5 Amazing Bird Photography Tips for Amateurs

by Tristan Taylor April. 04, 2017 1422 views
Scarlet Macaw

Taking an exquisite snapshot of a bird doesn’t always depend on the quality of your lens or the camera. It depends on several other factors such as the:

  • Quality as well as the direction of light,
  • Activity of the bird,
  • Background,
  • Composition,
  • Proper exposure and settings,
  • Patience, practice, passion and perseverance.

It’s important for you to realize the fact that exquisite bird photography is much more than just the lens and the camera. Although I cannot deny the fact the longer the lens, the easier it is to photograph birds that are lively in nature. But the lens alone cannot make an excellent bird photograph. You need something more.

Here are a few tips that can come in handy.

1. Using light and composition

Photography is always everything about light. Light possesses a few characteristics that can make a photograph beautiful and beyond extraordinary. But of course, you have to know the different ways to use it properly.

Remember that early morning light and the late afternoon light is the ideal time for bird photography. During these times the light is soft and appropriate for bird photographybird photography. The birds are also very active during this period which is an added bonus.

Some extraordinary characteristics of soft lighting are:

  • It doesn’t create unnecessary harsh shadows.
  • It’s capable of bringing out a natural glow to the bird’s feathers.
  • Soft lighting helps in forming a catch light in the bird’s eye.

Some thumb rules that you should follow:

  • Use the rule of thirds to keep the bird off-center.
  • Utilize a clean background.
  • Fill up the frame entirely with the bird.
  • Utilize color contrast (if possible) by aiming to inculcate complementary background.

2. Everything’s in the eye

Judge it for yourself by taking a peek at the photographs of any bird on the internet. What’s the first thing that you want to see? It’s the eye of the bird.

Human beings have a natural tendency to make eye connections with any living organism. The same is applicable here. Birds look lively when they have the light in their eyes. That light is known as the catch light.


The image below is exactly what I am talking about.

Some thumb rules to follow:

  • Keep the eye of the bird in sharp focus.
  • Check whether you are getting a catch light in the eye.
  • Photograph the bird from the level of its eye.

3. Fill the entire frame

In bird photography, your primary focus should be the bird itself. Hence, it’s advisable to fill the entire frame with the bird. The photograph of the parrot shown above can be a good example of what I am talking about.

The advantages of filling up the frame are:

  • It’s easy for the audience to focus specifically on the bird.
  • It’s easy for the photographer to achieve a pleasing blur effect in the background.
  • Proper exposure of the bird can be achieved easily.

4. If possible, capture birds in action

Capturing active birds in action involves a lot more effort and patience in comparison to photographing perched birds.

Some thumb rules:

  • Early morning and late afternoon are considered one of the best times to photograph birds in action because birds are usually very active at that moment. Use those times wisely.
  • Take several photographs of a bird in action using the burst mode of your camera.
  • Track the bird carefully until the focus of your camera is locked on it. Press the shutter soon afterwards.
  • Observing and reading the bird is mighty important to predict its activity. With careful practice, you will learn it in no time.

5. Use the background of the photograph to great effect

Now you may ask: is it the bird or its background that makes the picture?

My suggestion to you will be to go through a few extraordinary photographs of birds on the internet. Except extreme close-up photographs, you’ll see most photographs have a neat and clean background that complements the bird.

Take the image below as an example.


Some thumb rules:

  • DO NOT take the snapshot if the background is too distracting.
  • Be a little patient and wait for the bird to take a good position (or at the same time, you can even change your position to incorporate an interesting background) before you click on the shutter.
  • You can choose a maximum aperture value to make the background look slightly out of focus.

Always remember that proper techniques and knowledge will always outsmart costly equipments. Like I said, it’s not all about the camera. It’s got everything to do with your technique. Practice will definitely lead you to perfection.

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