how to take bird photography

Bird photography, especially wild bird photography can be quite challenging. There are many articles on the Internet that cover everything from “bird photography tips” to “the art of bird photography”, but I found that many of them are not detailed enough for the beginning photographer who just wants to go out there and shoot.

You might think that photographing birds is similar to other types of wildlife photography, but actually, it is so different that it’s practically like being on another planet! But fear not, because this guide will tell you everything you need to know about getting started with bird photography.

How to Find Birds

You may encounter two challenges when looking for birds to take pictures of. The first is that it’s not always easy to locate birds, and the second is that you have to locate them in settings that genuinely lend themselves to compelling compositions. Birds are aware of cameras and will hide to have a little fun. I have occasionally crawled through the grass, all scratched up by brambles, only to find a bird perched in the worst branch! ).

So, how can you find birds? The most obvious method to find birds is to use eBird. This website is well-worth signing up for, and they don’t spam your email account or have a ton of useless social media features. On eBird, you can view a map that tells you the best hotspots for birding in your area.

While not all birdwatching hotspots make for great photo opportunities, many do Additionally, you can determine which birds were observed at each location, which will assist you in discovering new subjects for which you had no prior images.

It pays to get to know your birds. Get a field guide and educate yourself on your lovely little subjects. Understanding bird behavior will not only help you locate them and know what to look for when shooting them, but it will also be enjoyable to learn about nature in the off-season when there are no birds to shoot.

You can also ask other photographers. By simply asking strangers who take photos on trails, I’ve discovered quite a few excellent locations!

The most crucial piece of advice I can give you is to visit the perfect spot at least twelve times after you’ve found it. There will be fresh concealed spots, perfect perches, and small streams where tiny birds will gather for a quick wash. You’ll see that as the seasons change, new patterns and species emerge.

And time. The real key to bird photography is time, not cameras, lenses, or hidden spots. You will eventually discover something lovely tucked away deep within the marvels of our natural forests and landscapes if you sit for long enough and wander far enough without any expectations.

Your portfolio will grow as a result of your travels, but you must be ready to explore new places. You don’t necessarily need to travel to take amazing pictures, but if you do wind yourself overseas, make it your mission to discover what amazing creatures call those far-off lands home.

Make a commitment to support Audubon in urging decision-makers to pay attention to science and pursue climate solutions.

Take a unique picture: A lot of people take inspiring pictures, so it makes sense that they would want to try to recreate them. Regretfully, that is rarely fruitful and a waste of time because part of what makes an powerful is its uniqueness; a great work of art rarely inspires the same sense of wonder when recreated. To take unique pictures, try new subjects, unconventional poses, and unconventional angles.

Light conditions change regularly. The change could occur gradually as the sun moves across the sky, or more suddenly when clouds cover up or reveal the sun’s rays. When using Aperture Priority Mode, keep in mind that if your subject moves from a light background to a dark background, you may need to adjust the exposure.

Your pictures will be much better if you leave early and stay until the last light disappears. When color appears its best, shadows are farther from subjects, and birds are most active, it’s in the magical light just after sunrise and just before sunset. These are the times to maximize your shooting.

Great photos take lots of time and effort. Utilize that time and energy wisely by getting to know and coexist with the birds you love. The ideal shot then becomes just another perk of spending quality time with your favorite people in your favorite location.

How to Photography Birds: Best Settings

What comes next after you’ve located your target and selected the perfect camera? You need to know the optimal setting for bird photography! I’ve already published a piece on the subject and my friend Libor has a special piece on birding while in flight, both of which I heartily suggest. However, it doesn’t hurt to go over the basics.

The most important thing for bird photography is shutter speed. Because birds move quickly, you don’t want to capture a shot that has a lot of motion blur unless you’re specifically going for that effect. Conversely, you don’t want your shutter speed to be too fast because the optimal lighting for bird photography is frequently low light; if you’re too fast, you’ll be losing important light, which could produce a noisy image.

Fortunately, the following useful table provides information on the best shutter speed starting points:

Situation Safe Recommendation Typical Range I Use
Perched, still birds 1/400 1/40-1/640
Walking or slowly moving birds 1/800 1/500-1/1500
Running and darting birds 1/1200 1/800-1/1500
Birds in flight, slow 1/2500 1/2000-1/3200
Birds in flight, fast 1/3200 1/2500-1/8000

Naturally, you should be in shutter priority or manual mode if you want to adjust the shutter speed. When operating in manual mode, it is advisable to have auto ISO enabled most of the time, unless there is a valid reason not to.

Do your devices have any other crucial settings? They do. When photographing birds, I never advise using JPEG; are you shooting in raw? I’ve never met a bird photographer that has ever used JPEG because the lighting is too unpredictable. Do you have your shake reduction activated? The IBIS on your camera and the shake reduction on your lens are very helpful when photographing perched birds.

Choose a very fast shutter speed setting for birds in flight and a slower one for perched birds if your camera has multiple modes. When you set your shutter speed higher, birds will stop flying; when you set it lower, they will resume flying. Tricksters, they are.

Is your camera equipped with two cards? If not, make sure it is set to take backup pictures because that Blakiston’s fish owl is not coming back.


What is the best setting for bird photography?

The key to a good bird in flight shot is a fast shutter speed else it’s going to be a blurry mess. So switch to Tv mode (for Canon, S mode for other brands) and dial in 1/2000th sec. Set your ISO to ‘Auto’ so it’ll crank just high enough to enable you to use that shutter speed, no matter how low the light.

What camera settings are needed for bird photography?

In short, yes. Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras are great for bird photography. (They’re both definitely better than any superzoom camera since interchangeable lenses and fast focusing are critical for serious bird photography.) It’s really all about finding a camera that fits your requirements and shooting style.

Is bird photography difficult?

Photographing birds is both challenging and rewarding. For starters, they like to move around a lot. What’s more, birds aren’t always in the most convenient of locations—out on a lake, high up in a tree, across a field. But these factors are also what make getting that perfect image so satisfying.