Birds are an endless source of fascination, be it their behavior while courting, or their effortless grace in flight. Many photographers have felt the urge to capture this beauty via bird photography.
As a genre, bird photography is one of the most challenging. But, with a little know-how and some technical skills getting stunning bird photographs is something that anyone can achieve.
Bird Photography Tips
I’ve enjoyed meeting the challenges of bird photography for many years. I’ve picked up lots of useful tips over time and I’m pleased to be able to share them with you here.
- Be Cautious and Quiet in Your Movements
Move slowly and quietly around the birds. This includes the way you lift your camera. Rather than lifting it quickly to your eye, as you would elsewhere, make it a slow, subtle movement. If you’ll miss shots by moving slowly, try to keep the camera to your eye as much as possible. If you’re sitting you may be able to find a way to brace your arms on your knees to help take the weight.
2. Approach the Birds Gradually
When walking towards birds, do it in small stages. All birds have a comfort zone. Beyond the perimeter of this comfort zone, they’ll be watching you, ready to fly away if they deem you to be a threat. It’s a good idea to take a few ‘safety shots’ when you first start approaching a bird. By doing this, you’ll know you’ve got something in the bag in case the bird is spooked and flies away. You can always crop the image later if this happens. From there, gradually edge closer, moving quietly and slowly, taking a few frames every few steps. With luck and patience, you’ll get some great shots much closer!
3. Look out for Young Birds
Juvenile birds are often more tolerant of human contact than their parents. The fledgling Blue Tits in our garden last summer were very trusting, allowing me to get incredibly close at times. This trust doesn’t last forever though, so make the most of it and take lots of photos before they lose their boldness!
4. Get to Know the Birds You’re Shooting
Do the birds you’re photographing have a regular perch they return to time and again? Do they roost in a particular hollow tree? Or perhaps a flock of starlings gathers in a specific location every night before taking to the skies as a murmuration? A little knowledge can go a long way to making that clear shot.
Take note of the way the birds behave too. A raptor might preen or stretch its wings before a flight, to warm up its muscles. If you know a pair of birds are nesting in a particular location, look out for them feeding their young nearby. Or perhaps you’re out shooting in the spring when the birds are courting. In that case, look out for special courtship behavior which would make an interesting photo.