Backyard bird photography is an exciting and rewarding activity that combines the beauty of nature with the art of photography. Whether you are an experienced photographer or a beginner, capturing stunning images of birds in your backyard can be a delightful and satisfying experience. I wanted to share with you some of my tips on how I take photos of birds that are in my backyard. Although some tips are the same for capturing birds in the “wild” there are a few unique things to consider when taking pictures of birds from your back deck.
How to setup your backyard bird feeder
The first step in backyard bird photography is to set up a bird feeder in your backyard. A bird feeder is an essential tool that will attract birds to your backyard and make it easier for you to capture stunning images of them. When setting up your bird feeder, make sure that it is in a location that is easily visible and accessible for you to photograph.
Select quality food sources for the birds in your backyard
Once you have set up your bird feeder, it is essential to select quality food for the birds. Different seasons call for different types of food, so it is important to choose the right feed for each season to attract a variety of bird species. Remember some birds fly south for the winter and others like the Cardinal, Blue Jay and Chickadee stay for the winter. Here are some recommendations for each season:
- Spring feed: Suet, mealworms, fruit, and nectar will attract hummingbirds and orioles to your backyard.
- Summer feed: Black oil sunflower seeds, millet, and peanuts will attract a variety of birds, including finches, chickadees, and woodpeckers.
- Autumn feed: Safflower seeds, thistle, and corn will attract birds like goldfinches, nuthatches, and juncos.
- Winter feed: Suet, cracked corn, and peanuts will attract birds like blue jays, cardinals, and finches.
Where to position yourself to photograph birds in the backyard
The key to capturing stunning bird photos in your backyard is to position yourself in the right spot. Here are some tips for finding the perfect spot:
- Position yourself near a window or a door that provides a clear view of the bird feeder.
- Use a bird blind or a camouflage net to conceal yourself and your camera gear from the birds.
- Position yourself at eye level with the birds for a more intimate and engaging shot.
Once you’re positioned to with your camera and tripod if needed stay still and quite. You want to blend in so the birds are comfortable with you and fly to the feeders more freely.
Camera lens selection
The right lens is essential for bringing the action closer when capturing birds in your backyard. There are two types of lenses that are commonly used in bird photography: zoom lenses and prime lenses.
Zoom lenses are versatile and allow you to zoom in and out to capture a variety of shots. They are ideal for beginners and photographers who want to capture a wide range of bird species. Zoom lenses come in different focal lengths, and the longer the focal length, the more magnification you get.
Prime lenses, on the other hand, have a fixed focal length and are designed to capture sharp and detailed images. They are ideal for experienced photographers who want to capture the finer details of the bird. Prime lenses come in different focal lengths, and the longer the focal length, the more magnification you get.
Common camera settings
Once you have selected your lens, it is essential to set up your camera correctly to capture stunning bird photos. Here are some common camera settings to consider:
- Aperture: A wide aperture (low f-stop number such as f/2.8) will create a shallow depth of field, blurring the background and bringing the bird into focus.
- Shutter speed: A fast shutter speed will freeze the bird’s motion and prevent blur. A good rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed that is at least 1/1000 of a second or faster.
- ISO: A higher ISO will allow you to shoot in low light conditions, but it may introduce noise (grain) into your images. Try to keep your ISO as low as possible while maintaining a fast enough shutter speed.
In addition to the technical settings, composition is another critical aspect of bird photography. Here are some composition tips to consider:
- Rule of thirds: The rule of thirds is a fundamental principle of composition that involves dividing your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The points where the lines intersect are where you should place your subject for a more balanced and visually pleasing image.
- Background: Pay attention to the background when photographing birds. A clean and uncluttered background will help your subject stand out and create a more pleasing image. Look for areas with a plain and neutral background or use a wide aperture to create a blurry background.
- Angles: Experiment with different angles when photographing birds. Try shooting from a low angle to capture the bird’s eye level, or shoot from above for a unique perspective. Get creative with your angles to capture unique and interesting shots.
Patience and Persistence
Bird photography requires patience and persistence. Not every shot will be a perfect one, and it takes time and practice to get the shot you want. Be prepared to spend long periods waiting for the right moment and take advantage of the opportunities as they arise.
Backyard bird photography is a rewarding and enjoyable activity that can be enjoyed by photographers of all skill levels. By setting up a bird feeder, selecting quality food sources, positioning yourself correctly, selecting the right lens and camera settings, composing your shots effectively, and being patient and persistent, you can capture stunning images of birds in your backyard. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunning bird photos that you’ll be proud to share with others.