Red Breasted Kingfisher + Repost


Critique Style Requested: Standard

The photographer is looking for generalized feedback about the aesthetic and technical qualities of their image.


This picture was taken on a jeep tour through the southern Pantanal.
The kingfisher sat on the fence post and made this pose. He kept putting his tail up and down again.
I don’t know why he was doing that.

Specific Feedback

When I saw the bird I quickly opened the aperture as far as possible and kept the camera shooting.
I’m not sure about the background. I wish I had some shots where the background wasn’t quite so blurry. Maybe the picture would be more interesting if you could see something of the surroundings.

The bright feathers on the neck of the bird are slightly blown out. But I think it’s not a big deal.

What do you think?

Technical Details

Basic adjustments in LR, Noise Reduction with Denoise AI, and some contrast in PS + cloning out the blurred fence wire.

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Jens, I actually like the DOF you chose, because he is the main attraction, not the BG. It looks like it might have been in harsh light, which makes it difficult to not blow out the whites. It still looks fine to my old eyes. I love the position of the tail.

An interesting behavior that I don’t recall seeing in any Kingfisher I’ve seen before, Jens. The background is fine with me. As Shirley noted, the light was obviously pretty harsh, and you might try bringing up the shadows a bit to mitigate that. Looking at the histogram you included, I’m surprised the whites were blown, but it might just be such a small blip that it doesn’t show in the total area of the image. That said, the whites don’t bother me in this case.

Did you by chance get an image with enough of a head turn to get a catchlight in the eye?

Hi Jens, nice pose you caught - love the upright tail and open beak. Agree that BG is fine here rather than needing to be less blurry. The whites do appear a tad blown but I’m wondering if more detail can be tweaked out in the RAW file - they don’t seem that blown. Looks like the eye catchlight was right on the edge. Nice image.

Well I gotta get on my kingfisher game. Years of living on a river that has tons of them and you know how many photos I have.


This is wonderful. Great detail in the crest and bill and oh, that tail. I can’t say I’ve seen them do this before, but I’ll have to check them out the the next time I’m in the kayak on the river, which should be Friday.

@_Kris Have fun trying for them. They’re known for their skittishness (at least the Belted Kingfishers, which are the only ones you’re likely to see north of the Rio Grande valley). Thus far I’ve had one encounter that’s resulted in something halfway acceptable.

@Shirley_Freeman, @Dennis_Plank, @Allen_Sparks, @_Kris
Thank you all for your feedback.

Here are two more pictures I took of this bird. I think there is more of a catchlight in the eye than in my original post:

If you switch back and forth, you’ll get an idea of the movement the bird was constantly making.

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Thanks for posting these, @Jens_Ober. The tail-up version with the extra catchlight is great and toggling back and forth between the two does indeed give a nice feel of the motion.


Thank you very much. I just added a newly edited version to the original post.

Hi Jens,

I am really intrigued by this image!
The raised tail seems to match their calls, whenever they make a certain sound, their tail raises like that, maybe it’s part of their mating call/display?
I’ve witness this behavior but of course I wasn’t able to capture it as you did. I rarely attempt photographing birds.

I like the perch and the BG, I feel like the BG should be blurred like this because it adds depth and separation.
I like the slight head turn as well and for the reason mentioned, it adds just a touch more light on the eye, it’s a minor detail but it helps.

For me though, this feels like it’s too dark, at least on the Kingfisher, the Kingfisher is in direct sunlight but it appears that a really dark CPL filter was used. It doesn’t look natural to me.

I done an edit to show what I feel is closer and more natural in terms of exposure on the bird, I added a touch of contrast and exposure to the BG, I also cloned out a straight line that was to the right of the bird’s tail, that line was parallel to the tail and it drew my attention to a small degree.

The slightly blown area on the bird’s neck can be fixed by adding a few small light gray lines at various angles using paint and a skinny elliptic brush, then blend it using the “Difference” blending mode. It adds a bit of texture that seems pretty close to natural, it’s kind of a pain to get it to blend right but it’s worth it IMHO.
Then I added an exposure mask over the small brighter area of the breast feathers in front of the wing where the light was making them brighter (just to draw less attention to that area).

Finally, I brought up the exposure, raised gamma a bit and lowered the contrast and saturation on the bird itself.

As always, it’s just my personal opinion. :slight_smile:

I hope you don’t mind!

Thank you very much @Merv. I really like your edit.
Yes, I agree. My image looks quite dark. I must admit that I have little experience editing bird images (as you can see obviously).

I will try to recap your edits.

My pleasure, just glad I could shed a little light on the subject :roll_eyes:

It’s really easy to get lost in an image until you see it in a different way.
I often bring up an exposure mask and play with brightness and gamma to almost extreme levels just to see if I’m missing something, bird images can be quite tough!

It really is an awesome and intriguing image! :slight_smile:

Tjank you very much for your kind words.

By Exposure Mask, do you mean a Luminosity Mask on an Exposure adjustment layer?

I rarly used the Exposure adjustment layer and wasn’t aware of the Gamma slider. Very cool feature.

I suppose I should start referring to it as an exposure adjustment layer, but, a mask does automatically load when it’s chosen, so it seemed appropriate to call it an exposure mask.
Although, It can be converted to a luminosity mask by changing the blend mode to Luminosity.

It’s too easy to get lost in terminology translations when there are so many ways to achieve the same thing.

And, yes, that gamma slider is a real handy tool, the offset slider really helps, too!

Sorry for the confusion. :slight_smile:

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Hi Jens. I just noticed the repost on this one and wanted to say that you nailed it with that.

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Same here, Jens, I just noticed this since Dennis brought it back to the top.

The rework looks excellent! Very Nicely Done!! :slight_smile:

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