What I could have done to improve this image

/, Florida, Pinellas County, Snowy Egrets/What I could have done to improve this image

Snowy EgretSnowy Egret – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 200, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

This image could have been better. I have no doubt about that. I did get the exposure right and I like the action.

But there are far too many things about this photo that just don’t work.

  • I clipped the tip of the wing at the upper edge of the frame.
  • The foreground is messy.
  • If I cropped to eliminate the messy foreground there would not be enough room for the “virtual” legs that are under the water.
  • I don’t have great eye contact.

What I could have done to improve this image:

  • My zoom lens was fully extended, I could have zoomed back to allow more room in the frame to avoid clipping the wing tip. If I had been shooting with a prime lens I could have moved back some.
  • I was laying on the sand shooting down towards the egret that was in the water. I could have moved from the sand into the water in front of the bird to eliminate the messy, sandy shoreline altogether.
  • Normally in a frame you want to leave room for parts of legs, tails, feet or other parts of a subject that may be hidden by water or other features so that it doesn’t make the viewer feel the subject is missing its legs, feet or other body part, had I moved away from the shoreline into the water I could have avoided that issue.
  • Had I moved to a location in front of the egret I would have had better eye contact although the position of the wings would have appeared different at another angle.

This was a very cooperative bird because it was not focused on me, it was focused on hunting and eating prey so my moving may not have scared the bird away.

I feel that when I am culling out my “bad” images that it is important to evaluate why the image didn’t work, to mentally list things I could have done to improve the quality and composition, a form of self critique. I also critique the images that I feel “work” well and make a mental list about those items too. It might be a pain to spend the time evaluating individual images but I feel that my photography has improved because of my practicing self critique.

Normally images that don’t work I delete right after I view them but this one I kept because it was the “kick in the butt” I needed (and still need) to pay more attention to the problems I see in the frame at the time the image is created. It helps me as a photographer to think about what I could have done to improve this image of the Snowy Egret.



  1. Tami Vogel August 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I agree w/Syl – this is a pretty cool image, even w/the loss of the wingtips. The front water makes me feel like I’m actually there w/the bird – I can hear the splashing of the bird, fish and waves more so than a “clean” shot where you don’t have that immediacy. I love it, Mia!

  2. M. Firpi August 19, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I see it’s a documentary shot of the bird’s behaviour. I also suffer when I get the clipped wings too. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Mia McPherson August 25, 2012 at 10:40 am

      Thanks maria, normally I just delete images with clipped wings, legs or other body parts.

  3. Syl August 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I believe there is a time for messy and clipped..this is one of them..the clip of the feather tips makes you wonder how much longer are they? The messy foreground also raises the questions as to what is hidden beneath the water. I personally find the piece moving and peaks my imagination..not perfect perhaps..but oh so creative..

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      Thank you Syl, you have given me insight on this image too.

  4. Jeremy Medina August 19, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Great pointers Mia, thanks for sharing!

  5. Dan Huber August 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    wonderful capture Mia, but your post helps us less knowledgeable to improve our works too.

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Thanks Dan, you too are very kind.

  6. Prairie Birder August 19, 2012 at 7:37 am

    I think this is a wonderful photo 🙂

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm

      Thank you PrairieBirder, you are very kind.

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