Simple tips for bird photography in the spring

Now that it’s springtime and the birds are migrating north I decided to head and take some photos and realized that the best photography tips I could give was the last thing I did.

The day started out perfectly. It was sunny warm enough and you could hear the birds everywhere. I even ran across some birders out looking for birds migrating.

Bird photography settings for my Canon DSLR

Whenever I head out the first thing I do is open my camera bag in drunk and take some test photos. I make sure each camera I’m taking is setup correctly for a typical bird photo. My default settings for any of my Canon DSLR’s start off with

Camera settings for Canon DSLR

  1. Shutter speed priority. Now I know depth of field is important for the ultimate bokeh (or blurry background) but lets face it a blurry photo where nothing is in focus is generally garbage. So for bird photography I set the camera to TV mode with a shutter speed of 1/1000th or faster depending on the lens I’m using.
  2. ISO. With most cameras today you can get away with a reasonably high ISO setting. I know 100 ISO is ideal for low noise but honestly in the bush taking pictures of birds requires you to be ready for almost anything. The photo in this article was taken on a bright sunny day with an ISO of 1250, yep that high.
  3. Burst mode. Not that I’m a fan of shooting everything at max burst rate but here again is where the real world and ideal settings depart. In the real world you often have seconds to grab the photo. The photo in this post was taken in a matter of a couple seconds as I was walking out. Having burst mode setup for maximum shots I was able to grab this bird just before it took off.

The best bird photography lenses are the longest ones.

Wildlife photography is challenging for the most part because the animals you’re wanting to take a picture of is easily spooked and takes off. Bird photography is no different and the best lenses I’ve used for the Canon DSLR’s are as follows.

  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
  • Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
  • CANON EF 70-200MM F2.8L IS II USM LENS

These 3 lenses are great for bird photography. Often I mount the CANON EF 70-200MM to a crop body such as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR Camera for that extra reach. When using the Sigma 150-600mm for bird photos or sports photos it’s a must that you mount it first to a monopod or tripod. That lens is heavy regardless of what anyone says. Lugging that around the bunch for 30 minutes you’ll soon realize you need help to stabilize the photo.

If you’re looking for a budget Canon camera for bird photography check out the original Canon 7D. It’s less expensive now and still keeps up with the action. Something to keep in mind when you’re looking for a budget lens for wildlife photography is that you don’t need a shallow depth of field. Actually it can be very advantageous to not have that. So don’t look for the fastest aperture if you’re on a budget.

Read as many beginner bird photography tips as you can

Bird photography requires a number of skills that can only be honed in on with practice. But what do you do if you can’t get out to take photos. Well read as many bird photography blogs with simple tips as you can. I find reading them over and over actually helps me in the field. We can’t all be out running around taking photos of birds to practice so take some time to read more tips and while you do try them out at home until it becomes natural to change the settings to what you want. Check out my simple wildlife photo tip for more ideas.

Why the Canon 1DX is the best canon camera for wildlife photography

This camera simply rocks! It is a workhorse and honestly has never let me down. Mounted to the Sigma 150-600mm Sport and you have an amazing combo for wildlife photography. The other Canon body you’ll find in my bag when I’m out taking bird or nature photos is the Canon 7D Mark II. It’s another workhorse and is very close in many ways to the Canon 1D X. Take a look at the Canon 7D MK II sample images for yourself. Having both of these cameras with me and the Sony A7 with a wide lens covers me for almost anything in the field. You can read my Sony A7 review for more info.

Bird photography can be very challenging but like most other types of photography very rewarding. Head out and go to places most other people wouldn’t and take the time to look around and watch what’s going on around you. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you look and if you’re ready with your camera you’ll get lucky like me and snap a bird photo like this one.