- The Handbook of Bird Photography
- Photographing Birds: Art & Techniques
- Secrets of Backyard Bird Photography
Bird photography is one of the most challenging, yet beautiful types of photography for just about anyone who loves nature and the outdoors. Professional wildlife and bird photographers will often wear camouflage clothing and wait for hours in a row to get the perfect shot of a beautiful species.
While that may be a game for advanced bird photographers, everyone was once a beginner and mastering the basics is an important part of the process.
Bird photography is a lot like shooting wild animals, but it has some particular things you need to look out for. First of all, your position is essential. Try to get to a higher point, like a hill or even a tree. The idea is to be at a height close to that of the birds you're about to photograph. You don't want to be shooting birds from a lower point because it's simply an uninteresting perspective. You're also going to want to find a place where the birds are flying from one side to the other so that you can pan with your lens. Ideally, sunlight should be coming from behind you. You don't need camouflage if you're not going deep into the rain forest, but you shouldn't wear very bright colors either.
After you find a good spot, it's time to get your gear out. One lens and one camera are enough, however the lens should be the longest you can find. A 400mm or longer lens obviously costs a lot of money, but you could consider renting one for the day. You can, however, do a terrific job with a good 300mm lens, and even a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom. Consider an extender for extra optical reach.
Leave the autofocus on auto mode and use all the focus points. It's very hard to shoot birds with a single AF point and it really makes no sense. If the lens has a stabilizing system, turn it off because you won't need it at all. The shutter speeds will be way too fast for any motion blur.
The camera should have a decent frame rate. Anything over 5 fps should do the job, although ideally it should be something that shoots between 8 and 10 fps.
Depending on lighting conditions, keep the ISO at a lower value, open up the aperture and go for a very fast shutter speed. Don't even think about shooting at lower speeds than 1/250th.
Because shooting with a long lens for a few hours can be very tiring, you should get a monopod. You might not have the same flexibility as holding the camera in your hands, but it will be a more comfortable experience.
After you check everything, it's time to start shooting. Bird photography requires a lot of practice, but if you pay attention to details, you'll start getting awesome results in no time.
Check out this video made by photographer Tony Northrup for more valuable info.