Bird Photography Tips
Use a DSLR: Bird Photography requires a camera with the power to capture high quality images of quick, flying birds in a variety of lighting scenarios – there is no camera better equipped for meeting those demands than a DSLR. For more on DSLRs see: DSLR Overview and Bird Photography Equipment
Find Bird Hotspots: In order to have success as a bird photographer, you’ve got to be able to find a wide range of birds. Bird Hotspots are areas that are known to attract (or that will likely attract) many species of bird. Usually Bird Hotspots are located in an environment with many native plants and are in close proximity to a source of water. If you are interested in finding a specific species to photograph, it pays to research habitat and behavioral habitats, in addition to the songs and calls of the bird. For more on finding and attracting birds see: How to Find Birds, Attracting Birds and Finding, Approaching, and Photographing Birds
Avoid Standing Out: In most cases birds prefer to keep their distance from humans, to get close enough to the bird for quality shots - dress in: dark, earthy colors, stay as quiet as possible, and approach birds slowly and indirectly. For more on photographing birds see: Finding, Attracting, and Photographing Birds
Understand Exposure Settings: Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode if your subject is still, Shutter Priority Mode if your subject is moving or in flight, or Full Auto Mode if you are beginner or prefer to shoot with limited complexity. To learn more about DSLRs see: DSLR Overview
Shoot with Soft Sunlight/Back to Sun: Soft sunlight (early morning, late afternoon) promotes smooth and consistent illumination across your entire image. It will also lessen shadows and intense brightness, which can take away from and even ruin your image by obscuring details. An added bonus: birds tend to be most active in the morning! For more on this important topic see: Lighting & Bird Photography
Isolate the Image from Distractions: Elements of the background should complement the bird, not compete with it for attention. For more on composition see: Composing Bird Photographs
Focus on the Bird's Eye: The eye creates a gripping connection between the subject and its viewer – it provides a more intimate look at the bird. The eye is most vividly displayed if a catchlight is created (catchlight occurs when a light source creates a reflection in the eye of your subject). To create a catchlight, shoot on a sunny day while the bird is front-lit. For more on lighting see: Lighting & Bird Photography
Take Lots of Pictures: Birds are infamously difficult to photograph due to their constant movements. The more pictures you take, the better odds you have of getting a great shot.
Patience & Perseverance: Finding and photographing birds (especially rare birds) is challenging. Somedays the birds just won’t be out and if they are out they may not be photogenic. But never get too discouraged – in most cases patience pays off. Eventually the bird will pop out of the bushes and pose perfectly on an isolated branch! But remember that there is no point in being patient if you are not strategic about the process. Do your research before heading out – make sure you are going to shoot at a place with lots of birds, or at least the species you are targeting. And if you are targeting a specific species – make sure you know its colors, sounds, and habits.
Enjoy the Process: A bird photographer must never forget to enjoy the adventure. While every photographer wants to leave a session with a signature shot, remember that there is great value in just being outside and in observing the beauty of nature. Getting the shot itself is fun but often the entire journey that leads up to the shot is equally as memorable.