One of the toughest tasks that a photographer can undertake is trying to capture a clear, sharp photo of a bird in flight.
But that doesn't mean that it's impossible to take a high-quality shot of a flying bird...you just have to be prepared (and practice, of course!).
In the video above, our friend Tim Boyer offers up a few quick tips for bird-in-flight photography that will make it much easier for you to get the shots you want.
From practical tips for getting ready to shoot to camera settings that will make great shots more likely, you'll learn the basic building blocks of successfully photographing birds in flight.
For a quick summary of each tip, check the article below.
Tim's first advice is to get yourself ready in advance of heading out for bird photos.
The first tasks are simple ones, yet many people neglect them.
Be sure your battery is fully charged (and have a spare battery, too) and that your memory card is empty.
After all, it's really hard to take photos if your battery dies or your memory card fills up!
Editor's Tip: Scouting ahead of time will make your bird photography outing more successful. Research local birds and find out where they gather so you've got the most opportunities to capture the photos you want.
In the video, Tim points out that he used a 70-200mm lens.
That's a popular option for many bird photographers because it has such a wide focal range. Plus, you can use an extender to give the lens more reach, which Tim did for some of the photos he took.
Other options include a 100-400mm zoom lens, a 200-500mm zoom lens, or even a 400mm or 600mm prime.
In this case, Tim sets the limiter switch to 2.5 meters to infinity, that way the lens doesn't try to focus on any elements that are close to him and instead gives him focusing power to get birds nice and sharp in his photos.
Additionally, Tim suggests using autofocus, as it would be too time-consuming to manually focus the lens while tracking a flying bird.
Tim also suggests turning image stabilization off, assuming of course that your shutter speed is sufficiently fast to avoid camera shake.
In this case, he's shooting in manual mode with a shutter speed at 1/1500 seconds with an ISO of 400 and an aperture of f/8.
In other words, the exposure settings give Tim more than enough leeway to handhold his camera and not worry about camera shake.
In addition to the exposure settings noted above, Tim also selects in the center autofocus point for his shots.
Since the birds he's photographing move pretty consistently without any erratic movements, the center focus point will work just fine.
Editor's Tip: If you aren't quite ready for shooting in manual mode, try shooting in shutter priority mode. That allows you to determine the shutter speed and ISO and the camera will select an aperture to match.
Something else to note is the white balance setting.
Since today's cameras do a pretty good job of getting the white balance correct (or close, anyway), shoot using auto white balance.
Doing so will free you up from having to worry about it, and you can devote more time and mental energy to making adjustments to shutter speed, tracking the bird as it's flying, working on composition, and so forth.
Besides, with programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, it's easier than ever before to fine-tune white balance if what the camera does isn't quite on point.