A handsome bird and a couple of photo processing tips.


This photo of a male Hooded Merganser, taken two days ago, isn’t one I’d normally post to my blog. I like it reasonably well but I’m not a big fan of the pose, which for my tastes is a little too stiff and formal. I’d like it better if the bird’s head was turned more toward me or he was doing something interesting.

But while I was playing with the photo in Photoshop I noticed something about it that I found interesting and quite unusual. The “rule of thirds” actually worked with it. When I placed the merganser to my liking within the frame I’d chosen, the bird’s eye, the most important element of the photo, was…



positioned exactly according to the rule of thirds. For me that very rarely happens, especially with birds.

“The Rule of Thirds is a type of off-center composition where important elements of a photograph are placed along a 3×3 grid, which equally divides the image into nine parts. For many photographers, this type of composition is a basic way to give structure to photographs and make them more appealing.” 

The rule of thirds isn’t really a rule – it’s more of a guideline. When it can be followed, many viewers find the off-center composition to be more interesting and aesthetically pleasing. But I rarely follow it deliberately, other than to avoid centering my subject and/or its most important element – often the eye of the bird. I find that the body shape of a typical bird, when the bird is close to frame-filling, doesn’t naturally conform to the rule of thirds. And attempting to force the bird to conform when I’m cropping isn’t usually worth the effort. I typically lose more than I gain.

But when the rule of thirds does work with one of my photos it gets my attention, in part because it so rarely happens. Which is one of the reasons I’m featuring this photo in today’s post.


While I’m at it I thought I’d point something else out about this image.

One of the challenges of photography is rotating your photos to level while you’re processing them. For me, not many things can ruin an otherwise interesting photo more quickly than having it be obviously tilted. I can’t get past the tilt. But it isn’t always easy to determine when an image is level during processing because many photos don’t provide obvious leveling cues, such as a horizon in the background or plants that you know are growing vertically.

But when a bird is in water, the bird’s reflection typically provides all the cues you need.

If the water in front of the bird, where the reflection is, is calm (or relatively so), a perfectly vertical line drawn between some element of the actual bird and the reflection of that same element, means that the photo is level. If the vertical line doesn’t connect those two chosen elements, all you have to do during processing is rotate the photo until they are connected. Then the image is level. It’s a matter of physics.

Prior to processing, the photo above had a significant and annoying counterclockwise tilt that drove me more than a little nuts. So I rotated it clockwise until the vertical line on the right passed through both the bird’s eye and the reflection of the eye, as seen in the second photo above. Then the photo was level.

OK, I’ve rattled on more than long enough. Apologies to my bird photography friends who already know all this stuff.



Autor Ron Dudley


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Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.


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