Photographing wild birds is a challenge. It poses even more obstacles than other photographs of wildlife: not only are they able to fly as soon as the perfect photo has been taken, but they are often covered by branches, twigs and foliage. But the challenge is all part of the fun. So, if you are going to take a birdwatching tour, take a look at these bird photography tips!
1. Shoot in shutter priority
Since you are photographing a potentially moving subject with a telephoto lens, you must use a shutter speed fast enough to avoid blurring by movement, even if the target has stabilization. As a rule, it takes at least one hundredth of a second for stationary subjects.
1/320 seconds or more would be better, especially when the bird is moving. With practice, you can get better photos of birds in flight with a slower shutter speed and with a little motion blur in the background.
2. Shoot in burst mode
Part of the challenge of bird photography is to recognize the moment when the best photo is taken and press the shutter exactly then. However, taking photos at 5, 7 or even 10 frames per second, depending on what the camera can do, increases the chances of getting the best shot.
This setting is called “continuous shooting” on some cameras. You will have to spend a little more time sorting the images later, but you are more likely to get a bird portrait with the subject’s inner eyelid not closed.
3. Ignore the sunny side
When looking for a shot with good color and lighting, simply ignore the side of the road where the light comes from and concentrate on the well-lit side. If you think there is a particular species and you just want to take a photo that is good enough for identification, then of course you will want to take it no matter which side the bird is on. For a stunning picture suitable for framing, normally you want the light to fall on the bird and not to come from behind.
4. Capture interesting patterns of behavior
Sometimes you just want a picture of a standard bird, identifiable, with the classic bird pose. You can increase your interest by taking an action photo, for example birds nesting, eating, fighting or grooming themselves. It is even better if you capture a courtship! An interesting action can triumph over a perfectly focused and exposed shot, although all that is the best.
5. Carry a backpack
You definitely want a backpack to have your hands free and take photos (or use binoculars) during the walks. Don’t go out with your camera and nothing else. A sudden downpour could end your photo shoot, and a backpack with a camera bag inside provides protection against excess water.
You can buy a custom camera bag or simply use a good camera bag in a normal backpack with some clothes (a light rain jacket does double the work) for padding.
6. Use photography software
It’s a miracle that a picture of a bird looks perfect on your computer screen when you download it from the card for the first time. This is definitely an exception to the rule. At least, you will need to crop most bird photos with editing software, unless the subject is a few meters away. Lightroom is the software for photo workflow and image editing.
However, if you are in a hurry, you can use the application «Photos» included in Windows, that can handle raw files. For most shots you also have to adjust the exposure and shadows, which is possible with MacOS and Windows Photos applications. However, for best results, you need Lightroom, Capture One or DxO PhotoLab, which has excellent noise reduction.
7. Take all the photos you can
It is increasingly common for people to approach bird watching, and many do it because they are interested in photography. Some people think that they have to press the shutter button when the birds are well lit, face-on or without branches. Big mistake, always take all the photos you can because in many species a single photo does not identify it.
You need photos of the back of the neck, the back, the rump, the crown, the throat, the final shape of the tail, legs, etc. All the photos work, but believe it or not, the most special ones and of great value are those in which the bird is presented to us from behind.
These tips show you how to improve your game in the world of bird photography. Learn to expand your skills and bring new perspectives to your art. These are common sense tips, but always keep them well in mind because at the time and place, they might get overlooked. Good luck and see you in nature!
Colourful Birding invites you to discover beautiful bird gardens that can be visited and that create a space of protection for many animal species. Do not hesitate to contact us if you require further information about our bird photography travels.