Travel & Photography

Few Secret Tips of Bird Photography For Beginners

Ritam Dutta
09 Jan 2017
Read Time : 10 Minutes
Few Secret Tips of Bird Photography For Beginners

Hey guys this report is for those many beginner photographers who want to taste the flavor of bird photography. In bird photography the main technical challenge is capturing crisp images of Birds in Flight (BIF). Birds are, after all, the dominant flying objects, so in some sense the flight shot might be said to more fully capture the essence of the living bird. In this blog, I shared few basic tips to take the snap of birds for beginners.

Learn shutter speed control in motion

The main problem with bird photography is that they’re moving.  Remember that for stationary birds, to get a sharp image you only needed to make sure that the camera was kept still, the shutter speed was fast enough (say, 1/160 sec or faster without IS), the aperture was set to a stop or so below wide open (to overcome optical flaws in the lens), and no interfering elements in the scene (e.g., branches, leaves) partially occluded the bird.  Now you need to consider all of these things plus the fact that the bird is moving.  There are two aspects of subject motion that affect image sharpness: (1) the motion of the whole bird relative to the scene (or relative to the camera), and (2) the motion of the bird’s extremities (primarily its wings) relative to the bird itself.  

Smaller birds are generally very unpredictable in their flight and also a bit difficult to track since they are generally too small in the frame. But the larger birds are slightly less swift and are not as difficult to track. If you want to be successful with flight photography, start with the larger, slower moving birds. Learn all the field techniques to capture the perfect photographs of these birds. You should learn about their flight patterns, their landing and taking off patterns.

In my experience, large birds such as eagles and herons can sometimes be satisfactorily frozen with shutter speeds as slow as 1/500 or 1/640 sec, though often you may need 1/800 or 1/1000 sec, and for birds in a hurry you may need even faster speeds.  If you read the popular articles that have been published on the matter, most will suggest an average speed of 1/1000 sec for general BIF photography, with ranges typically being cited as 1/500 sec to 1/1600 sec.  I’ve personally found cases in which 1/1600 is necessary for freezing a BIF.

Focus on bird’s eye (if it’s too tiny then head)

The other challenging aspect of tracking BIFs is keeping the AF sensor not just on the bird, but on the right part of the bird.  Ideally, you would like to keep the sensor positioned on the bird’s eye, since the eye is generally the most important part to keep in focus.  In most cases however, the bird’s eye will be too small to serve as an effective target in the viewfinder.  A more tractable target is the bird’s head, since this will often be large enough to reliably keep under the AF sensor.  If the head is too small to effectively target, the bird’s torso will do instead, though it’s important to try to avoid focusing on the wings.  If the depth of field is shallow enough, focusing on a wing can result in the bird’s head being too out of focus. As you’ll certainly be shooting in continuous AF mode taking repeated shots can help too, as shot-to-shot variation in the focus can increase your chances of getting one with the focus bang on target.

Learn to handle proper light for distance capture

Generally early morning and late afternoon light is usually the best time for bird photography. The light during these times is soft. As a bonus, the birds are very active as well. Light managing can be a frustrating issue when shooting birds in flight.  Due to the distances typically involved, flash tends to be less useful than for closer, for stationary birds.  Thus, BIF shooters rely more on natural light, which is more difficult to control.  On cloudless days the BIFs will be illuminated by direct sunlight, which is problematic during much of the day when the sun is overhead and your view of the bird will not have proper shades.

In most of these cases learn properly the ISO settings to manage light especially for bird photography. Never go for AUTO mode settings, whereas start learning ISO setting in MANUAL mode. So quality and direction of light plays major role in BIF photography.

Target object framing

Don’t forget that when you track the bird you want to keep not only the bird’s body in frame, but also its wings.  Clipping the wingtips is something that many photographers get terribly upset. Reducing the size of the bird in the frame (e.g., by backing away or using a shorter focal length) will help to reduce the incidence of clipped wingtips, but can also reduce the amount of detail visible in the resulting image; your own preferences and the effective resolution of your camera and lens will dictate how you want to exploit this tradeoff.

There are few advantages in filling the frame of target object (Bird). It is very easy to blur the background. So while photographing individual birds, it is always a good idea to fill the frame with the bird mostly.

Have patience to capture their action & behavior

Lastly but most importantly I would like to share that in bird photography patience is the only keyword for the capturing perfect object pose. Since it’s a moving object mostly, therefore to get a wow comment beginners must not lose patience to capture the pose of bird’s action, behavior, landing, taking off, food habits etc.

Always try to capture early in the morning or late in the afternoon when birds are very active. Use burst shot mode to take several photographs during the action. Track the bird until focus is locked before pressing the shutter. So multiple shot is preferable rather than single shot for bird photography. Learn to anticipate the action either by observing or reading about them.

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Authored By Ritam Dutta

Ritam Dutta is an official partner of "Day On My Plate". He is an entrepreneur in mind and passionate blogger by heart. Moreover, he is also an academician, author, public speaker, investor, and internet personality.

 

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