If you’ve ever been interested in bird photography, the coronavirus pandemic provides an excellent opportunity to hone your skills. Why not experiment with the birds in your backyard or local park? You might be surprised to see what you’ll find. We certainly were!
Previously a subject we had little interest in, we are now in love! Here’s what we’ve learnt about photographing them:
This is easier said than done! Birds can be quite wary of people, so moving in slowly and calmly is the number one skill you can master. Being patient is also important. Waiting for the right moment and pose can be frustrating, and getting that one good shot can be slow. In general though, the closer you can get the better your photograph will be.
You’ll need a good camera and lens
Mirrorless or DSLR cameras are the best for bird photography, and you will need a good telephoto lens. Lenses ranging from 200 to 600 mm are ideal as they will enable you to stay a distance away while still getting you close enough to your subject. For the birds in our neighbourhood, we found that a 100-400 mm lens worked well, although you could go up to 600 mm if you can’t get close enough.
Little birds can be tricky
Little birds tend to move around and wiggle a lot, so the best advice we can give you here is to practice your focus technique. Every camera is different and many have their limitations when it comes to auto-focus. Regardless of whether you choose to use manual-focus or pick from your camera’s multiple auto-focus options, getting to know your camera’s focus limitations and practicing changing focus techniques will help master a sharp shot. With practice, you’ll eventually nail it every time!
Avoid the shakes
A tripod or monopod can be useful, especially in low light when a slow shutter speed is required. We find though that a steady hand will also yield great results up to 400 mm zoomed. If there is enough light and your birds are quite active, having the freedom to shoot hand-held means you can optimise your chances of getting a great shot.
It’s not just your subject that matters
Getting your foreground and background right are just as important as your subject as often a distracting object can destroy what would have been a great image. While you can do some editing to remove these distracting objects in post, if you can get your subject framed correctly in-camera it’s definitely a bonus.