Top Bird Photography Tips

Birds are probably the wildlife I spend most of my time photographing. With small songbirds, wetland birds and birds of prey you’re never short of photographic opportunity.

A snap shot of a bird is one thing but how do you get something a little extra? Let’s look at what we can do using some of the bird photography tips I’ve had success with over time.

 

Lighting

The direction and type of light that is shining onto the bird you’re photographing can make or break your image!

Its important that you make sure you appreciate the different types of light otherwise you could easily be missing a trick:

Front lighting for clarity.

Side lighting for drama.

And my personal favourite – back lighting for beautiful Silhouettes.

This is a mute swan on a dull overcast day. Driving past the swans on a few different days made me confident they liked feeding here. If you find a good local snack bar you’re going to go back right? swans-0019

I waited for a good morning forecast. When the forecast finally came I set the alarm so I could be there at sunrise. Using my car as a blind I was looking at the golden misty sunrise thinking that all this scene lacks is a bird flying in. Suddenly two silhouetted shapes appeared and I knew this was going to be the shot.

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By finding a spot in dull weather then waiting for the light I created a nice image.

Composition

Shoot Low

To make your images more dramatic and intimate shoot from the birds eye level or from the ground. This is far more effective than shooting from a downward angle.

The first thing that’s going through my mind when I arrive at a scene is how can I get level with the birds eyes?

I’m trying to decide this even as I’m setting up my equipment!

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I took this shot of a golden eye at a local Wildlife and Wetland Centre.Its the kind of shot that many people take.

What’s the mistake?It was taken from a standing position looking down at it.

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shootlow I simply dropped lay down onto the ground….

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…and look at the difference it makes!

The image comes alive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clear and Simple Backgrounds

t’s easy to be totally focused on the bird in front of you.

Why wouldn’t you be?

When you’re waiting for that perfect shot, it’s very captivating.

Before you are caught up in the excitement of the moment and start snapping away, have a look at what’s behind the bird.

Countless times I have gone home thinking I have some great shots.

I excitedly upload them to review on my computer. Only to discover there’s something not right such as a branch right behind the bird looking like its growing right out of its head.

AAAAGH!

I took my first shot below of a gray heron sitting looking up at his nest at a heronry close to where I live. Herons nest in groups at the top of the highest trees in nests constructed of branches and sticks.

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I didn’t like the branches around the heron, so by changing my position and just moving to the left about a meter, I was able to take the shot below which makes it stand out much more clearly.

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Behavior

The magic moment

With digital cameras it is tempting to set the fast drive and try to machine gun your way to a decent photo. The trouble is this does not help with observing and picking your moment. The ‘moment’ could be when a flock of starlings makes an interesting shape. Or maybe moorhens having an argument.

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You can predict some moments for instance a swan will follow preening by drying its wings. If you miss something don’t beat yourself up, you may get another chance.

 

Stick with a subject

The longer you quietly observe a bird the more it will start to disregard you as a threat. Then you are witnessing a treat as they start to behave naturally before your eyes. If you press the shutter and move on then sure you’ll get a shot. If you stay that little bit longer more interesting things may start to happen
Take these Gannets. To start with it may be just a single bird. Hang around for longer and you may see it lift its wings or grab nesting material. In this case another bird entered the scene. Then they were having a dispute. All these shots would have been missed if I’d just grabbed the first picture and walked away.

Photographing birds in flight relies on good focusing technique, predicting behavior and fast reactions. Without fast accurate autofocus your hit rate will drop. That’s not to say you can’t get results even with a manual focus lens. Bigger slower birds will be your likely targets but this still leaves great photographic subjects like swans, herons and egrets.

Click here to discover how to master photographing birds in flight

If you build it, backyard birds will come…

You don’t have to travel far to do bird photography. Sometimes nothing beats a nice cup of coffee whilst photographing birds in your backyard. Put out food for birds and attract them to you. Setup some natural perches with clean backgrounds. It’s also very good practice for when you’re out photographing some of the more exotic birds further afield.

This blue tit is waiting for its turn to feed. The perch is put there with the food out of shot and nothing behind to appear in the background.

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To see more woodpecker images check out photographing birds in your back yard.

For many birds the only way to get close enough is use a hide or blind. This kingfisher is an example.

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