How To Shoot Seagulls

by Jarvo J April. 22, 2011 3787 views

Please note the title of this post does not mean that I know how to shoot seagulls. As you can see from the photos, I don't really know how to do it - but I did learn a few things by trial and error today and thought it might be worth posting them. If any more experienced bird shooters want to add their advice, that would be very welcome.

1. Don't overlook seagulls because they are common birds. In a way they make ideal subject matter because they are large, easy to see, comparatively brave and can easily be coaxed with food.

2. Think about the lighting. All of the shots I took today suffer from being taken into the light. This increases the contrast, makes it harder to get the exposure level right and (I think) makes the chromatic aberrations from my cheapo lens worse. With a bit of forethought I should have walked around to the other side of the lake so that the sun was behind me.

3. Automatic movement focussing (AI Servo on Canon) is the easiest way to get the subject in focus, but it is not infallible. My usual favourite lesson for photographing animals, focus on the eye, is somewhat redundant as there simply isn't enough time. Expect some disappointments.

4. Selecting a particular bird and tracking its movement seems to produce better results than picking a spot and waiting for something to fly into it. For any football fans, think man to man marking rather than zonal marking.

5. I suspect that the best camera setting is Time (Tv on Canon). These were all taken with the Apperture setting (AV on Canon) with the aperture set to 5.6; this was a mistake. As can be seen in most of these pictures, but especially the last one, such a wide aperture means that part of the bird is bound to be out of focus - and depending on AI Servo it might just be the key part. It is important therefore to get a narrower aperture for greater depth. So instead of trying to maximise the shutter speed, pick the speed that is necessary to get a clear shot and go from there.

6. Think about what's happening in the background as you shoot. The best shots seem to be when it's either all sky or all water. The waterline and anything else is usually distracting.

7. Don't zoom in to the max. It is better to crop a little bit of the picture to get the desired effect than to have the whole shot ruined because a beak, wing tip or tail feather falls outside the frame.

8. Start saving for one of those big white-barreled lenses with a red ring around it. Yeah, right.

Oh no, Im going to crash. I flew too near the sun and my wing melted.

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There are 11 comments , add yours!
Helen Hooker 9 years, 3 months ago

Brilliant action shots!

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Gregg Maretka 9 years, 3 months ago

these are unbelievable !!! great shots !!

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Sandra Vermeulen 9 years, 3 months ago

Great and useful post, thanks for sharing.

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Masoud مسعود 9 years, 3 months ago

I enjoyed seeing these photos!

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Larry Nelson 9 years, 3 months ago

I've heard about those big white lenses, but I thought they only existed in catalogs.
Nice tips on shooting birds (or any other moving thing).

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Lynda 9 years, 3 months ago

They look pretty good to me.

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Marsha 9 years, 3 months ago

Great tips, Jon! Believe it or not, we have seagulls here in land-locked Colorado....will be fun to try to shoot them next time I'm at the lake near here!

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Michael Sakowicz 9 years, 3 months ago

Ahhh. And now I know... ;)

9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Farideh_Homam 9 years, 3 months ago


9 years, 3 months ago Edited
David Cardona 9 years, 3 months ago


9 years, 3 months ago Edited
Davorka ČEoviä‡ 9 years, 3 months ago

wonderful post! great capture!

9 years, 3 months ago Edited