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Beginner's Guide to Bird Photography

Lesson 10 of 14

Staying Opportunistic - Western Bluebird

Ben Knoot

Beginner's Guide to Bird Photography

Ben Knoot

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Lesson Info

10. Staying Opportunistic - Western Bluebird


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1 Class Introduction Duration:00:25
2 Location Scouting Duration:12:54
3 Gear Duration:07:43
4 Camera Settings Duration:05:54
6 Composition Duration:01:51

Lesson Info

Staying Opportunistic - Western Bluebird

I know this area has got a nesting Western Bluebird so what I'm gonna do is I'm just gonna get out of the car, I'm gonna see if I can find it. I'm gonna maybe use some playback, maybe not, it depends on if they have chicks out yet. If not, I'm just gonna walk around and see what else I can find, taking advantage of every opportunity. I decided it's okay to use the playback on the Bluebird so what I'm gonna do is I see this nice, lit perch here. And then also in the background there's a really nice lit section of the meadow that has some pink flowers and some green so I think it's gonna be a really nice complement to the blue of the Western Bluebird. Now this is something you'll pick up a little later as you get more advanced but I know that Bluebirds really like to perch above the speakers so what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put the speaker low hoping that he'll fly onto the perches above it so there's these, the perches I want him on are up here and there's a fence post down there, ther...

e's also some kind of perching material down there so you can choose what you put your speaker on. And again, you'll figure that kind of stuff out as you work on it, that's just something I've figured out over the years. Bluetooth speakers have a range of roughly 30 feet. You do want to give your subject a lot of room so you want to back off as far as possible but you obviously still need to maintain a connection with your speakers so you kind of have to test the (laughs) test the waters a little bit so let's see if it works from about here so I want him just on the end there where it bends down. I'm hoping he'll land right there. Nice and lit, background's nice and lit so I won't have any exposure issues. And this is a bright Bluebird so I'll actually need to underexpose a little bit because the direct sun onto a Bluebird is really gonna make those colors pop and if you don't underexpose you're gonna lose the detail on those blues, so we're gonna underexpose a bit. Nice, low ISO, it's full sun, shutter speed I'm gonna assume is gonna be something around 1250-1000 to keep it nice and dark and keep the details in the blue. So let's give it a go. All right. (chirps) So that's me that you hear, the background there. Again, pausing every once in a while to listen and see where it might be coming from. And again I've preset my camera so it's ready to go as soon as the bird lands there with what I think will work. I don't get it right all the time. And you know, I've been doing this for about 15 years so. It's not something that everyone will get right first try but the more you do it the more you, the more you'll understand kind of what the area you need to be in and then it's just maybe a quick turn of the dial to get it just the ISO stop lower, ISO stop higher, whatever you need. No response just yet. Sometimes different apps so I use both of, I use two apps, I use iBird Pro and I use Merlin ID. Sometimes different apps have-- (chirping) Some slightly different calls that work a little differently so we're gonna try the Merlin app. See if that call works a little better. All right, so the chicks are out of the nest. And the male is coming into the call currently so they started coming from over there. Hopefully they're gonna make their way this way. But now that I know that they have chicks outside of the nest, do this very limitedly I'll probably give it another minute at most. I don't want the adults spending too much time focusing on me rather than their chicks so yeah. We'll just give them a couple more go's and then we'll leave them be. Hopefully they'll come in here. It's really low now. Now it might be tempting at that point, when they get really low it might be tempting to go over and shoot them but what I would recommend is just waiting at that point. Because at that point, they've come down from the high part of the tree which means they're really, really interested so they're more than likely, no, see, there they go. So right now they're flying away, and I'm, oh actually. What they've done is they've just landed right on a perch, right in front of the sun. So we're gonna try to get like a cool halo shot so if you see right there. So what you wanna do there, is keep the halo, overexpose a tad, and then take your shot. That's pretty cool. The other thing we're gonna do, you notice how the sticks there are all back-lit, I'm gonna take off the 2X get a little less zoom so I can get a little more of the sticks and I'm actually gonna go vertical as well. Oh yeah, that's cool. Now what you really want to do, up that F stop, so you get all those sticks in focus, and that way you can get a really nice combination. That was cool. Very cool. Nice. So I wanted him on a perch over there in a nicely lit (laughs) a nice lit situation, nice warm, vibrant colors with a really nice pink-ish green background and I ended up getting a halo shot against the sun with kind of a gray-ish background but you know it's um it'll still be interesting so it's, you definitely want to keep an eye out for opportunities as they pop up. And don't be afraid to act. I've seen a lot of, or actually I've missed a lot of photos by just being a little too timid on acting and what you wanna do really is move with a purpose, move slowly and cautiously but with a purpose.

Class Description


  • Learn the habitat and behaviors of a variety of birds
  • How to make the best light choices based off your subject
  • Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary using color, shadows, and symmetry
  • Fast post-processing techniques to take your images to the highest level


Make the most of your wildlife adventures with Ben Knoot in this beginners guide to bird Photography course. Ben Knoot has a background in environmental policy and education as well as a keen eye and love for birds. He has honed his skill into becoming a professional photographer guiding tours around the world to help enthusiasts understand their cameras and their subjects. In this course- Ben will walk through the importance of researching and understanding your subject and the habitat they dwell in. He’ll discuss how to interact and engage a variety of birds so you have a stronger opportunity to capture them while out. He’ll walk through camera fundamentals, how to set your camera, think about composition and work with a variety of lighting. Ben will even talk through his switch to an Olympus mirrorless camera to help improve his ability to make and craft the artistic images he does.


  • Bird Enthusiasts
  • Beginner Photographers
  • Wildlife Photographers


Adobe Lightroom CC 2019




Ben is a 23-year-old nature photographer originally from California. Before graduating in 2018, he studied Environmental Policy and Environmental Education at Western Washington University in Bellingham Washington State. Ben now leads educational and instructive photography tours and workshops for Tropical Birding Tours; Ben’s goal while guiding is to provide a memorable, exciting and successful experience so that other people can enjoy photographing earths beauty as much as he does. Ben has been published by several organizations including, Natures Best Photography, Audubon, Ranger Rick, NANPA, Wildlife Photo Magazine, and the BBC. His deep love and passion for nature has guided and will continue to guide the way he chooses to live his life, with a sense of wonder and curiosity of all things new and exciting.



I liked this class. It gives beginners a great place to start photographing birds. I especially liked his lesson on post-processing. Too many classes skip that part. The use of bird calls is what it is. To be competitive in bird photography you probably have to use them. I personally won't; it's just not worth it to me. So nice to see a young person active in this field!

Colleen Church

This class is wonderful. Ben give you some very helpful information to starting your photo birding adventures. The apps he suggested are very helpful. The tips for scouting and what to look get you going. I will definitely be watching it again.

a Creativelive Student

I really enjoyed this course. The instructor doesn't beat around the bush. He gives you useful information that you can implement. I especially loved that he talks about apps on your phone that could be used to make your experience more fruitful. The only thing I didn't like was the advertisement for Olympus, but you can just skip that part.