Revealed: How to Photograph Birds Like a Pro

These are the tips some bird photographers don’t want you to know because you might be a powerful competitor!

Tip #1: Go Beyond the Norm

The problem with some photographers is they shoot from the same angle over and over. Go above and beyond your mundane life! Be creative by including other details near the bird, such as food, water, shadows, and etc. Tell a story; don’t just take photos of the birds, take photos of their environment too. People who will see your photos in the future should be able to feel what you felt while you were taking the photo.

For instance, if you’re about to photograph a shorebird on the ground, opening its glorious wings as though ready to fly, it’s best to include the ground or the water as well by shooting from a low angle. Doing this will inform the viewers about where the bird took off from. You will most likely need to lie flat on your stomach to do this, but taking better photos require hard work! This is also the reason why we told you to pack clothes ready to be dirty for your photography outing. However, if lying down isn’t something your body allows you to do, you can just sit on the ground and lower your camera. That, however, won’t guarantee a better photo. Likewise, if you’re going to take a photo of a particular like a white bird about to land somewhere, also include where it is headed.

The point is to get out of your comfort zone and shoot like you’re a whole new photographer! Trying different angles will give you a higher chance of creating a better bird photo.

Tip #2: Know Depth of Field

<img src="kestrel.jpg" alt="A close up of an American Kestrel looking at the camera">

The depth of field or focus range refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp. You use this technique to give more emphasis on the bird especially when the background is too colorful or distracting that the bird can hardly be noticed. It might be challenging to apply, but practicing it will allow you to add more drama to your photo. It helps the viewer identify the subject easily, as well, as this technique isolates the bird from its environment, especially if the environment doesn’t tell a story at all.

Tip #3: Apply Rule of Thirds

Take a look at these beautiful bird photos:

<img src="bluebird.jpg" alt="An Eastern Bluebird on a branch"><img src="shorebird.jpg" alt="A black Skimmer gliding to get fish from water">

<img src="shorebird.jpg" alt="Calidris Pusilla on water">

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do they have in common? Ahh, yes. They all placed the birds right at the center. Is that wrong? Technically, there’s nothing wrong with art, but it’s important to be creative in photography. Placing your subject in the middle all the time isn’t a good idea. Plus, if everyone’s doing it, your photo won’t have a chance to stand out. The Rule of Thirds is a compositional technique that is applied by aligning your subject with the guidelines and their intersection points, placing the horizon on the bottom or top line, or allowing linear attributes in the photo to flow from one section to another. Basically, it’s the refusal to place the subject in the middle of the photo for art’s sake.

A bird situated about a third of the way from the border of the camera’s viewfinder is a popular application of this technique. It can be very beneficial for birds because it will leave some space for the viewers to see what the bird is doing or where it’s going, especially if it’s swimming, walking, or flying. Other photographers crop the photo to make it seem like it followed this technique, but that’s not advisable. It’s best to get it right with your camera. Just check these photos in this article. Don’t they look better than the usual bird photos you see?

Tip #4: Work with the Right Light

To take great photos like a pro, you should work with the right amount of light. If you shoot birds that don’t receive a decent amount of light, you’ll fail to show the details in their plumage. How important is “right light” exactly? Well, it’s so important that without it, you can’t take good photos of birds, much more “better photos” of birds. The amount of light hitting the bird should be just right to get a clear and remarkable photo. If the bird is well-lit, you have more options with higher shutter speeds. When the lighting is even, the bird will appear more extraordinary as well. Direct sunlight is recommended than ambient or non-direct light because it highlights the bird’s feathers better. Take lighting seriously! If some parts of the bird are light while some are dark, it will be hard for you to expose the dark portions without overexposing the light ones. It’s best to wait for the right amount of light before releasing your shutter.

Tip #5: Do Some Framing

This refers to the use of the patterns or objects near you or the bird as the frame of your photo. Circular, rectangular, and other shapes of windows and fences can serve as natural frames. The best part is you get to be more resourceful as you try to bring more drama to the photo. Usually, they’re placed near the lens and are blurred while the bird is in the middle of the frame. Aside from adding creativity to your final image, you’ll also be able to challenge yourself by looking at your surroundings. Remember, a good photographer knows how to make use of whatever’s available. Take a look at this photo that used framing as a technique:

<img src="sparrow.jpg" alt="sparrow framing">

Tip #6: Wait for the Right Time

Unfortunately, this is the most difficult part of this article. The decision of a bird to move is beyond the photographer’s control, but if you have studied its behavior and can predict its next move, you can produce professional-like photos. In order to get a good pose from your model, it’s ideal to take a photo each time the bird turns its head or moves from its current position. Taking numerous shots will give you more choices for later when you check and filter them on your laptop.