Apr 17 2010

Bird Photography – How to Take Great Bird Photos

Published by at 7:32 pm under General

One of the most popular aspects of animal photography is bird photography. Taking perfect pictures of birds in the wild can be very challenging, but you can create many wonderful photo opportunities in your own backyard.

Setting up your Backyard Photo Shoots

The biggest challenge with bird photography isn’t actually attracting birds to your yard. Once feeders are out and discovered, word will get around fast! The biggest challenge with bird photography is getting the birds to perch where you want them. So before setting up your feeding stations and birdbaths, consider the locations carefully.  

Choose locations that won’t make the birds easy prey for cats and other predators, and at the same time that will provide you with the opportunity to photograph them with nice backgrounds and good angles.  

Do remember that if you set feeders out in the winter to consistently provide quality seed so  your feathery subjects aren’t filling up on something like bread that won’t provide them with the energy needed to stay warm at night.  

Birdbaths also provide good photo ops, and birdhouses will help encourage birds to hang out in your yard.

If your goal is to attract certain species of birds, check with The Audubon Society to see what types of seeds or plants (in the case of birds that won’t take their meals at feeders) are best. You can also find good tips at the National Wildlife Federation’s “Gardening for Wildlife” pages.

You also don’t want to limit your bird photos to just bird feeders and baths. You can also take photos of them perching on tree limbs and fences nearby, so when you have your camera in hand, scout out these areas too.

Camera Settings

Have you ever noticed that birds are in almost constant motion? When eating, their little heads are bobbing up and down, and when they are on the ground they are always looking this way and that for predators. With so much movement you want a higher shutter speed for bird photos, so use the Sports mode or set your shutter speed to at least 1/250.

If you have an optical zoom on your compact digital or a telephoto lens on an SLR, this will make taking pictures a whole lot easier. Depending upon the camera, an optical zoom of 6x can give you about the same magnification as a 200mm lens which means that a photo taken from 10 feet away will look close up.

Some of the so called “bridge cameras” offer zooms from 10 to 20 feet, but not all produce quality results so check around before purchasing. You may also need a tripod or other camera stabilizer when using the high range zooms, and as always, opt for optical.

Given a long enough lens, you can get some wonderful pictures of birds in flight or perched high up in trees too. Professional nature photographers will often use a 600 lens to capture images with good detail of birds in flight or far away.

Large telephoto lenses of this size are very expensive, but there is another way to take bird photos far away. It is called digiscoping. Digiscoping is where you combine the birder’s spotting scope with a digital camera. Here is one of many good articles online introducing the digiscoping method to bird photographers: Birdwatchers Digest: Photography.

When taking birds in flight, blue skies are always best. And the bluest sky of the day is usually the hour after dawn. Also, look for times of the day when you have flocks of birds around your house or flying over. Or, if you’re looking to take pictures of birds of prey like osprey, go to a lake or river early in the morning or evening when they fish. This is also a good time for soft, even and warm lighting.

And once you get a great bird picture, don’t forget to share it and display it in a quality picture frame. Although there is a huge selection of frames available, you should choose a frame that has simple, clean lines like a thin metal picture frame or a natural wood picture frame as it won’t compete with your photograph.
Hopefully by using these tips, you’ll attract more birds to your yard and be able to capture some great bird photos that you’ll be proud to display.

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