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Tips for Bird Photography | JCs Wildlife

Those who enjoy birding, quite often take an interest in bird photography as well. It’s practically impossible not to want to capture the breathtaking colors and unique features of our feathered friends while gazing at their beauty. Many also appreciate the exhilarating challenge that comes with capturing wildlife in their nature habitats.

For those just starting out, the good news is that learning bird photography is relatively easy. Capturing photographic images that convey the personality, behaviors and unique traits of various bird species can be enthusiastically accomplished with tenacious patience. The following are some bird photography basics including actions you can take in the field to create picturesque opportunities while honing your skills. So get those cameras ready, and let’s go!

Bird Photography Basics

Focus on the Eye 

This popular rule is one you’ll see written in pretty much any nature photography book. Why? Well, the eyes of animal or human, for that matter, are what pull the audience into the photograph. The eyes show sentiment as they capture the moment and emotion. They catch light and draw the viewer in. When following this rule, you’ll want to use a telephoto lens to zoom in on the eye and the detail of the bird. If you are photographing the birds in areas where they are used to being around humans than a 70-300mm lens will work just find. Reason being, the lighter weight allows you to have a little more mobility as the bird quickly changes position. If you are comfortable holding a 500mm or feel comfortable enough to use a tripod, even better. After all, with the gorgeous feathers, bill and distinct talons, you can never have too much lens when capturing these fascinating creatures. You’ll also want to remember to set your camera to continuous high speed shooting so you can quickly capture images in a quick shutter burst.


Sure, it may sound like a cliché, but the more you get outside and flex your photography muscles, the better the results. Consider the great outdoors your playground and make it a regular habit to get out in an area where birds are accessible and used to people. You will be able to get fairly close to social birds with a 70-300mm lens without upsetting most birds. When capturing the birds, try to get creative by capturing them from an even perspective. If the bird is on the ground, get on the ground too and go for a straight-on view to create a different, more original perspective. Common sites such as telephone wires and high posts aren’t necessarily boring pictures, but they certainly don’t draw in the viewer like shots that embrace the creatures in various interesting settings.

Stand, Focus and Shoot

When you see a subject you’re excited about, it’s easy to get distracted and continuous shoot from the same angle. Continually seek different perspectives by moving forward, moving backward, and to the right and left. Don’t limit your perspective. After all, birds move around a lot, so we as photographers need to as well. By moving, you will discover how different angles and interest points can totally change the picture.

Repeat Locations

Don’t be afraid to get out and go back to the same place several times. By doing so, after a while your eye for photography will take over and take on a new perspective. You will also go for more advanced shoots. For example, instead of going for the titmouse sitting on a wire, you’ll take on the job of photographing the majestic woodpecker in the hazy, snowy conditions braving all that winter has to offer. The more you repeat your location, the more comfortable you will become which will allow your confidence and creativity to take over.

Constantly Tweak Your Settings

The last thing you want is to go out and have all your photographs captured under the same setting. Be sure to shift settings based on lighting. Additionally, you’ll want to alternate between spot and matrix metering, and shift the focal distance, closer, farther away. Thanks to digital, birding photographers can now quickly drill down and determine favorite images to process and sharing.

Whether you’ve been a bird photographer for years or just a few months, you’ll certainly enjoy bringing the sights of nature indoors and sharing your artistic nod to nature with others who appreciate feathered friends. By studying bird behaviors and practicing a few key camera settings, you’ll most likely be rewarded with many images you’ll love and cherish.

Happy Shooting!