How to Capture: Birds

With their colourful plumage and diverse shapes and sizes, birds make an interesting subject to capture on camera. Yet, their timid and often elusive nature means photographing birds can prove challenging. Here are some tips to overcome this.

Bird in flight

Understand Your Subject

If you want to take a decent shot of a bird, understand your subject before you get your camera out. Get to know how the bird reacts, where it goes and how it moves, so you know what to expect when trying to take a photo. By understanding the bird’s behaviour, you can also adjust the settings of your camera accordingly, to capture the best shot.

Consider Background

Your chosen background can enhance your photo, so consider it carefully before you start snapping. Trees or branches, where birds are commonly found, for instance, can create a distracting scene, so minimise background clutter. Simply changing the angle you take the photo from can make a big difference to the background.

Camera Settings

As birds don’t stay still for long, a decent camera that can capture action shots is vital. A long lens is especially important, as you can’t easily get up close to birds. Keep the shutter speed high, at around 1/500 of a second or more, to reduce blurring. A wide-open aperture also helps to make the background less distracting. To capture birds in flight, set your autofocus and frame rate to continuous.

For keeping a steady hand, a tripod may prove useful, or if you take your bird photography seriously, a portable hide enclosure can enable you to get up close to your winged subjects.

Bring the Birds to You

Photographing birds isn’t just about seeking them out; you can bring them to you, by capturing them in your own garden. Place a bird-feeder in a prominent position with good light and no background distractions, and get your camera at the ready to see what birds you can attract. The best times of the day to see birds are in the morning or early evening, which also happen to be the time when colour looks its sharpest.

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