Northern Cardinal Portrait

As shot from the camera:

I was at the Arizona Desert Museum yesterday and this Cardinal was bouncing around on a tree. I aimed my camera to take a portrait.

Specific Feedback Requested

I posted a as shot from the camera with no edits in the second photo. Usually, portraits have everything soft except the subject although I am not a portrait photographer. So, with Lightroom Classic and a little bit with Photoshop I removed everything around the subject. Since birds do not move where I would want them, how much in this photo was ok to leave in the photo so there are no distractions. is the Crop good here?

Technical Details

R7 EF 100-400 ii at 400mm f/13 ISO 1600 1/500 HH


IMHO, Dean, this is a great portrait of the cardinal. Plenty of detail and wonderful eye contact. My own preference is the second photo with no edits. I am thinking there maybe something between the edited version and the original because I do like have some of the twigs - which set the environment. Perhaps, just remove and/or crop out the twig on the left??

Very nice look at the cardinal with excellent detail and color and a nice pose. If your objective was a portrait, then the first image works well and I might even consider removing the tree(?) parallel to the head. The original image shows more of the environment, so I guess it depends what you’re after. If this were my image, I’d probably remove the branch “going through” and “coming out” of the cardinal. Whatever, a fine image of a beautiful bird.

Thank you for the feedback, @linda_mellor and @Allen_Brooks. I was thinking the same as Linda showing an environment. That being said I framed the photo like a portrait. I am going to take you feedback and give this a lot of thought, thanks.

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Hi Dean,

The crop is good if that’s what you like and prefer, but I’m going to show you something that might help.
I have done a fair amount of portrait work over the years and that same philosophy works with birds as well, in my opinion.

Since the cardinal is only showing us its top half, let’s make the top half more interesting by concentrating on its head and beak only.
To compliment the upper half of the bird, crop in from the right (in this case) so its head, head feathers and beak are the main focal points.

This approach also brings it closer to a vertical rather than a square-ish crop, the bird is slender and long from that perspective, so the crop should compliment that in my opinion.

This crop also puts its eye just above and to the right of center, which works with an imaginary line from the BRC to the ULC (for visual reference).

I think you’re on the right track, it seems that you wanted to get rid of everything that’s distracting and leave only a blurred BG to emulate a traditional portrait.

I hope I didn’t misunderstand what you were going for (as I sometimes do :slight_smile: )


I like what you did, @Merv. I did this with a hummingbird, and it came out very well. Lots of ways to go with this photo.