Bird photography has always been a special niche among wildlife photographers. You have to be fascinated by birds to be truly passionate about capturing them, especially since it isn't the easiest thing to do.
If you're thinking about starting bird photography, we have 9 tips that will help you get awesome images in no time.
Let's start with the tools. Just like with most wild animals, you can't get really close without arousing suspicion and having the bird eventually fly away. That's why you have to keep a certain distance between you and your subject. That translates into using a long lens. Don't even think about showing up in the wild without at least a 70-200 f2.8 , preferably with a 1.6x or 2x teleconverter mounted. Ideally, a 300mm or 400mmm lens would be the best choice, but you shouldn't put a mortgage on the house if you want to keep it a hobby. The camera should have a continuous drive speed of at least 5 frames per second. Birds can be incredibly fast and trying to photograph them with a slow camera will just make you frustrated.
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Keeping a low profile is important when photographing birds. We're not saying you should go to a military shop and buy some sniper camouflage ( although it wouldn't hurt and it would make you look cool), but you shouldn't wear bright colors either. Keep it as natural as possible using green, brown or kaki fabrics.
Try to focus on the bird's eyes because that's where the center of attention is. Every time someone looks at a photograph of a bird, they will naturally look at the eyes first, so make sure they are nice and sharp.
4. Have plenty of light
Photographing in the sun is usually bad for photography, but when shooting birds you will need very fast shutter speeds, think 1/500th and faster. That means you need to be there when the sun is bright. If you don't have that going for you, you can boost the ISO if you have a good camera, but for optimum image quality, you shouldn't go over 3200.
5. Be patient
This is a game of patience, so if that's one of your weak spots, you might as well forget about it. You often have to wait several hours for the right shot, and you can't be very active in that time.
6. Target a species
Photographing birds requires a bit of research. It's not just going out in nature with a good camera and a long lens to capture birds of all kinds. It's best to take interest in certain species, study their habits and what kind of environments they can be found in. That way you will have a clear sense of what you have to do and you will greatly increase your chances of getting some awesome pics.
7. No sudden movements
Birds scare a lot easier than other animals. If you have to move, do it very slowly. With a bit of practice you will go undetected and the birds will fly towards you or get closer and that's when it's time to press the shutter.
8. Follow the flight
You can get some amazing shots of birds resting on branches, but the truly spectacular images are those with birds caught in mid flight. Obviously, they are very tricky and quite difficult to capture, but all it takes is practice and a long lens. Make sure you have a monopod that you can move around freely.
9. Have a clean background
It's vital to have a good, clean background. The bokeh of a long lens with a wide aperture will take care of that most of the times, but you need to make sure before you setup your position. Fire a few test shots with the lens focused on the approximate distance where the birds will be.
Also, if you're photographing water birds, it's best to be near ground level because they look bad when photographed from above.