Birds can be one of the most exciting and peculiar wildlife subjects to photograph, but, it’s harder than it looks. Birds are easily startled and are quick to fly away when they sense danger. They also have fast and unpredictable movements, which can change your composition in a split second. However, when the right steps are taken, the results can be simply stunning. The aim is to capture a wonderful photograph full of colour and character.
The background of your shot is extremely important, so here are some tips on how you should frame your composition. Try photographing the bird when it is in front of some neutral textures, such as the bark of a tree or grass. This will help to naturally emphasise the shape and colours of the bird. If you are shooting against a busy background, try using a shallow depth of field to create a bokeh effect. The wider the aperture, the more pronounced your subject will be in the frame, bringing its colour to the fore.
A very well-known tip is to focus on the eye of the bird. This allows you to have a natural point of focus in your shots and helps draw the viewer into the photo. Eyes are also an easy focal point as they are a source of colour and help give your compositions a certain mood. In fact, it’s scientifically proven that humans are naturally drawn to eyes, making your photographs even more eye-catching!
Using a telephoto lens will allow you to get up close and personal with your subjects while keeping your distance. You will be able to keep a low profile so you don’t startle them. In addition, birds are a mixture of incredible colours and textures, so you’ll want to be able to zoom in on their feathers, bill, talons, and eyes.
Using a versatile telephoto zoom lens, such as the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR, means that you can be more mobile, allowing you to follow your subject more easily. If you would like to photograph a close up shot of smaller sized birds, don’t be afraid to use something a little more heavy duty, like the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR.
There’s also no such thing as capturing too much detail in bird photography. Another bit of unorthodox advice, is to wear neutral colours. Birds pick up more colours as they have the ability to see UV light. Bright colours will draw attention to you, making it harder to stay hidden from your subject.
When it comes to bird photography, your subject is the hardest aspect of the shoot, so it’s important that you adapt to their behaviour. The early morning or the late afternoon is usually the best time for bird photography as birds are more active and the light during these times can be rather soft and pleasant.
However, not all birds are the same, so be prepared to take the time to discover their schedule. Some experts even suggest going out without a camera the first few times in order to build your knowledge.
Photographing birds against a soft light can help bring out a glow to the bird’s feathers and can even work as beautiful reflections in the bird’s eye.
In this genre of photography, patience is key. Sitting still for long periods of time is necessary, and will lead to an amazing shot. Not only does this let you to observe your subject, but it also allows you to become in tune with your surroundings. Learn to take in your environment, so you can better understand your subject. It may be tempting to move in search of another bird, but try and resist, instead, focus on a single subject to begin with. If your bird flies away, don’t worry, birds often have favourite perches and may return in a few minutes.
While birds are beautiful creatures to photograph, it is important that you do not harm them in the process of achieving that perfect shot. Be a responsible and ethical bird photographer by always respecting the birds and their natural habitat.