Immature Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird & Cardinal Flower

Equipment information:

Nikon D500, 600 mm f4 + 1.4x Teleconverter, 5 flash setup with trigger set at 1/64 and 4 remaining flashes set at 1/16

Camera settings:

1/125 sec at f16, Iso 800

What specific feedback would you like?

My flashes were not behaving like they should and please provide suggestions and critiques for improving the images. I used DeNoise, Topaz Detail, Levels, Brightness & Contrast, and boosted temperature up +1 to provide some warmth. I also reduced the saturation of reds with Hue & Saturation…Jim

I think your lighting looks pretty good. I’d suggest you cut the number of flashes down to 3 on the bird and 1 for the background. That will enable easier control of the light and allow for more natural shadows.

The reds of the flowers are a bit overpowering. I’ve always struggled with reds, especially with these kinds of shots. I’d desaturate them even more and drop their luminance as well.

This is very nice, Jim. You caught a great wing position and the composition works very well. I agree with Keith, the reds on the flowers are a touch oversaturated. I think you may be able to go just a touch warmer on the white balance. I think this would make the light seem a bit more natural. A great image as posted!!!

Well, Jim, it actually looks pretty neat to me. I am not an expert at flash photography, so cannot help you there. Matts’ suggestion for trying a small adjustment in the WB could make it slightly warmer, which may add something. Other than that the image looks fine to me ! Cheers, Hans

Jim, I wish I could say this was a shot that I took of one of our hummingbirds! Very nicely captured. I have never tried to do multi-flash shots on them. The reds do look a bit overpowering as was stated, so hopefully a quick fix on that. I think the warming is a good suggestion as well. Really though, I would be proud to call this mine, even without the fixes!

Hi Jim. I see where your issue is with the image. To my eye, the use of flash is obvious, whereas in the best flash shots, it takes a second look to tell they were taken with a flash. Keith is probably your best bet for advice on this and I see he’s replied. My only input in addition to that is that it appears the front lighting flashes on the bird and flower are a bit too powerful and the background could stand to be boosted a bit. Do you have any flash backlighting the bird and flower? I think that would help with the realism.

Your hummingbird flash shots are really getting good.

Thank you for the critiques. Last night the flashes were firing not reliably and the BG was turning out very dark. I have one more night to go as the hummingbirds are flying back to the Yucatan. I’m going to drop one flash from the setup, use a lighter flower and BG, and hope for a cooperative hummingbird…Jim

Jim this looks pretty good from the get-go. If you make any changes they should be careful and minimal. The hummer does appear to be just a bit flat. I think if you selectively darken the mid tones by no more than 7 or 8%, that should give you some added depth . The flowers have a magenta cast to them and seem at the same time to be a little oversaturated, at least to the extent of loss of detail. By desaturating the red and magenta about 10% with also decreasing the luminance an equal amount, then bumping the hue up just a bit to a warmer red, then la voila! These are very minor tweaks, but should put a final shine on an impressive image. Finally, you may want to brighten up the BG just a small amount.

I do not have experience with multi-flash photography, but it does look a little artificially lit - probably because you mentioned it. The issues with the reds have already been pointed out. Other than that, I think this is another fine hummer image - very good elements, a great pose, well placed and framed.

Hi Phil,

I’ll give those edits a try for taming down the reds. I’m hoping to get some additional shots tonight. One blatant error I made last time is that I set my Metz flash for lighting up the BG to slave mode. Unfortunately, that mode is for radio channel remote flash work and the correct mode is called Servo which uses light from the on camera flash for triggering the remote flash. I need to publish a guide to different naming conventions used for flash photography (LOL).

Very nice composition and good angles on both the bird and the flowers. Yes you could certainly cut down the saturation on the flowers because it does have a tendency to draw attention away from the bird. The light on the bird itself looks fairly natural to me but I’m no expert when it comes to multiple flash setups.