An Illustration of Why Bird Photography Is So Hard

Geese Photo by Scott Bourne

An Illustration of Why Bird Photography Is So Hard

I like this photograph. I really like it. But it will probably never sell. That’s a problem for me since I earn income from my bird photography. It’s a very demanding genre. In bird photography, things have to be absolutely perfect to sell, because no matter how good my shot is, there is someone who has a slightly better shot.

Geese Photo by Scott Bourne

I envy bird photographers who do this strictly for fun. If I were in that camp (and who knows, maybe someday I will be) then this picture would be a winner for me. I love the background, the tack sharp focus on the lead bird, the perfect exposure and the action, amplified by two birds, not just one.


It’s not really perfect. It’s slightly off sun angle and the second bird isn’t COMPLETELY sharp. Acceptably sharp? Maybe. It’s like human portraiture. As long as the main subject is sharp it’s not a huge deal that the background bird is slightly out of focus. You’d have to look closely to note it.

And another but…

BUT — that is what editors do. They look closely. That’s their job.

So I’ll put this image in my favorites portfolio, because it is a nice moment and I like the symmetry of it as well as the memory. But that doesn’t mean it’s a salable shot. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll run into an editor who isn’t so strict about sun angle. 🙂


Olympus OM-D E-M1 X, Olympus 300 f/4 IS Pro Lens. ISO 320 – f/5.6 – 1/2000th – handheld

P.S. I occasionally post my images that were unsuccessful for three reasons. One – to show that I am human and don’t always get it right. Two – in hopes that I or maybe even you can learn from my mistakes. Not sure about how much I will learn from my own mistakes, since I keep making them that is 🙂 Three – because everyone likes to show their winners, and I want to be transparent about the fact that they all cannot be winners. 

Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: or Gary at: Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.

4 Responses

  1. I think you might be giving (some) editors more credit than they might be due.

    I’m also a keen angler, and I was looking at stock images of fishermen just yesterday.

    I was frankly amazed at the number that had been accepted where the model was holding the rod and reel upside down; or was using entirely the wrong kind of tackle for the kind of fishing supposedly being undertaken.

    I would be just as amazed if your Snow geese were to be rejected – it’s a glorious image, and no READER of any publication the picture found itself in would even notice the very slight and (if I might say respectfully) irrelevant OOF softness of the second bird: I think you’re probably judging it with a photographer’s eye, rather than with the eye of someone who just appreciates a beautiful image…

    Bird photographers are UNIQUELY overly self-critical in my experience – no bad thing in itself, it probably explains the high standards we see out there – but sometimes I really think we can beat ourselves up too much.

    1. I sure wish you are right. We’ll see what happens. In my experience they reject images that aren’t perfect. I get published all the time and I get rejected even more 🙂 But thanks for the kind words. I do love this image.

  2. Do you not think it’s more likely that they reject on the basis of a more arbitrary “don’t like” reaction, than because of any quantifiable, objective failing in the image?

    Obviously you’re speaking from experience, Scott – but I still think you might be giving yourself a harder time than is actually warranted.

Leave a Reply




Related Post

How Photographers Can Get The Most Out of Threads

Be sure to fill out your bio on Threads and note that it will...

Photographers You Should Know – Elliott Erwitt

A member of the Magnum Photos agency since 1953, Mr. Erwitt was one of...

HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod – A Quick Review

The HEIPI 3-in-1 Travel Tripod stands out as a versatile and innovative solution for...