Lighting & Bird Photography

Lighting is one of the most important components of photography and will significantly impact the crispness, colors, and mood of your photograph. Below are basic informational tips that provide the overview needed to understand lighting as it pertains to bird photography.

  • Tip #1: Shoot your bird pictures when the sun is less harsh – either in in the early morning or late afternoon. Softer sunlight 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!

  • Tip #2: Shot your bird pictures with the sun behind you – this will ensure your bird is front-lit. A subject is front-lit when it is directly facing the light source. Shooting this way will promote a crisp and consistent image that does not lose detail or vividness due to a lack of brightness. Shooting the bird while it is back-lit (photographer facing the sun, subject behind the light source) results in a darker, duller image (good for silhouettes but bad for colors). Just remember the sun should be peeking over your shoulder and illuminating your subject entirely.

  • Tip #3: While shooting front-lit when the sunlight isn't too harsh is ideal, remember that excellent pictures can still be taken at any time of the day, in all different types of lighting, and in any direction. In fact, artistic shots require creative use of lighting.

Quick Summary

  • Shooting in morning/late afternoon = Soft Sunlight

  • Shooting midday = Harsh Sunlight

  • Shooting with sun behind you = front-lit image, which is crisp, detailed, and vivid

  • Shooting while facing sun = dark, shadowy image

  • Soft Sunlight promotes smooth and consistent illumination across image

  • Harsh Sunlight promotes intense brightness and or shadows

  • Note that excellent pictures can still be taken in any lighting condition – especially artistic shots