Bird photography is one of the most rewarding, but difficult types of photography.
Capturing a perfect shot of a wild bird takes patience, skill, and practice – but with the right technique and equipment, you can capture stunning photos that are sure to impress even the most experienced photographers.
In this article, we will provide tips and tricks for capturing beautiful bird photographs in any environment, ensuring that you achieve the best results from your efforts.
A Quick Guide To Key Photographic Terms
Before we dive into capturing the perfect bird photographs, (see also: How To Photograph Birds In Flight?) it is useful to have a basic understanding of some important photographic terms.
The aperture refers to the size of the hole in the lens that allows light to pass through to the camera’s sensor.
A wide aperture (low f-stop number) will let in more light and produce a shallow depth of field, while a narrow aperture (this will have a high f-stop number) will let in less light and create a larger depth of field.
This refers to the amount of time the shutter remains open to allow light to pass through to the camera’s sensor.
A fast shutter speed (1/1000th or faster) will freeze motion and reduce motion blur, while a slow shutter speed (under 1/50th) can be used to create an intentional motion blur in your images.
The ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. A low ISO (100-400) will produce a clean image with minimal noise, while a high ISO (1600 or higher) can be used in low-light conditions but will result in more grain and noise.
Depth Of Field
The area of an image that is in sharp focus.
A shallow depth of field (achieved using a wide aperture) will result in the subject being sharply focused and the background blurred, while a large depth of field (achieved with a narrow aperture) will keep both the subject and background in focus.
Having a clear understanding of these terms before you get started will help to ensure that you get the best possible bird photographs.
How To Capture Stunning Bird Photos?
Now that you have a crash course in the basic terminology and key elements of photography, it is time to turn this to focus on the best way to capture stunning bird shots. Here are some of our top tips to help you grab the perfect photograph every time:
1. Choose The Right Camera And Lenses
The type of camera and lenses you use will have a major impact on the quality of your bird photos. Make sure to invest in quality equipment that can capture beautiful images with sharp detail.
DSLR cameras are ideal for bird photography, as they allow you to change lenses for different types of shots and have manual settings that give you more control over your shots.
2. Get The Right Angle
Angles are always critical when it comes to snapping a great photo – and this is particularly important when it comes to capturing images of birds.
Take care to get the right angle and perspective to ensure that you capture the bird in its best light – this can vary from shot to shot, and bird to bird.
If you are capturing birds at ground level, or those in the water, a great angle is to get as low as possible – lie on your belly, and try to shoot at eye level; this will give a great perspective, and help give the feeling that your photo is being taken from the subject’s point of view – in this case, the birds surrounding your chosen point.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with angles – try moving from side to side or taking a step forward or back – you would be amazed at the impact a simple change can have on your overall perspective and the effectiveness of the shot.
3. Consider Composition
Composition is a key element of any successful photograph; when it comes to birds, sticking to the “rule of thirds” tends to be a safe bet – this refers to the concept that any image should be divided into nine equal parts by two horizontal and two vertical lines, and the subject should be aligned on one of those points.
Try placing your bird around a third away from the edge of the viewfinder for a balanced, effective shot; this can be a great starting point for beginners, and as you develop your own photographic instincts and experience, you can play around with composition and perspective to create more creative shots.
4. Use The Right Settings
Wild birds are constantly moving, so you’ll need to use a fast shutter speed to capture sharp images with no motion blur; getting the right settings is essential in capturing a great shot.
To ensure that your bird photographs are clear, sharp, and detailed, try using a fast shutter speed (1/1000th or faster) with a low ISO (100-400).
This will give you crisp images with minimal noise, allowing the beauty of the birds to shine through in your photos.
Aperture settings will vary depending on the effect you are trying to achieve; if you want a shallow depth of field and blurred background, use a wide aperture (f/2.8 or lower).
If you want a larger depth of field and everything in focus, use a narrower aperture (f/5.6 or higher).
5. Pay Attention To The Background
Choosing the right background can make or break a bird photograph; this plays a key role in creating a beautiful image, so take the time to pay attention to what is in the background of your shot.
When shooting birds in the wild, it is tricky – if not impossible – to control the background, so you may have to use your creativity to capture the perfect moment.
If there are distracting elements or clutter in the background, it can detract from your main subject; try to keep things simple and use a neutral backdrop that will complement rather than compete with your bird photo.
If you have a busy background, use a faster shutter speed – this will help to capture the bird in sharp detail and blur out any distractions.
You can also use a longer lens to zoom in and isolate your subject – this will help you to capture stunning photos (see also: Techniques For Capturing Stunning Planet Photos) with minimal background noise.
If you can, try to choose an area with minimal distractions, like a clear sky or an unobtrusive landscape. If possible, use a shallow depth of field to blur the background and make your subject stand out even more.
6. Know Your Bird’s Behaviour
Studying the behavior of birds can help you determine the best time to shoot them. Knowing when they are most active and where they usually feed will help you locate them more easily, and can help to ensure that you get the perfect shot.
If possible, try to identify the species of bird you are photographing so that you can research their behavior and know when and where they will be most active.
Take time to observe the birds in your area and learn about their habits and behaviors to give yourself the best chance of capturing stunning images – this will also offer a great chance to practice your skills and develop your own bird photography style.
7. Be Patient
One of the most important aspects of bird photography is patience. It takes time to wait for the perfect shot, as birds are often unpredictable and can fly away at any moment.
Try to stay calm and be patient, and your efforts are more likely to be rewarded with a stunning shot. Try to find a spot, get comfortable, and stay there for a while.
If you keep still and wait, the bird will usually return – then, you can capture some beautiful images of the bird in its natural environment.
8. Use A Tripod
Using a tripod will help keep your camera steady and allow you to take sharper images and help you capture the perfect shot without having to worry about camera shake or motion blur.
This is especially important when shooting in low light conditions or with longer lenses, as these can be tricky to handhold and still get a sharp image.
Using a tripod can also help you when shooting birds in flight; having a stable base will allow you to pan with the bird as it moves, which will help you keep it in focus and capture it more easily than if you were using a handheld camera.
When choosing your tripod, try to ensure that it’s lightweight and easy to set up, and consider the maximum weight capacity when selecting a model.
9. Take Lots Of Pictures
When shooting birds, it is important to take lots of pictures – particularly if you are photographing them in flight. The more shots you take, the better chance you have of capturing that perfect moment.
Take as many photos as you can – you can always delete any that didn’t turn out quite right.
By taking lots of pictures, you will also have the opportunity to experiment and try different techniques – practice makes perfect, so take advantage of every opportunity to hone your skills.
10. Have Fun
Finally, don’t forget to have fun with your bird photography – the more you enjoy yourself, the better your photos will be. Take time to observe and appreciate the birds in their natural environment; this will help you to capture the essence of each species in its full glory.
Bird photography can be incredibly rewarding and challenging. With patience, practice, and a good eye for composition, you can capture stunning images of birds in their natural (see also: Tips For Capturing Stunning Nature Photos) environment.
By following these tips, you will be well on your way to becoming a master bird photographer and will be able to spend plenty of time capturing the birds you love.