off the bill of the bird on the right? After they go fishing water drips from their bill for a few minutes – if you time it just right you can get a drop at the point where it leaves the bird. Like I said – trying to squeeze every last “drop” out of an image means the difference between good and great.