Another Attempt

I am in the process of perfecting my technique for hummingbird photography and learning the nuances of posting images on the new NPN website.

Equipment information:

d500 600mm f4 + 1.4x TC

Camera settings:

1/200 sec at f16, Iso 640 + 4 flashes set at 1/32 and on camera flash set at 1/128.

What specific feedback would you like?

I’m trying a different background and reduced the magenta and red colors in the flower. I was a little too close, but the birds were only around the feeder briefly. Please evaluate saturation levels and overall comp. Thank you…Jim

Jim: As you’re discovering, this style of photography is challenging to get really natural looking images.

For me a natural version of a multi-flash image needs to have light on the hummingbird that looks like sunlight, which implies more light from above and less from the bottom.

The backgrounds need to look like something I’d expect to see in nature as a nice OOF background created by natural Depth of Field

And finally, it needs to have a pleasing composition, like any image from any style of photography.

I still think the lighting on your hummer has too much light causing the light on the hummer to all be uniform as if it was light by some magic omnidirectional sun. There should be shadowing on the lower parts of the bird.

The background is just to uniform. Finding a natural background that would render like that in nature would be a pretty odd thing.

Composition: Looks pretty good. Maybe a bit tight, but by far the least of my concerns.

I’ve done thousands of these images in the U.S. and Costa Rica. Each time I set up, there’s some new challenge to get things just right with the flower, the background, the flash distances and positions and creating an environment that will make a pleasing composition when a hummingbird does arrive.

Hope my comments are helpful.

Jim: I created a version of your image with a complete background replacement, some lighting changes on the hummer, etc. If you’d like me to post it here, I can, but not without your permission.

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Go ahead Keith. I have a few other versions that have some variation in the BG. Action was fast and furious tonight.

Jim: Here’s a version with a different background. A significant amount of burning on the hummer to create different lighting values, darker eye, and some work on the red flowers. Has a bit of cut and paste look since I replaced the background and didn’t take the time to blend everything, but the idea is still there. If you compare this version and your version, I hope you’ll see a bit of what I tried to describe in words in my original response.


I don’t mind your background at all here Jim, it’s possible you could get something similar in nature with a distant hillside. I do think the bird was a bit too bright in your post and if you reduced the exposure overall it would work better, the saturation of the flowers in Keith’s rework look much better to me. I always start out working these multi-flash images in the ACR or lightroom profile of Camera Neutral as I find that the flowers are much less likely to be over saturated to start with.

I prefer the green background as it looks more natural. I agree that in the Amber background image, the hummingbird seems too bright and the whites seem to be a little blown out.

Maybe it is just the contrast but in the image with the green background, the bird seems to be a little darker.

I could see a little more room around the bird but the composition is fine.

I think Keith’s got the right idea in terms of lighting, Jim. As far as the background goes, you might take a purposely oof picture of your or someone else’s garden you like when it’s got nice bloom and either print it large or have a poster made. It’s an easy way to get a “natural” background.

Thank you all for your critiques. I re-edited one of the images from this series and used Camera Neutral in Lightroom for a starting point. I upgraded my Lightroom 4.4 to 6.14 and it seems to handle the D500 better. I also reduced the saturation of yellow and increased the saturation in green. Burning and dodging portions of the hummingbird and reducing whites in LR seemed to help. I will try again tonight with another background and lighting arrangement. I was pushing the brightness too much and it was equalizing the subtle shading that was present from the flashes.

This is a vast improvement, Jim. I really like the modeling of the flowers and foliage and the hummingbird looks much more three dimensional as well.