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Home / Blog / Bird Photography: tips and tricks for beginner photographers

 

Hey Photographer! Martina Here.


Quite often when we walk around we look down instead of looking up and we forget that up in the trees above us, there is a whole other world. There are many birds living their busy lives, some looking for food, some building their nests, some mating and some just singing for us.

I always thought NYC would be the last place I’d find subjects for bird photography. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ve started taking walks every week in Central Park and I can’t believe how many different species of birds I’ve seen.

Here are few tips and tricks on how to improve your bird shots:

Equipment:

First, you need a camera that allows you to control the shutter speed and the aperture settings.

You will need a telephoto (zoom) lens. Birds get scared pretty easily and in order to get natural shots, you will need a lens that can bring you closer to the bird and their environments. I have a 100-400mm lens and I’m very happy with it. Keep in mind that big lenses usually are a lot heavier, so if you’re planning to hike you might consider getting something smaller.

A tripod is essential when it comes to bird photography. You’ll alleviate the weight of the lens, and you’ll be able to shoot beautiful crisp shots even in low lighting.

Dress properly:

Make sure you wear neutral colors – nothing too bright. Most birds have impeccable vision and can spot you from far away and they’re very skittish. Be very quiet and try to blend in. A lot of bird photographers find a good spot to shoot from, and then sit and wait.

Settings:

You can choose to shoot in shutter priority mode or manual mode. Birds move very fast so if you want to capture their action you will need fast shutter speeds. Be prepared to shoot at any moment!

If you choose to shoot in manual mode make sure you use a wide aperture and shadow depth of field. This will allow the subject to be in focus and the background to become blurry.

You can decide if you prefer to use autofocus or manual focus. If you choose autofocus, make sure to set your camera on continuous focus, which tracks motion.

When and where

Most birds are more active in the morning or right before sunset, with the exception of owls.

Some birds live up in the trees, while others are always on the ground looking for food.

Do your research and find out more about the birds you’d like to shoot.

Also, don’t forget to listen for their calls! Follow the calls and you’ll find the birds.

Composition

Make sure you pay attention to what’s surrounding your main subject in the frame. Try to have clear and simple background so the viewer can really focus on the bird itself.

When you focus your lens, focus on the eyes of the bird.

When shooting, try to tell a story. Some birds fly. Some birds dig in the dirt. Some birds eat fish, some eat seeds and nuts. You can share all that information with the viewer through your photographs.


Patience and practice

Bird watching and bird photography are all about luck. You might spend 8 hours walking around the park looking for owls and not see one or you could the go for a 20-minute run and see two. You have to be patient and remember never to give up.

Before you go on a bird walk you can practice your skills in your backyard or on the street. Take pictures of pigeons in motion just to get the feel of your settings and focusing modes.

Good luck, and Happy Shooting!

Photos taken by Martina Colova

 
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