10 Tips For Photographing Birds

Ever wondered what celebrities get up to in their spare time? Some of them go bird watching. Here are ten of the most interesting and controversial off-duty bird watchers.



Early morning or late afternoon are the best times to photograph birds. The light just after sunrise and just before sunset is softer which means shadows are less harsh and colour looks at its best. During these times birds are at their most active so you will have a better chance of finding a good subject.


Learn to approach birds without disturbing them. It is not easy to get close enough to a bird to take a good shot. Approach birds slowly, do not make any sudden movements and keep noise to a minimum. Start shooting before you are close so that the bird gets used to the sound of the camera shutter.


Use high shutter speeds or the bird will look blurry, particularly if they are in flight or are moving about. Shutter speeds of 1/800 and above will freeze most birds on the ground but for birds in flight use a shutter speed of above 1/1600.


Become familiar with your camera by practising taking photographs from different distances and in different light conditions. Cameras have many settings so take some time to familiarise yourself with what they all do so when you’re ready to snap that elusive bird you don’t waste precious moments working out which button to press or which dial to turn.


Focus on the eye of the bird. Even if the tail or wings of the bird are blurry, as long as the eye is sharp our brains will accept the image. Spend a few moments focusing on the eye nearest to you and make sure the eye is reflecting light to add life to your photos.


Shoot what you love. Birds of prey, kingfishers and hummingbirds and often some of the best subjects for bird photography but they are hard to capture well. The waterfowl at your local park are likely to be fairly tame and will be more than happy to pose for a photograph, particularly if you bribe them with some food, while the birds in your garden will all make fascinating subjects.


When photographing individual birds fill the frame. You’ll find it easier to focus on and properly expose for the bird. It also means that you won’t need to crop your photographs which can mean a reduced sharpness in the final image.


Take lots of shots. When you see professional photographers clicking away, there’s a reason they’re doing that. It’s virtually impossible to get a perfect picture first time so by taking lots of photos in quick succession you’re more likely to capture the moment.


Think about the context of your photo. Although extreme close-ups of birds may look impressive, a great background helps tell a story so avoid taking photographs which have distracting or dull backgrounds. A natural back ground that complements the subject and help capture a bird’s behaviour.


Practise, practise and practise some more. It’s said it takes 10,000 hours of practise to become an expert in any field. Whether that’s true of not, the more photographs of birds you take the better you will get, as you become more familiar with their behaviour, your equipment and what makes a great composition. And don’t be afraid to experiment to try and find something unique and develop your own personal style.

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