Photography tips I learnt from this Rainbow Lorikeet

Dec 8 2008

Rainbow Lorikeet
50mm f/1.4 lens, f/4, 1/160, ISO 200.

I wanted to share the story behind this colourful photo of the mostly lovely, attack lorikeet I met at the Currumbin Sanctuary. While at the park, I took over 600 photos of fun creatures, most of them during the harsh lighting hours of 10am to 4pm. It was impossible to get a good shot of the lorikeets in this lighting. Because it was so scorching hot, most of them stayed up in the shade of the tall gum nut trees far out of the reach of my 50mm lens.

I had almost given up, when suddenly at about 5pm, the light became magical. It got all warm and soft and yummy. Everyone was leaving the park as it was closing, so I had a nice clean shot of the birds as they were happily slurping their honey water. I shot maybe 30 images of the lorikeet in different lighting conditions, (shade, direct sun, diffused light), so I felt like I had at least one good shot.

When I got home and went through all my photos, I was really disappointed with my lorikeet shots. I just didn’t see the magical shot I wanted. A couple days later I scanned the images again and found one that I felt was “decent”. I worked on it for a while in Aperture. I played a lot with the composition of the image. Check out the before shot:

Original lorikeet photo

This image is far too busy with the other bird in the shot and the blue metal feeder in the background. I cropped in really tight on the head, but making sure there was enough negative space around the head to create nice shapes.

I also blurred out the background even more and desaturated the green in the background slightly so it wouldn’t distract from the lorikeet. I increased the saturation and vibrancy of the feathers minorly and spent ages cleaned up all the tiny imperfections on the eye, beak and feathers.

The lessons I learnt from this experience this were:

  1. If you are at a wildlife park or zoo, enjoy the experience of hanging out with cool animals during the harsh light hours and take your serious shots during magic hour. Because photos taken during magic hour are always better than ones taken in harsh light. It sucks, especially because most parks close right when the light becomes magical, so you really have to push it to stay out there until they kick you out!
  2. Take several passes through your photos before discarding any “decent” shots, especially when you are going though hundreds of images after a shoot when you are tired and creatively zapped.
  3. You can take a photo from good to great if you spend a good chunk of time in post. Really get critical with your images. Analyze them and ask others for criticism. Make them as perfect as possible.

And you never know, maybe your photo will end up on the front page of flickr explore!! :D

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17 Responses to “Photography tips I learnt from this Rainbow Lorikeet”

  1. The colors are phenomenal!


  2. Wow, awesome colours!

  3. Lisa,
    I am a new Canon Xsi owner and new reader of your fantastic site. Already inspired by your geekdom and talent

    Don in AZ

  4. Those Rainbow Lorikeets are a lot of fun to watch. We have them at the National Aviary over in Pittsburgh.

    Their social structure is pretty amazing too. They have their little packs and cliques just like people and when they feel threatened they huddle in little groups for protection. Such beautiful animals. Great work on this closeup shot !

  5. that bird looks like it could be out of a hitchcock film… he looks super pissed.

  6. Nice job Lisa! You did all the post in Aperture?

  7. As the great photographer Rick Sammon ( said, “CROP THE CRAP”

  8. Omg your ninja skillz never cease to impress

  9. Thanks everyone!

    @Gregg — they do seem like very social fellows!

    @Kurt — I did do all the post in Aperture. I really love how easy it is to edit and manage photos in Aperture. Great application.

    @Scott — indeed!

  10. Hey Lisa!
    This is unfair.
    Yepp, I have to confess that this picture is wonderful!
    Yeah, you inspire me!


    it is freezing cold here. I am stuck in a winter with no hope
    in sight. And you confront me with Rainbow Lorikeets…

    Beam me up… no… down! Beam me down… under!

  11. Great pic, it’s so colourful.

    Hope you’re enjoying the sun down’s been raining like mad here in Van.

  12. I found your site from your Viddler video that I watched and I just thought I’d leave you a comment and let you know that I really like your site and I was browsing your photo gallery. Some really gorgeous photos there.

  13. I love the color.

  14. Hi Lisa,

    Great work with the Lorikeet.

    I love many kinds of keets. I have some videos at You might like “Jake’s September Song” and “Jake’s Final Bow.”

  15. beautiful shot .. great tips too :)

  16. This happens to me all time I take alot of picture and they look good in the camera preview but when I upload them to my computer I feel dissapointed… Thx a lot for sharing this whit us.
    Awesome shot btw.

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