We’ve all seen amazing bird photos and thought to ourselves that I could take that. Learning how to take better bird photos isn’t difficult but it does require a few basic skills and a whole bunch of patience. So lets cover a few things first before we jump to the tips.
Bird photography camera settings
Understanding your camera settings is always a great place to start and knowing the basics between aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual and auto will greatly increase your chances of taking amazing bird photos. I cover a number of tips in my wildlife photography tips post that are equally applicable here. But lets cover a few here to get you started.
5 simple tips for taking better bird photos
Tip # 1 – Adjust your camera to shutter speed priority.
Many would argue that you should set everything to aperture priority but for fast moving subjects, birds for example, the shutter speed is job #1.
Tip # 2 – Use a long lens, 200mm or greater.
The longer the lens the further away you can capture pictures of birds. The challenge is longer lens are both very expensive and not the easiest thing to operate. I suggest to new birding photographers that the first long lens isa fat 200mm lens. You’ll be happier with capture closer focused images than blurry ones.
Tip # 3 – Follow the light for maximum exposure.
Today’s cameras have a very ISO range to help in low light situations. But if you want great bird photos try to find as much natural light as you can. This will help to both reduce ISO and increase f Stop and shutter speed. All ideal for capturing fast moving birds.
Tip # 4 – Pick a good background.
The background can make your bird photo pop or disappear. Do your best to think of the background while taking your picture. Often simply taking a few steps one way or another will solve this problem.
Tip # 5 – Watch the birds behavior.
Birds tend to have repetitive behavior. Taking a few minutes to watch them will help you find great locations to take pictures from. They might be right behind you watching you!
Common bird photography cameras
Each of the main camera manufactures have a number of good cameras that could be used for bird photography. You can read my review of the Olympus birding camera OMD EM 1X that is often referred to as a birders camera. Also, the Canon 7D Mark II and the Canon 1D X Mark II are great options for the entry level and prosumer level bird photographer.
Beginner and advanced birder cameras
- Canon EOS 7D Mark II
- Nikon D7500
- Olympus birding camera OMD EM 1X
- Canon 1D-X Mark II
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
- Nikon D850
- Sony Alpha a6400
- Canon EOS Rebel T6
- Nikon D7200
- Pentax K-1 Mark II
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Bird photography lenses
When selecting a lens for bird photography a number of things need to be considered. First and foremost is your budget. You can easily spend thousands of dollars on lenses to capture a great bird photo or any wildlife photography. When starting out I would consider investing in great glass first before you invest in a longer lens. Why? Simply, unless you have $10,000 dollars or more to spend on a long prime lens you want to make sure you don’t waste your money on cheap lenses just to get the reach. So, first lens is a 70-200mm like the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. This lens is amazing for almost anything you’ll shoot. Now it’s not cheap but it’s also never going to disappoint you. Another lens I like is the 100-400mm lens. This is generally a cost effective long lens that will get you close to a lot of birding action. Outside of that the new Sigma 150-600mm Sport lense is a good option but not in any way equal to the large prime lens offered by the major camera manufacturers. Then again it’s 1/10th the price.
Taking better bird photos is a combination of camera settings, camera gear and knowing the birds behaviour. Isolating each and learning a bit more will help to improve the quality of your bird photos.
Do you have a bird photography tip? If so share below I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.