If you are serious about getting engaged in bird photography, read this article first. No matter whether you plan to carry out some professional activity or it’s just a hobby, birding photography genre requires much effort and time.
Do remember: to have decent photos, you should be extremely patient. But the results will be worth these efforts. Scroll till the end and discover all the necessary bird photography tips and techniques for beginners.
If you are a complete beginner in bird photography, I recommend starting with this article. It’s a great chance to get acquainted with the most useful bird photography tips. The more nuances you know – the more skillful you are.
Don’t be too quick to present yourself as a professional bird shooter if you have all the best equipment. Although cameras and lenses are very important in any genre, when it comes to birds, we should also know their habits and understand their behavior.
Admit that the most expensive equipment will not help you find the bird if you know nothing about its habitat.
However, if you are an amateur photographer shooting for pleasure, you may start with a park or garden in your city. You will greatly simplify the process of photographing birds if you thoroughly study their habitats, activity during the day and at night, etc. Knowing all of it, you will easily choose the right place for shooting.
It’s not a secret that the key to a successful shot is appropriate lighting. Speaking about bird photography, the best time to shoot is early in the morning or in the afternoon.
There are two reasons for it ‒ first of all, the light is very soft, and, secondly ‒ the birds are active.
Advantages of soft light:
Working with birds photography, don’t forget about the composition. If you compose the frame correctly, you will easily convey the desired message. Don’t worry since the composition is very simple when it comes to bird photos. Check out the following principles and try to follow them:
Ethics is very important in birding photography. I have chosen the most important rules for you to follow:
One more challenge that bird photographers face is that it’s not as easy to find different species. That’s why I have prepared the list of locations where you can come across various birds and get great shots.
I never get tired of claiming that a camera is very important in any photography genre. However, don’t be too quick to buy the most expensive DSLR.
Remember that after you get a camera that will cost you an arm and a leg, you will also have to splurge on a decent lens. In bird photography, lenses are even more crucial than cameras are. But a good lens may even cost like a maintained car.
Your goal is to find a model (bird) with a good frame rate and autofocus since these parameters are essential in photographing birds. I recommend cameras featuring shutter speeds of at least 1/2000 second at a speed of 6–9 frames per second. Moreover, an autofocus system should be fast enough to capture the focus.
When it comes to lenses in bird photography, you have two options. The first one is to find a qualitative lens that will cope with any distance. The second – to buy several lenses for various conditions.
Today, there is a great choice of lenses on the market. Some of them are not cheap at all and may cost even more than $10,000, especially when speaking about such top companies as Canon and Nikon. The prices are really crazy, to my mind.
Fortunately, you don’t have to get top lenses since there are plenty of decent variants at reasonable prices. Pay attention to inexpensive lenses by Sigma and Tamron or consider the 4/3rds systems of Panasonic and Olympus.
Moreover, don’t forget that length is not as essential as glass quality. What I mean is that it’s better to have a qualitative 300mm lens than a poor 600mm one.
It is extremely inconvenient and tiresome to shoot birds without a tripod, especially when using long lenses. The thing is that they are quite heavy and the pics will be clearer if you have one. Don’t know what kind of tripod you need?
First of all, pay attention to the material of the tripod’s legs. They should be made of solid carbon fiber to withstand a heavy lens.
Moreover, carefully study the articulated head. It should be qualitative and flexible. Flexibility is extremely important in bird photography as you have to shoot birds in flight. Finally, check the fasteners in order not to worry about your expensive camera and accessories.
The amount of light entering the camera is controlled by the diaphragm. Aperture, in its turn, operates in inverse proportion.
If the aperture value is small, the amount of light getting to the camera sensor is big and vice versa. In general, aperture influences the picture in two ways. First of all, the shallow depth of field is created by an open hole.
Secondly, when it is wide open, the lens is not the sharpest one.
Lenses are sharp about two stops closed from wide open. Therefore, in case you bought an f / 4 lens, the sharpest aperture will be f / 11.
Being engaged in professional bird photography, you should provide really clear pics. If you are not eager to carry a long lens with you, you need a wide-angle one with fast exposure.
However, many shooters follow the rule that the shutter speed should be equal to the lengths of the lens. It means that in case you have a 500mm lens, the shutter speed should be 1/500th of a second.
If the speed is slow, the images will be blurred. It happens because of the bird flying or it is the shooter who is to blame. In some situations, it is appropriate but not always.
