Living a dream as a photographer & filmmaker

How To Create Amazing Bird Photographs

photographing birds, bird photography

This is a guest post by Mike Chase. See author information below.

Bird photography is one of the most common types of nature photography. Common as it is, capturing great avian pictures is very hard to accomplish. Birds in flight are fast creatures so trying to capture them with lousy equipment and no photography skills will be almost impossible.

If luck is on your side then this will still help, but to be a better photographer, we must learn everything that we can.

There are a lot of factors in play when attempting to capture bird images, and in today’s article, I will discuss those factors plus some great advice to be better your bird photography techniques. 

Aside from the fact that birds are agile and sensitive creatures, they are also complicated even more so to people who have never studied them. You don’t need to learn everything about birds to take pictures of them, but serious successful bird photographers are people who really understand their subjects. 

If you really know what you’re shooting then your chance of producing excellent images will increase. Useful information like the bird’s habitat and choice of food will really help you in knowing where they frequent, and this will help you big time to take some really amazing pictures. 

So just imagine yourself knowing migration patterns, seasonal effects on birds, mating calls. Read lots of articles on the internet about birds, join forums, and consume all the books that you can to be really effective at photographing our four feathered friends. 

After knowing your subject, you can start capturing images of birds in your own backyard. Place some bird feed and water on different spots around your garden to attract birds. Different birds like to eat different food so if you have a particular subject you would like to draw then place what they usually eat. 

Including bird feeders on your shots don’t make appealing photos so be creative. Branches make nice perches and can add detail to your photographs. You can put feed and water everywhere as long as you have a direct view of that spot. You should be hidden so the birds will be enticed to approach. You can shoot from any room as long as you can capture the birds. Be silent, be hidden, and be patient. 

It’s okay to use point and shoot cameras with optical and digital zoom for starters but if you really want to have better pictures then upgrading to an SLR is definitely a requirement. Having an SLR paired with a telephoto lens will surely give you an advantage. It will also allow you to take photos of different birds in the wild whether they are perched on a high branch or flying in the sky. A 200mm telephoto lens is acceptable but some argue that everyone should start at 300mm and increase for improved range. 

A better camera body will also help you tremendously. The advantage comes from better sensors and auto-focus mechanisms. You can make do with lesser bodies but would need to be supplemented with outstanding photography skills. But if you have to choose between a better camera body and a better lens always choose the lens. 

Now let’s talk about going out and looking for more subjects. Birds that frequent the parks are used to people so you can easily take their pictures without worrying about startling them. Wild birds on the other hand are very wary of people so they are much harder to photograph. Having the telephoto lens that we talked about will really help you in creating a working space between you and your subject. Be very quiet when you want to be closer to the birds. Avoid stepping on dry branches and leaves so watch where you walk. Wearing camouflage isn’t a necessity but just make sure that your clothes aren’t too bright. Excessive movement will also definitely scare the birds away. If you are waiting for a certain bird to come then you must remain very still. Choosing a spot where you can hide yourself, your camera, and your tripod will also be beneficial. You can shoot among tall grass, behind a bush, or use a tent designed for birding to completely hide yourself from the birds. 

The best time to photograph birds is 2-3 hours after the sun rises. They are very active in this time because most of them are looking for food or stretching their wings. Aside from increased bird activity, you can take advantage of the soft light and the absences of harsh shadows. If it suddenly rains or snows then challenge yourself and continue shooting. The change of weather will produce dramatic images, plus you can observe a bird’s behavior during these instances which will be useful on future birding trips. 

When framing the shot, make sure that the bird fills 1/3 to 2/3 of the image. Shoot at the bird’s eye level and make sure that the background is blurred by having a shallow depth of field. 

Photos of birds perched on a branch are appealing but it’s better to capture photos of birds flying, hunting, singing, and interacting with each other. Bird photography is a worthwhile hobby plus it’s a way of helping out mother nature. 

By taking pictures of birds we somehow send a message to people that the environment is worth saving. We help the birds out by giving them food to eat and water to drink and in return they allow us to capture their images. 

I hope you've learned something new about avian photography, and my last piece of advice is to practice, practice, and then practice even more. You won’t get beautiful pictures at first but just keep at it and someday you'll get there. Good luck.

Anyway this is Mike Chase signing off, so I really do hope you've enjoyed my bird photography tips and techniques, and to read more of my digital photography tips, click here or you can bookmark "MY PHOTOGRAPHY BLOG" for future reference.... Thanks!


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