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Tips for Better Bird Photography

One of the first indications that spring is really on the way is the return of birds that flew south for the winter. Although there are birds that live in certain areas for the entire year, it’s always nice to see the southern escapees return to their northern homes. Birds make great subject matter for photography, but they also present challenges because they tend to scare easily and can fly off whenever they wish. However, the challenges are worth accepting for photographers who appreciate the various colors, shapes and sizes of birds and the amazing images possible when watching such lively, unpredictable creatures.


Sometimes photographing birds and discerning them from the background is easy when you find them hopping about urban streets or trees. If you’re venturing further out into nature or even the park, other elements often clutter the setting for bird photography. Tree branches, plants, grasses and various other aspects of the scene can distract the eye from the bird, so you need to identify and isolate your subject to create a beautiful image. You can accomplish this isolation by adjusting your f-stop, angle of shooting and closeness to the bird until you have an image with only the elements you want.


Taking photos from a position that feels natural and comfortable to you isn’t always the best way to photograph birds with an interesting background. Simply by changing the angle you shoot from can give you a dramatically different background that helps emphasize the beauty of both the surroundings and the bird.


Birds are unpredictable and have wings to fly away at any moment. When you’re photographing them in flight, they fight, dive, mate and change directions at will, so you need to watch them for a while to better anticipate their next possible move. Knowing how the bird (or birds) moves helps select the right shutter speed, ISO, and f-stop to produce a high-quality image. If you’re truly dedicated to the craft of bird photography, take the time to read up on your chosen bird subjects so you can better predict their behavior in various situations.


Birds are most active in the early and late parts of the day, and this is also when there’s the best natural light for backgrounds. The light right after the sun rises and just before it sets brings out the best colors and is also when shadows are farther from the birds, which helps you capture the details of your feathered subjects.


Birds are timid and will move away from you if you move toward them, so you need to wait for them to come to you. Chasing after birds results in photographs of birds with their back to the camera, looking away or flying away. Studying their habitat and behavior before you start photographing gives you clues to where the birds will fly, walk, hop and land so you can set up in the right spot for more natural, up close and interesting images.

Exposure and shutter speed

As you’re photographing birds for an extended period, the light conditions change, and your subjects hop or fly into new brighter or shadowy areas, so you need to test and adjust your exposure accordingly. You also need to discern the best shutter speed for when the birds are walking, standing still or flying so you can avoid the sight of blurry wings ruining an otherwise lovely image.


Trying to photograph birds using Auto mode or Autofocus mode can result in lots of blurry images because birds don’t sit still long enough for the camera to properly focus and adjust to the light. Shooting in manual mode or aperture-priority mode allows you to adjust settings for depth of field, shutter speed, exposure or aperture to capture the best images of your chosen birds.

Photographing birds requires being passionate about and enjoying watching your subject matter as this helps add personality and uniqueness to your shots. After capturing the perfect photos of your feathered friends, bring them to Baboo Digital for quality digital prints, enlargements, mounting and framing.

Featured image of Indigo Bunting by JanetandPhil

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