Bird Photography Techniques For Beginners

Trying to capture the perfect image of a bird can be a challenge for beginners and even some professionals. There are a lot of different techniques and factors to keep in mind to ensure that you get the best shot possible.

Bird Photography Techniques For Beginners

Also since birds can be unpredictable, you can’t always guess what they are going to do. To help you to achieve good quality bird images, there are a few particular techniques to follow.

By following these techniques, by focusing on eyes, and staying low you will be able to produce stunning bird images. In the article we have collected the best bird photography (see also: The Best Locations For Bird Photography)techniques for beginners that you need to know.

1. Focus On Eyes

When viewing a bird photo, your attention will naturally be drawn to the eye, thus if it isn’t sharp, the image may not be effective.

Therefore, be sure to keep the bird’s eye in your line of sight. Autofocus can promote sloppy composition, and you could find yourself concentrating on the bird’s body.

This might be acceptable, but if you choose a shallow depth of field, the bird’s body is probably going to be beautifully sharp. Yet, the eye might be just a little out of focus, which will take away from your overall image.

2. Eye Level

This technique follows on from using their eyes. While you should focus on their eyes, you should also try to take images at their eye level. It is always fun to try out various different angles when shooting birds (see also “How To Photograph Hummingbirds“).

First, began shooting while standing up. This will create some interesting overhead images. Then lie down, so you are eye level with your chosen bird. The photograph will be much more captivating and have a more personal feel when taken at eye level.

Shooting from above conveys a sense of detachment. With this technique, utilizing a shallow depth of field can produce really eye-catching results. It’ll blur any foreground or background, creating lovely color washes, and keeping the attention on the bird.

3. Low And High Exposure

Check your histogram frequently to guarantee proper exposure. The spread of pixels in hues from dark on the left to white on the right is depicted in this graph.

Though you shouldn’t worry about where this peak is, you ought to make sure that no pixels ever run off the top or bottom. If they do, the picture’s detail will be lost.

The darkest and brightest areas of the image ought to contain plenty of detail. This won’t always be achievable, such as when the background is quite dark and the bird is white.

However, in this situation, underexposing will preserve that crucial feather detail in the bird’s white plumage. In a black bird, you should make an effort to maintain detail, by adding more exposure.

4. Shutter Speed Is Key

For birds, the ideal shutter speed is essential. Birds on perches can frequently be captured at 1/400. Moving birds along a branch may require 1/800, and birds in flight may require something as quick as 1/2500.

However, using a shutter speed that is too fast is one of the common mistakes new photographers make. This frequently occurs as a result of forgetting to reduce the speed after capturing a flying or moving bird.

The ability to quickly transition between perched and flying birds is advised. If you don’t do this, your bird photos could have a lot more noise than is essential.

Instead, by lowering your shutter speed when it’s necessary, you’ll make sure to always make the most of the available light.

5. Composition Enhances An Image

If your chosen bird is staring or soaring into the air rather than leaving the frame, it helps the composition feel more balanced. Unless there is a compelling artistic justification, resist the urge to crop excessively close.

There are exceptions to every rule, thus a bird flying or walking out of the frame may work in some compositions. For a beginner you need to keep in mind the traditional composition techniques of using the rule of three.

Here, you should aim to place your subject so that it is just off center for a more striking image. In addition to this the bird should be set against a clean and non-distracting background.

Take some time to consider the composition so that you achieve a clean yet interesting image.

6. Experiment With Black And Side Lighting

Play around with the sun’s angle. For example at the beginning and end of the day, photographing into the light can result in some truly striking pictures. The lighting angle frequently determines the tone of a photograph.

Use back and side lighting as it unleashes an entirely new realm of imagination. It will affect how the chosen bird looks and may highlight different features of that bird that you never noticed before.

Yet, it can also help you to produce either more complex or stripped back images. There’s a good chance you’ll snap a lot of photos that just don’t work. Yet eventually you will look back and realize you have taken a truly beautiful image.

7. Filling The Frame

The bird should be the sole focus of your image, not any other objects which may be seen in the background. As a result, for a beginner it’s best to fill the frame with your bird as much as possible.

By doing this, it will also help with your composition as the sole focus will be on the bird. By having the bird fill the entire frame, you can ensure the bird is exposed properly, and the viewer will have all their focus on the bird.

In addition to this, it allows you to easily achieve the bokeh effect, otherwise known as a blurry background. The more your bird falls up the frame, the easier this effect is to achieve. This is perfect when you don’t want anything in the background to show up in your image.

8. Action Shots

It is known that action shots are a lot more interesting and enjoyable to look at than perching shots. This isn’t saying you shouldn’t take perching shots, as they can be much easier to capture. However, if you fancy a challenge, then you should attempt an action shot.

Action shots do require a lot more patience and trial and error to get it right. Although, to make this easy, it is best to take these images during either dawn or late in the afternoon. This since birds are a lot more active during these times.

Also, it is best to wait for the bird to move before you take the shot and use burst mode. This way you can take multiple images at once. If you watch the birds for a little beforehand, you will gain a sense of when they are going to move.

This will be helpful, so then you can learn to anticipate when they are going to take off. Action shots could be flying or catching a fish, anything that involves the bird doing something.


Bird photography can be a lot of fun, but it does take a bit of practice to get your images looking perfect. Focusing on the bird’s eye, while being at a bird level and going for those action shots can help you to improve your bird photography in no time.

Using these techniques will take a little time to get right. With bird photography you need to be patient and eventually, you will get that image you have been after.

We hope this article has been helpful and that these techniques are useful in improving your bird photography (see also: The Best Cameras For Bird Photography) skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Lens Length For Bird Photography?

For photographing birds, a 200-500 mm focal length range works best. You can use your camera’s 500 mm zoom to capture little birds from a distance. Additionally, the zoom range has enough room for an assortment of shots.

What Is The Best Type Of Light For Bird Photography?

For most birds, direct sunlight is better as it will highlight every detail on their body and their feathers better. Although, when a bird has both light and dark areas, it can be challenging to expose the darker portions without overexposing the lighter portions.

Hence, these birds may occasionally reveal more effectively under less direct or harsh lighting conditions.

Is RAW Or JPEG Better For Bird Photography?

The majority of professional bird photographers concur that using RAW is considerably preferable to using JPEG.

This is because RAW is the camera’s native file format, whereas JPEG is a compressed format that holds much less data than RAW. Thus, you can create much more detailed and focused images using RAW than JPEG.

Laura McNeill
Scroll to Top