Creative Tips For Bird Photography
Beautiful motion shots of birds are difficult to pull off well, partly because they’re so incredibly fast and fleeting. Success usually requires a good set of photo gear, planning, experience, luck, and lots of practice.
Bird photography prides itself as one of the most popular aspects of nature and animal photography. Capturing great bird photography pictures can certainly be a difficult task, but with enough practice and time, you will certainly be able to master the skill of bird photography.
So, here are our tips for bird photography.
Set up your studio for bird photography.
The biggest challenge is not attracting birds to your yard. Once a single bird discovers a good feeding spot, they will call their fellow birds over with ease. A big problem many bird photographers face is getting the birds to perch at ideal spots for bird photography. So, before you start setting up bird feeding stations, be sure to carefully consider the suitability of each spot.
Choose safe locations that are free of predators such as cats, but provides you with the opportunity to photograph them with lovely backgrounds, great angles, and excellent lighting.
Make sure to check on your bird feeders frequently and refill them with quality seed, so that the birds will be well nourished and not have to fill up on something low energy like bread. Low energy items like bread stop birds from getting the energy they need to stay warm through cold nights.
Some great props for photo shoots are birdbaths and birdhouses. Birdbaths allow birds to cool, hang around and wash themselves, whereas birdhouses provide much-needed shelter from larger predators.
If your goal is to attract specific species of birds, check out this useful poster by the National Bird Park on Singaporean birds over here.
Don’t limit your photographs to the bird feeders and baths either. They encourage birds to perch on tree branches and nearby fences, so when you have your camera in hand, check out these areas too for more birds.
Have you ever noticed that birds are always moving from one place to another? When eating, their little heads are moving up and down, and when they are on the ground, they are always looking around for any sign of predators. Hence, the best setting for your bird photography shots is a high shutter speed of about 1/250. Alternatively, you can use Sports mode, which tends towards a high shutter speed.
If you have optical zoom on a compact digital or an SLR’s telephoto lens, this makes taking pictures a whole lot easier. 6x optical zoom can give you about the same magnification as a 200mm lens, which makes a photograph taken from slightly less than 10 feet away look like a close-up shot.
Some of the so-called “bridge cameras” offer zooms between 10 to 20 feet, but a couple of them seldom give quality results; hence it is to check before purchasing one. There may also be a need for a tripod stand or other camera stabiliser when the high range zooms are in use.
The presence of a long enough lens helps to get some beautiful pictures of birds in flight or while perching high up in a tree. Professional nature photographers often prefer using a 600 lens to capture images with excellent detail of birds in flight or far away.
Telephoto lenses of this size are costly, but there is another way, brought to us from birders. It’s called digiscoping. With this method, you combine the birder’s spotting scope with a digital camera.
Blue skies are best for pictures of birds in flight. Moreover, the bluest sky of the day is often few hours after dawn. Also, look for patterns when you may have flocks of birds that fly across your compound at specific periods of the day. Alternatively, when photographing birds of prey, such as osprey, go to a lake or river by evening time when they fish. The evening is also a good time for soft, even and warm lighting.
Hopefully, by using these tips, you’ll be able to attract more birds to your bird photography studio.
ESSENTIAL EQUIPMENT FOR BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY
The beautiful thing about bird photography is that it can happen anywhere, and anytime. The not so beautiful thing is that many birds are small or shy, and you need to be able to get close enough to them with your equipment without scaring them off. Now, let’s talk about the camera parts you definitely need for bird photography.
We live in a world of digital photography, and therefore our discussion is only on digital camera bodies. Canon has also proven to be the best, so I take Canon, and you can translate it to other manufacturers if you need to.
You do need a decent camera body that allows you to set continuous focus while shooting images in the raw image quality. The cheapest body enabling you to do this is the Canon EOS 20D. However, it is not cheap, the reason for its costliness is that it is a perfect all-around camera body for the serious amateur or professional. You cannot go wrong with this body.
Many amateurs think that a decent long zoom lens solves all their photography problems, but the reality remains that it does not. Do what the professionals do by getting a long prime lens.
Most professional bird photographers use Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM for a decent but not good enough result.
You can also use the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM, as it is very sharp and also fast at the same time but a bit heavy. With this lens, you can decide to use only a Canon Extender 1.4x II for an advantageous focal length of as much as 1 120 mm with autofocus. That surely is ample for any bird.
It is important to never use manual focus. Today’s cameras were not built for manual focus as the viewfinders are small and do not allow you to see enough detail and focus effectively.
Photographing flying birds
Okay, now that you have all the equipment, you can now start heading into the field to get those award-winning photographs of flying birds. You need to have a large amount of light entering your lens, as this allows a breakneck shutter speed for capturing each and every action of a bird. Also, you need your camera to focus on where the bird is at that very moment, before actually taking the photo. So, this is what you need to do.
- Set your camera to 400 ISO speed because ISO of 100 or 200 and above prevents to blurry exposure.
- Then make sure the camera lens is open to the aperture’s maximum limit. The Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM lens when combined with a Canon Extender 1.4x II produces a maximum aperture of 5.6, and this is best for bird photography.
- Also, makr sure you set your camera to continuous autofocus. Canon calls this setting AI Servo focus.
- Also set your image stabilizer to Mode 2 for photographing moving subjects, as this prevents it from working against the sharp picture.
- At this point, keep moving that heavy lens around while the birds are flying past.
Many professional photographers have a way of sometimes making it sound like you do not need proper equipment to be a good photographer. That is utter nonsense. Get yourself decent equipment and enjoy a professional photography experience.
The other thing that makes the professionals so much better than the average amateur is patience and practice.