To expand with the discussion on cropping, sometimes the intention is to isolate one part of the subject. In the case of birds, there is nothing better than a closeup headshot of an Egret or other majestic bird. Sometimes it’s your only option with you only have your long glass and the bird is too physically close. The light and pose is just perfect and you have to take the shot.
In the case of a headshot, the face is the subject and all you are going to see. A tack sharp eye is paramount in these circumstances so you need to have your long lens technique down pat. This requires a good tripod, pressing the camera tight up to your eye and the other hand steadying the camera on the rig.
Focus can be tricky in these situations. You have a few options to choose from. In my case of with the Nikon D5, I cycle between spot, group area horizontal, and auto area autofocus. Sometimes the focus system isn’t going to give you what you want and in those situations I am quick to resolve to manual focus. In most cases to make sure that eye is tack sharp, I am going to spot focus and make sure I am right on that eye. And always, always I am shooting in continuous focus. With such long glass and being so close to the subject, minute changes by the bird will be reflected in your sharpness if your focus system is locked.
In the examples taken above, all at my favorite location for birds in Florida at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, these were taken with my Nikkor 800mm. With such a narrow depth of field, your focus point is critical for a tack sharp headshot photo.