Sometimes, people unfamiliar with nature photography do not understand how many photos it takes to get one good enough to post. Very kind people have even commented that every photo I take seems to be a good one, but the reality is quite different.

I average taking at least 1,000 pics on an outing, and when I find a lot of birds, I may take 2,000 photos. The story behind those numbers is that my camera takes multiple pics per second. The camera can take ten pics per second, but realistically I probably get five to seven per second due to my camera settings.

You can learn more about my camera equipment in this article, and I’ll cover camera settings in a future article.

So, every time I press the shutter release, I take several photos. That is part of my strategy, and the result is that if I see a bird for five to ten seconds, I may end up with thirty or forty photos of that bird. Typically, the longer I see a bird, the more pics I get. Sometimes, I only see a bird for a second or two, and often I don’t get even a single photo. Birds are quick, and it takes time to find the bird through the lens, focus, compose, etc.

But let’s assume I get forty pics of a bird. Lucky me! But not all of those pics will be keepers. Here’s how they might breakdown:

Category Description/Example

  • Too blurry to use - Landing, taking off, or moving quickly, 15%

  • Not sharp enough - Not as sharp as I prefer, 20%

  • Near duplicates - If the bird does not move a lot, I get several pics that are about the same, 20%

  • Obscured - Behind leaves or limbs, 10%

  • Cut off - During frantic composition, I might cut off some part of the bird, 10%

  • Keepers - I may only keep two or three photos of the same pose to have options when I’m selecting pics to post, 25%

  • Pics I post - Good enough to post – chosen from the keepers 

Sometimes the culling process takes a couple of hours or more for an average day of birding. I could easily import all the photos into my catalog, but I prefer to import only the better images. The culling process is iterative. I first delete the blurry, obscured, and cut-off photos. That goes quickly. The slow part is selecting the sharpest pictures and the images I like best. A lot goes into evaluating each photo. I call it “Checking the Boxes,” the subject of another article I will post in the future.

Examples from photographing the Magnolia Warbler

Too blurry to use

Near Duplicates and not as sharp as I prefer - I got several photos of this pose but would not post this pic

Obscured – It’s a lovely “photography in the real world” photo, but I prefer photos where more of the bird is visible


Cut Off – this happens when I’m frantically trying to keep up with the bird


Keepers and Pics I Post – This is a keeper and a photo I posted


Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Your response will help me better understand what you value. Likes and comments are welcome.