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KNOW WHY YOU'RE SHOOTING. This sounds simple, but I find that a lot of people have only a vague idea that they should be lifting and firing their camera from time to time, but don't have a well-defined goal for what they're going to do with their photos. Thinking this through has implications both for the equipment that you use and when you raise your camera in the field. For today, I'll focus on the latter.

Some people have a purist mentality, where the only sort of photos that they want are perfect portraits on a deliciously mossy log, with a clean background. Many birders, on the other hand, use their camera as a tool to document rare sightings. Even if a photo is grainy, obscured, or poorly lit, it's a "good" photo if it documents the sighting!


So if you're on a trip or out birding locally, and you bring a camera, what is your aim? Are you trying to come home with gorgeous portraits of a few birds? Are you trying to document as many of your sightings as possible, maybe for an eBird checklist?

I include these two photos to illustrate this point. I shot both with the express purpose of using them in the trip report for my Sri Lanka trip earlier this year. A purist photographer never would have lifted their camera in these grim conditions, but I managed to get photos that are far from perfect, but which are effective in a trip report. Thinking clearly about "why you shoot" can save you a lot of time later deleting photos, wondering "why did I shoot this?!" It can also save you the frustration of looking back later and realizing that you missed a photo-op.

Photo Tips 4.1.jpg

Sri Lanka Thrush, one of the country's scarcest and must elusive endemic birds.

Photo Tips 4.2.jpg

Forest Wagtail, a scarce winter visitor to Sri Lanka

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