Bird Photography

10 Tips for Starters

There are so many passionate bird photographers out there trying their best capture pin-sharp avian portraits. We’ve created a guide of 10 quick-fire top tips for bird photography that you’ll need to know so you don’t get in a flap!

1. Stay Back

Don’t get too close to the bird with your camera. They may decide to attack or flee, if they see it as a threat. Instead, use a zoom lens to keep your distance.

2. Get the Right Kit

Invest in a fast Mirrorless or DSLR camera and one or more telephoto lenses. We would recommend a camera that can handle at least 1/2000th shutter speed and the ability to shoot 9fps (frames per second) or more in burst mode.

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3. Reciprocal Rule

If you are shooting hand held, you will need to select a shutter speed that is equal to or a higher value than your lenses focal length, i.e. shooting at 300mm then shutter speed needs to be 1/300th or faster, and 1/500th for lens around 500mm. This will help avoid motion blur in the image.

4. Beady Eyes!

If the bird is watching your movements, stop. Wait for them to be distracted before you take another step with your bird photography.

5. Aperture, Not Shutter 

Choose Aperture Priority and not Shutter Priority, when photographing birds outdoors. If we are shooting at high shutter speeds, most likely the aperture will be always set to wide open which will always lose some detail in the final image, due to the decreasing focus area.

Worst of all, if the lighting conditions change quickly, the image might come out underexposed – and you might miss the opportunity.

6. Pick the Right Time

The best time to photograph birds is either during the early morning or late afternoon.

Early morning is typically the best for bird photography because birds are actively looking for food for themselves and their youngsters.

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7. What to Wear

Aim to wear muted and dark clothes. Try and blend into the environment – throw on a bit of camouflage – if you’ve got it. Bright clothes are a NO! It will instantly make you stand out to a bird.

8. Go Silent

If your camera has an AF (autofocus) beep assist (when the camera locks on focus it makes a little noise to signal to the user) then turn it off.

The noise of the shutter will spook the bird so best to take a few shots at distance and more as you close in. Some mirrorless cameras feature a silent mode or leaf shutter which is quiet when firing – perfect!

9. Where to Focus

With your bird photography aim to focus on the nearest (to the camera) eye of the bird.

It is acceptable to have a blurred tail or other parts of the bird, but at least one eye always needs to be sharp. For birds in flight, focus on the bird’s head or chest.

10. Burst Mode Activated

Shoot lots of images, using burst or continuous mode to help you to freeze moments of take-off or shaking water off wings. These actions are fast moving, don’t miss the opportunity.

blue bird sat on a branch
green and yellow bird sat on a branch

Summary

We’d love to see your own bird photography. If you’re an iPhotography member, then post your efforts in the gallery so we can see.

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