Red-capped Robin
Red-capped Robin – Final version after recovering blown highlights, notice the detail in the whites.

I am no expert when it comes to understanding the technical aspects of RAW, histograms and exposure but I have learnt a few things over the years and thought I would share here.

Beginners are often asked “Are you shooting in RAW?” the reason for this is we see a lot of shots where the image is overexposed often causing the white parts of the bird to be “Blown” or lacking detail. It is very easy especially with black and white birds to get the exposure wrong. If you shoot in jpg you are pretty much screwed. If you shoot in RAW you can often recover a lot of detail in post processing by adjusting the exposure, highlights and shadows. From my understanding RAW captures everything and allows you to change the white balance, exposure, colours etc.

I thought I would share an example of where I completely messed up the in camera exposure and I overexposed the image blowing the whites. I had been shooting a Splendid-fairy wren which does not have any white. I then moved locations and started to shoot a Red-capped Robin in brighter light. I took a series of shots and once the bird moved I checked the LCD and to my horror I had forgotten to move the EC from +1/3 to probably -2/3. This was the resulting photo.

Name: Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii)(Male)
Location: Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, VIC(9/08/2012)
Canon 7D and EF400 5.6L @ F9 1/400 ISO400 400mm +0.3exp
Red-capped Robin-underexposed
Whole image is overexposed and the whites on the chest are blown showing very little feather detail.
As you can see there is hardly any detail in the whites and the whole image is overexposed. I was pretty mad as I liked the pose and the perch. In the back of my mind I was hoping I could recover the lost detail in the RAW file. I opened up the RAW file in Lightroom and had a play with the sliders and managed to recover most of the detail which was a relief.
Red-capped Robin
Final version after recovering blown highlights, notice the detail in the whites. – Canon 7D & Canon EF400 5.6L – Read my EF400 5.6 Review
Here are the lightroom settings I used. I have also done some processing in photoshop applying noise reduction to the background, selective darkening of the perch and bird, added a levels layers and sharpen.
Here is a side by side image for comparison.
Red-capped Robin Exposure Comparison
Red-capped Robin Exposure Comparison
There are lots of other benefits to shooting in RAW so I encourage all beginners to give it a go. If you like the image above be sure to check out my posts on the importance of Eye Contact and the importance of light in capturing bird photographs. Cheers, Duade.

Bird Photography Techniques Used To Capture Beautiful Bird Images

I always try and photograph birds when the light is good. Feel free to read my article on the importance of light in creating beautiful bird images. I am also always looking to create engaging bird images by capturing good eye contact. Be sure to read my article containing tips on head angle and eye contact for great bird images.

Ever wonder how I get nice clean, smooth backgrounds in my photos? I explain 4 steps to a smooth background here.

Photographic Gear Used

All links below are affiliate links to Amazon, if you use these links to purchase items on Amazon it goes towards supporting me and this site. Thank you.


1 comment
  1. Hi Duade – i shot in jpeg for some years in my early photograph activity – hardly knew what raw even was! It really makes such a difference – your tutorial very good cheers David T

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.