Pigeon Photos

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When photographing birds I use a Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital camera and I always assume that I will eventually use the photograph for printing a hard copy so I set the camera at the highest resolution possible. This setting on most cameras is called "fine".

Digital cameras have other settings called normal and basic. These lower settings limit print size because there are not enough pixels for a high-resolution picture.  For example using the fine setting on the 4 mega pixel camera the photograph size will be 2200 x 1700 pixels at a resolution of 72 dpi and will produce a resized 10 x 8 inch digital image at 225 dpi.  The 3 mega pixel camera will produce a photograph size of 2048 x 1536 pixels and when resized will produce a 10 x 8" image at  205 dpi.  Both of these 8 x 10 inch photo will be excellent for printing.  I recommend that digital images should have a resolution of at least 200 dpi for good print quality.  Normally the higher the resolution the better the quality of the picture.  Kodak recommends a resolution of 225.  However, for the internet photos are always at a resolution of 72 dpi.  The lowest setting "basic" is used mainly for emailing photos that will only be viewed on the monitor.

Do not resample a digital photo larger.  This will effect the quality of the picture.  Some enlarging (10 to 20%) can be done but it's better to leave this to someone with experience.

 A quick tip from Jasc Software Notes on Resizing
Resizing an image for printing can result in poor image quality. When you enlarge an image, the image loses detail and sharpness. As a general rule, don't enlarge an image size more than about 25 percent. If your image needs more than a 25 percent change, re-scan or create the image at different resolution.

If scanning a photo follow these steps. Set the scanner at a minimum resolution of 225 (300 dpi is better) and set the dimensions to the size required and set for true colors.   Select the bird and remember you are scanning the bird not the picture.   Then save as a Jpeg file. 

Tips for Photographing Racing Pigeons

Camera Settings

Most modern digital cameras have an excellent automatic mode that will automatically adjust to the conditions.  I normally set the flash to go off all the time.  Some digital cameras have other settings but if you are not comfortable with them I suggest you use the automatic mode.

Preparing the Bird

Wash the feet of all debris.  Washing the legs and feet will make them redder.  Clean the toenails and beak. If any feathers are dirty clean them off with a wet rag and then put the bird in the basket for 30 minutes to settle it down.  Some birds hate to get their feet washed and will struggle in your hand therefore ruffling their feathers.  Photos taken in the winter (December & later in my area) when the birds are completely molted produce the best results.

Before putting the bird in the photo box, hold the bird in your hand for a few minutes.  While doing so stroke the bird towards the back gently.  This will calm the bird and reposition the body feathers to lay firmly against the body.  Make sure the cover feathers on the shoulder are arranged correctly.  Nervous birds often struggle in the hand and their feathers will often be out of place or ruffled.

When placing the bird in the photo box consider which way you want the bird facing for the photo.  Photos can be flipped horizontally but it will make the band appear on the opposite foot and the band numbers will be reversed like on the hood of an ambulance.  However this is usually not noticed and of no major consequence to the picture.

Taking the Photo

  1. I use a photo box that measures 16" x 24" x 16".  A nest box will do fine.  A spotlight would be useful but not necessary.  I use two 60 watt bulbs fastened to the top front of the photo box.  A tripod is also recommended but not necessary.
  2. Remember "patience is a virtue" - you will need it.  Taking a good photo is all about "profile".  Some birds are naturally photogenic and will give you the perfect profile.  Most will have to be prodded into position.  An 18" dowel is very useful for this purpose. Before shooting these are some things to look for.
  3. The bird should be facing to the right or left and the camera should be perpendicular to the upper shoulder of the bird.  I shoot from a distance of about 18".  Turn all lights off behind you.  The darker behind you the better because the bird will tend not to want to leave the photo box.
  4. Use the monitor on the camera and zoom in or move in to the point where the birds fills most of the monitor.
  5. When placing the bird in the box make sure that the wing tips are sitting on the tail.  The first thing the birds will do is leave a dropping.  It is advisable to pick it up because most of the time they will eventually step in it.
  6. Both feet should be side by side and the tail slightly down.
  7. Using the dowel coax the bird in to position.  By stroking the bird under the beak and gently lifting the head will help. Most birds hate this procedure and will shake their head when touched with the dowel.
  8. Click away.  Usually it will take several photos before you get the right one.

Once again, I remind you that "patience is a virtue".  You will need it.  Good Luck!

Other Resources

A link to Kodak Support    Taking Great Pictures