The camera’s sensor sensitivity to light is controlled by ISO. It is how the camera interprets the info coming from the sensor. However, shooters working in the field are not influenced by such intricacies.
In reality, if you set high ISO, you may use high aperture values and high shutter speed. But mind that high ISO values may create unnecessary digital noise. So if you want to get clear photos, balance the noise level and the shutter speed.
Beginner shooters working with bird photography may have problems with focus. If you are a lucky owner of a Canon or Nikon SLR camera, you will be able to set the focus using the button on the back of the camera body.
Therefore, you may simultaneously control the focus and press the shutter button. In such a way, the photographing process is not interrupted.
This option is called “Focus on the Button” and it is your great helper. If you are not sure how to apply this button, read the manual or find the necessary info on the net.
Photographing birds, I suggest applying AI Servo or continuous focus. Here, the benefit lies in the fact that the camera continues to focus when the bird flies or you move.
The focus is preserved when the focus button is activated. If you are planning to shoot birds flying, believe me, you will not find a better method.
It may sound strange but this type of birds photography as portraiture also exists. Moreover, the bird’s portraits usually look like perfect pieces of art.
If you decide to try your hand at bird portraiture, prepare a long lens with a fast aperture and narrow your depth of field. As a result, you will set the bird apart from the background.
Although portraits fascinate people with their beauty and excellence, they do not convey much history. If you want to communicate with a viewer, consider other types of bird photos. For example, photograph birds in their natural habitat.
In this case, follow the rules of shooting landscapes. It means that you don’t need to highlight one bird; it shouldn’t take all the attention. Of course, this particular bird is your main subject but try to present it in the wild.
Birding photography is not an easy genre, especially when it comes to shooting birds in the air. Therefore, you should pay attention to many aspects. First of all, it’s shutter speed.
If you want to get sharp bird photos, it should be very fast. So, set the priority of exposure and select 1/2000th of a second. Moreover, don’t forget about ISO since it should also be adjusted appropriately.
Select the focus and AI Servo will focus from this point. The focus will be held during the movement of a bird.
I recommend setting a manual shutter. It allows you not to remove your finger from the shutter to take multiple photos. In such a way, you will greatly simplify your work.
In wild birds photography, shooters often apply a technique called “Intentional Blurring”. As a result, they get artistic and unique bird images. Moreover, it gives limitless opportunities for experiments.
To achieve this effect, you should follow all the principles mentioned above and increase shutter speed. I got decent results from 1/2 second to 1/100 second.
If you want to apply this technique appropriately, the shutter speed should be released and the camera should be moving.
If you follow these recommendations and make all the adjustments, the bird will be in the same place and the background will be blurred. In such a way, you will achieve a sense of movement. Deliberate blurring may provide really decent results.
Don’t worry if your first shot is a complete disaster, and the next 10 shots too. It shouldn’t bother you at all. Feel free to experiment with the shutter speed and your movements to gain experience.
Although photographing birds in the air is quite a tricky procedure, there is also a simple way to shoot them in a flight. You just have to capture the birds flying against a sunrise or sunset.
As a result, your image will only show the silhouettes, but it doesn’t make it worse. Such photos tend to look unusual and fascinating. Due to the high contrast between the bird and the background, the picture will be ideally focused.
If you want to photograph birds, remember that they are moving all the time. Sometimes, they provide great shooting moments themselves and you just have to capture these creatures.
For example, when the bird is hunting, it may not even notice you. However, you should also mind particular rules:
It’s very challenging to capture the bird doing something. So, if you want to get really a great shot ‒ be patient. The thing is that if the bird notices you, it stops its activity or simply flies away and, as a result, the moment is lost.
Photographing birds, you usually focus on one individual. Therefore, to get decent pics, follow a very simple rule ‒ the frame should be filled with a particular bird.
Check out the advantages of using this method:
Check out the best image editing freebies that will make your bird pics more impressive.
This overlay is perfect for enhancing dark images. In several clicks, you will be able to lighten the image. The results will surely look great since this effect was developed specifically to make the photos radiant.
This free Ps overlay is a great variant for those who want to add drama to their bird photos. Thick, gray and fast floating clouds will make your pics more eye-catching.
If you want to improve sharpness and contrast in your images, this overlay will help you. Also, it adds brightness and saturation, making the overall image more appealing.
This HDR Lightroom preset is a great chance to add more clarity to your photos. It highlights the center of the picture and darkens the edges.
This Lr preset improves the colors of the images, making them realistic and true-to-life. Also, it perfectly works with exposure and enhances lighting.