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The Birdchick – Digiscoping Tips for Beginners

Digiscoping Tips
Sharon Stiteler

One of the big complaints I hear from people about digiscoping is how awful their photos look. My first question is always, “How many photos have you taken?”

“Oh, maybe sixteen or twenty,” is the usual answer.

That’s not nearly enough. For every great photo you see online or in print, there are anywhere from 20 to 500 terrible photos that came before it. As a matter of fact, the more bad photos you take, the closer you are to being a pro!

As easy as digiscoping with a smartphone can be, there are some tried and true photography tips that come into play and those tips are what lead to the fantastic photos you see on Digiscoping Gurus or Worldwide Digiscopers pages on Facebook.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Take a day and take as many craptastic photos as you can. It’s very easy to delete them, but use that time to see what works and what does not. Find a bird feeder either in your yard, a friend’s yard or nature center. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or soda and just allow yourself a few hours of time to get to know your setup.

Figure out which feeder gets the most activity, aim your kit at that feeder and practice focusing. Even if a bird isn’t there, just focus on the feeder and take a few shots. As you focus on the feeder, inevitably a bird will fly in and you’ll mostly be in focus at that point.

Bird feeders are a great way to practice using your equipment. As you watch the birds move, you’ll notice that some like the White-necked Jacobin may perch on a nearby branch while not feeding you can try to get “natural” shots. Photo by The Birdchick.

If you want to try and get shots of birds that come to the feeder but don’t want the feeder in the shot, consider placing branches nearby. The birds will often sit on those branches before coming into the feeder and if you aim your setup at that you can get some “natural” looking shots.

Keep Sun In Mind

On an overcast day you don’t have to worry about sun angle so much. But when it’s out, it can affect your shots. Many photographers like the golden hour of just after sunrise or just before sunset when the birds are in a lovely golden light that brings out their colors. The harsh glare of the noon day sun can really wipe out colors and bring on heat shimmer that will make it impossible to get a sharp photo.

When the sun is out, try to keep it behind you so you are using its brightness to light up the bird. Keep this in mind when you’re looking for places to digiscope birds. This can save you a lot of time in the field when you’re planning on going out. Photography blinds at lakes and wetlands can be fun, but they’re useless to you if the sun is facing the blind when you go. A very handy app for planning your outing and thinking about sun is the The Photographer’s Ephemeris available for both iPhone and Android.

http://photoephemeris.com/

If you are setting up feeders in your yard so you can digiscope birds, try to keep sun angle in mind to make getting shots easier.

Get Closer To The Bird

The advantage of using a spotting scope and smart phone to take pictures of birds is that you can give the bird a comfortable distance. However, that doesn’t mean that eagle nest that is two miles away is going to be a great picture. Yes, you can see it in the scope and depending on the quality of your scope have a great view, but a warm day will give you lots of heat shimmer making a tack sharp photo impossible. The closer you get to your subject, the less atmosphere you will have to deal with while taking the photo.

Here’s a series of photos showing you the difference in quality from distant bird shots to those that are much closer.

 

This is an ok shot of a Turkey Vulture that was very far away. To get better photos, try to get closer with scaring the bird and get it in a more colorful background than the sky. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

Note the Turkey Vulture is on the ground with grasses and daisies behind it. This colorful background enhances the colors of the vulture’s head and feathers. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

This is the same turkey vulture but a little closer. I waited until the bird was preening its feathers and took twenty steps closer and got a head shot. I dared no closer, vultures vomit in self defense. Photo by The Birdchick.

 

Phone Skope Digiscoping Tips – Digiscoping with Binoculars Part 1

Folks often think that digiscoping can only be done with a spotting scope, but you can also digiscope with binoculars! I like to call this “digibinning.” Digibinning is super easy to do with your smartphone using a Phone Skope Adapter. All of our kits are two-piece, a phone-specific case and a optic adapter, which is either optic-specific or universal. In the video below, Cheston shows you how to hook a phone up to a pair of Vortex Viper binoculars using the Phone Skope iPhone 6 Plus Phone Case and U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter. This setup is extremely easy to use in the field and takes seconds to attach to binoculars.

How does the system work?

Here are the steps you should take to successfully take pictures through your binoculars with your phone.

  1. Put your phone into the Phone Skope Phone-specific Phone Case
  2. Adjust the diameter of the U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter to the size of your binocular eyecup
  3. Lock the U-1 Mini Universal Optic Adapter into the Phone Skope Phone Case
  4. Twist the eyecup out on the binocular
  5. Slide the system over the eyecup
  6. Start taking pictures or video

What can you digiscope through binoculars?

Anything! Anything you see through your binoculars can be captured on your phone by using a Phone Skope Adapter. The Phone Skope makes it easy to take pictures through binoculars by centering the phone camera lens on the optic.

Where can I buy one?

You can purchase a Phone Skope through our online store or at a dealer near you. Please see our Dealer Locator and we urge you to call a dealer first to see if they have the items you need in stock.

Where can I share my photos?

Share your pictures and videos with us on social media with the tag #phoneskope! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube!

Phone Skope Digiscoping Tips – Using Autofocus for Sharper Photos and Video

The Problem

Using your smartphone for digiscoping can be fun and rewarding, but also challenging. One of the the more challenging aspects is locking the exposure and focus in on the subject you’re photographing. If your subject is not in focus, the resulting video or picture can be undesirable. Therefore, figuring out a way to optimize your settings is essential for producing high quality content! An easy way to remedy this situation is to lock the focus on a specific point on the phone screen. You can do this by simply tapping and holding your finger on the screen until the focus locks. This can usually be accomplished within the standard camera app on most phones (Note: this may only work on newer smartphones or in some 3rd Party apps).

In This Video

In the video below, Zac Griffith demonstrates how easy it is to use the built in autofocus feature on the iPhone to improve the quality of the video. He also shows the difference between the video quality when using autofocus and when autofocus is disabled. 

Contact Us!

If you have any other tips, tricks, or tactics for improving quality of pictures and videos captured using your smartphone and optics, please let us know by sending an email to support@phoneskope.com!

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