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Shooting Chickens - how to take amazing chicken photos!

 
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I want to shoot some chickens with my camera!  I want to go where the chickens are and take unobtrusive photos in their natural setting.  Most importantly, I want the photos to be the best, print quality.

It's harder than it looks.

For starters, chickens don't like lens.  The lens looks like an eye and it follows them.  This makes them feel like prey or curious so they come to close to the camera and start pecking at it.   So I've been using a 55-200mm zoom lens.  Even with image stabalization, I'm have trouble keeping the camera still enough.  Using a tripod is difficult because it's higher than the chickens and chickens move around a lot.


This is petrichor, my rooster:


f5.6
1/2000 second
ISO 5000
110mm


There are some really good elements of this photo.
- it is taken at his eye height
- it captures a moment in time when he has an interesting facial expression.
- the background is simple
- his eye is in focus (more on this later)
- he's off-centre which makes for more interesting composition.

There are a lot of things about this photo that makes it not technically good photo!
- the file size is small at only 954x954 pixels which is not big enough for my plans
- it's heavily cropped making a small file size
- due to the high ISO, there's a lot of noise and artifacts
- when I try to fix the noise in post processing, it makes the chicken less sharp and look out of focus.  When I add sharpening software, it increases the noise.  
- it's not as in focus as possible.  
- the shallow depth of field means I could not get both eyes in focus.  It would have looked a lot better.


Let's talk about how to take good photos of chickens, sheep, geese, ducks, and other livestock.
I would also love to see your photos!  
 
r ranson
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I like the composition of this one:


f5.6
1/2000 of a second
ISO2500
142mm


Petrichor strutting his stuff.
It's a bigger photo at 3457x3457 pixels
Depth of field is about right
I'm enjoying how the foreground is in focus as well as the chicken
But the noise from the high ISO is terrible.  It makes it look like the background is abstract instead of out of focus.
He's also not as different from the background as I would like.
 
r ranson
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backyard chickens' article about taking photos of chooks

Take more pictures because that way you'll have more that will be good
Take pictures while holding the chicken
Do photo shoots
Blend colors of chicken with other things in its surroundings
Use things around your lawn to make good pictures
With chicks, it's best to take them out of the brooder for pictures
Reflect chickens personalities in their pictures
Think out of the box
Use shadows positively in your pictures
Use natural beauties in your pictures.



Some of the photos are good and I love the composition ideas.
But I'm also looking at how to take technically good images of the chickens.  I'm not sure that any of these would be technically sufficient for the project I have in mind.  That said. They are still better than anything I've managed to capture chookwise do it's a good source of information and inspiration.
 
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I am not going to be any help from a technical photography perspective... but I think you have identified the most correctable difficulties in your first post, which may have some relatively simple solutions.

1) Tripod is too tall. First option that comes to mind, is a desktop tripod, or you could probably secure a camera mount to a stable chunk of wood. You may end up doing some contortions, hopefully your camera has an adjustable screen so you can view it from above?


2) Chickens fear or investigate lens.

Option 1: acclimatize them to a similar looking dead camera/lens, left in their space.

Option 2: camoflauge the camera with a tube that also shelters the lens.


As a bonus, a low angle should make it easier to find green stuff rather than ground stuff behind the chicken, for better contrast. Or maybe a pile of pumpkins as a backdrop, if you have some darker birds?

Good luck!
 
r ranson
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here are some tips from tasty worms

1. Get in CLOSE
2. Keep it natural
3. Background matters
4. Change perspective for some added drama and maybe a bit of silliness
5. It’s all about the light

The article goes into these better.  There's a lot of useful stuff there.
 
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I'm no expert, but as a fellow amateur I can offer a couple thoughts:

1/2000 is a pretty dang fast shutter speed. If you bring that down (maybe like 1/500? or even as low as 1/80ish) you can probably dial your ISO way back down. The super fast speeds might matter if you were trying to catch "action" shots like flying, but for chicken glamour shots, you can get away with a much slower shutter. Maybe you have it dialed up to mitigate camera shake, in which case a tripod will solve that problem for you. Segue to...

Some tripods (I have one like this) have a pivoting shaft that gives you options for getting the camera real close to the ground. Unfortunately, a nice tripod is a bit pricey, so it depends on how much you want to invest in your camera stuff. A Gorillapod would also work if that's more use to you. The really cheap option is probably to figure out what size bolt the camera mount takes and mount a bolt in a piece of wood, although you wouldn't be able to control tilt then. Maybe you could scrounge a ball mount head and fix that to a piece of wood...
 
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Your Chicken Pictures are already pretty good. My first thought was ...   Ah  that is an example he also want to do.

I think chickens can get pretty familiar with a camera, when they are getting used to it. I visited a Chicken flock some days ago, and first  they reacted more curious than disturbed. But soon they found picking in the grass more interesting than me and my camera.
Try to use lowest ISO possible for better quality. Tripod is for use with long or heavy lenses or in low light, not much of help when shooting  non wildlife chickens.
Chicken are moving in a distint way. They stand still for some time, and then suddenly mofe fast. All those still standing time 1/50s would be fine (with adequat focal lenght).  The moment they move theri Head or pick, yes that would need 1/1000 or so.  The best is to fiqure this out in test sequences. This helbs to developp practice which is the most importend part and works only by doing. With some practice you learn to feel the rhythm of their behavour. I would try burst shooting (3 Shots) per Button activation in case the chicken moves (SD-Card volume is no issue nowadays).
On your images The weather looks overcast or taken in shaddow. More Light is always better in photography, try to work in bright light. Direct sunshine is light for best color shining, albeit you have to take care of shaddow impact. But with modern digital cameras this is not so much of an issue than it was.
Using RAW-File format and post processig is also a quality Step up in the optimization of the denoise  -vs- unsharp ratio. Instead of a 55-200 zoom-lens,  a prime lens, especially a modest macro tele might also be worth a try when headding for best technical quality.
But most importend is practice and usually image quality raises with effort while shooting.



 
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I wonder if you could rig some sort of crittercam, the way they do for wildlife. Perhaps get a stuffed rooster with a camera mounted inside. Have it take a picture whenever he gets a certain distance from it. You might get some great attack photos. Probably not something to do with your most valuable camera.
 
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Here's a shot I took with a Smart-Phone - apologies to all the telephoto lens and 35mm film fanatics ... I was once like that until my rucksack got too heavy!

'Spot', the Australorp hen, is the last of her generation and appears to be still going strong amongst a much younger flock. She's taken on the motherly patron position and is content to waddle around, making gentle little noises, picking the odd blade of grass and mostly sitting in a hollow she made in the cool shade of a tree.

Although she gave up laying eggs a couple of years ago, she is now a loved pet, who is still capable of roosting high on the perch regardless of her bulk and substantial weight.

At 13 years old, she is well over 100 years old in human years - she retains her robust figure, black glossy feathers, red comb and wattles, shiny black eyes and, importantly, no cankles!

Spot-The-Australorp_13-Years-Old.jpg
Spot The Australorp
Spot The Australorp
 
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