Bird Photography Quick Tip: Birds In Flight Against A Blue Sky

Today’s Quick Tip is about bird photography and catching birds in flight. As you are likely on the ground looking up, you’re going to have some lighting issues to contend with. In other words, your bird is lit from above but with a beautiful blue sky behind it (I’ll have an article later on bright white, cloudy skies).

NOTE: All edits are done in Adobe Lightroom.

I’ll be using this example of a bald eagle I shot yesterday. Here’s the image straight out of the camera.

Canon EOS 7D Mark IICanon EF 28-300mm L – ISO 1250 – 221mm – f/8 – 1/4000 – 2/3 stop exposure over compensation


First, I cropped the image down to emphasize the eagle. Often, when I know the image will mostly be seen on the web, I don’t worry about keeping aspect ratios perfect. Or that the framing might be odd. If later I want to print the image, I only have to use the magic of Lightroom to adjust the crop.

Much better, but still a little dark.

Up The Exposure

Next I increased the exposure by 1.2 stop to bring out the eagle.

There we go! I can see the eagle just fine (looking mostly toward the eye and beak as points of interest). But wait, the sky is melting away and boring.

Luminance Shift To The Rescue

There’s a reason I mention a blue sky in the title of this post. It allows for easy manipulation of the blue Luminance slider under the HSL/Color section.

After dropping it down to -86, the sky comes back to a more natural blue.

A Few Extra Refinements

As I shot this image at ISO 1250 to help with fast moving birds, I increased Luminance and Contrast Noise Reduction.

Also, I added +29 to the overall saturation and brought Blacks down by -38 to help give boldness to the wing color. I also brought Clarity down by -29 to help the bird stand out just a little more.


I can probably go on forever cleaning up noise and perfecting the image, but I am really happy with how just a little effort brings out the majesty in this magnificent bird.

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