How to Photograph Birds - B&C Camera

Taking photographs of birds can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. Many people are drawn to birds, so much, in fact, that bird-watching is becoming a trendy hobby (previously known for captivating an older crowd). Birds seem majestic and make you feel like you are close to nature. 


Here's a thorough "how-to" on taking photographs of birds. Some of the tips I'm including in this guide can also cover other types of wildlife photography.



What type of equipment should be used?

Do you want your bird photography journey to go as smooth as butter? If so, you will need to have all of the proper equipment:

• Camera - Choose a high-quality camera capable of taking photographs with a shutter speed of at least 1/2000 of a second and an outstanding autofocus system. You will also want a camera that is capable of continuous bursts.

• Lens - Some of the best lenses to use for bird photography are the 200-400mm, 500mm, 600mm, or 800mm lenses. Here is a link to some of the best lenses we offer at B&C Camera: Shop Lenses

• Tripod - Purchase a heavy-duty tripod that is sturdy enough to hold your camera and a large telephoto lens. You may be in the same spot for a while, waiting to spot a bird. Try and find something with carbon fiber legs and a gimbal head.

• Extra batteries - We have a great tool to help you find the right battery for your camera. Use our Battery Compatibility Finder to narrow down your options.

• Extra memory cards - photographing birds is difficult. You will run out of memory faster than you think. Be sure to always have an extra memory card or two ready with you at all times.

Camera Remote - A remote will work great when you don't cause sudden movements while touching the shutter.


What camera settings should be used?

Having the correct settings will ensure you capture the best photograph of your little bird friend! Start out with an aperture priority mode or manual mode. If using manual, use the following settings:

• Shutter Speed - Fast shutter speeds will be the answer for photographing birds who are in mid-flight or who have fast movements. Slow the shutter speed if you want a blurred effect on the wings. Try setting your shutter at 1/1000 and then tweak from there. 

• ISO - To have a noise-free photograph, you will want to set your ISO to something lower. However, you will also need a high ISO with fast shutter speeds, and this will take a lot of experimenting to get a perfect balance. 

• White Balance - Use an Auto WB setting. We wrote an entire article just about white balance, you can read it here: White Balance Photography: What is White Balance

• Aperture - For a good depth of field, having an aperture at f/4 or f/5.6 is ideal.


Now, keep in mind that settings can change quickly. If your bird is in motion or is steadily perched on a tree will give you different camera setting needs.


Now, you gotta find those little cuties!

Once your camera bag is packed with the essentials, you are ready to search for birds. The most common birds are robins, finches, and sparrows. Birds are usually most active during the early morning hours while hunting for food. Practicing with local birds will help you prepare for more exotic birds when bird watching. You can easily do a Google search to find the best bird-watching spots near you. Especially since this hobby is on the up-and-up. You can also try your local zoo for photo opportunities.


Tips for approaching birds.

Spooking a bird right before pressing your shutter can lead to extreme frustration. There you were, ready to take the perfect picture, and then the bird disappeared into the sky.

Birds have a unique vision and are usually on high alert for predators. That bird you spotted has most likely already seen you. Sudden movements can easily frighten a bird and make them want to get as far away from you as possible. 


Here are some tips to follow:

• Turn your cell phone off or put it in silent mode. Even phone vibration can cause a bird to get scared.

• Stay away from brightly colored clothes that pop out. 

• All types of sudden movement will usually scare a bird. Each movement you make should be slow.

• Never suddenly stop if you are mid-walking when you spot a bird. Gradually slow down, so you don't freak out any wildlife.

• Never walk in the direction of the bird. Some avid bird watchers even recommend slowly walking in a zig-zag pattern if you want to get closer.

• If you and the bird lock eyes, stop all movements until the bird becomes distracted. If the bird is looking at you, it is likely on high alert. Eye contact is usually seen as a threat.

• If your camera has a loud shutter, try snapping the photo from a considerable distance. You can move closer once the shutter noise starts to blend in with the environment.

• Make sure you are using continuous bursts to capture a lot quickly. Since wildlife is unpredictable, it is nice to have A LOT of photographs to choose from while post-processing.

• Always have your back towards the sun for the best light.


Time to edit.

Use Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to edit. Lightroom is typically better when you need to organize many photos and do simple editing, and Photoshop is best to do more complex editing. You will also rely heavily on your cropping tool to have the bird fill the frame.

We wrote an entire article teaching you how to edit RAW images in photoshop, you can read it here: How to Edit RAW Images in Photoshop


Most of all, have fun while photographing these curious little creatures. Remember to constantly experiment with your settings to get the best results. If you'd like to learn more about bird photography and understanding bird behavior, I recommend reading this book: Marie Read's Mastering Bird Photography: The Art, Craft, and Technique of Photographing Birds and Their Behavior


Related article: The 3 Most Important Camera Settings

Related article: Camera Settings for Cloudy Day

Related article: How to Photograph Hummingbirds


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