5 Tips for Successful Bird Photography

Jun 02, 2020

You are in for a treat this week! I'm thrilled to feature photographer, Lacey Cloud. Lacey has an incredible talent for wildlife photography, and I'm always in awe of how she captures such personality in her photographs! Today Lacey is sharing tips for photographing birds. I know that I'll be using these tips next time I have the opportunity to photograph their beauty.   

"Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us, Lacey!"

Summer is the perfect time to have some fun learning more about the natural world, and if you can develop a new photographic skillset along the way, all the better! Start the season’s adventures with these five bird photography tips and enjoy the beautiful birds of summer through your camera lens.

1. Plan ahead

If you’re unsure of the species, you will be shooting, do a web search and find out what birds have been spotted at your location. eBird.org is an excellent resource and worth a look even if you think you know what your target birds are. Once you’ve picked a few species, study their habits, especially feeding behavior, knowing where and when they are likely to eat will give you an advantage when you arrive at your location.

ISO 640, 500mm, f4, 1/400SS

2. Know your camera

Bird photography can be challenging. Getting shots of birds in flight, especially of the quick little birds, requires being able to change settings on the fly without having to look at your camera. Practice at home and know how to change your shutter speed, aperture and ISO without looking. If your camera doesn’t have buttons or dials already assigned to these, consider setting a custom button to handle whatever is missing. Doing a deep dive into your camera manual can seem daunting, but it’ll give you an edge when you’re out in the field. Before you head out, take a moment to check your settings. A shutter speed 1/500 of a second or greater, continuous focus mode, evaluative/matrix metering, auto ISO and your highest frames per second burst mode are a good starting place.

ISO 2000, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/1600SS

3. On location

Once you arrive, take a little time to scout the area. Listen carefully for calls and notice where the birds are. Birds are often spooked by movement, so look for a place to sit or stand where you can either be hidden or blend in a bit. Some bird photographers will take portable blinds, but it’s possible at many locations to use your car as a blind. Parking and sitting fairly still will allow you to get close to many birds. Be sure to turn your engine off to minimize any vibration, and don’t shoot across your hood to avoid the heat waves.  

ISO 2000, 100-400mm with a 1.4 teleconverter, f8, 1/55sec

4. Birds in flight

If you are hoping for spectacular flight shots, be sure to position yourself with the sun and wind at your back. Birds take off and land into the wind. The wind coming from the side can be okay, but you’ll want to avoid facing directly into it. Birds tend to be creatures of habit and will often return to the same area, allowing you to catch both take-off and landing shots. Flight shots require a lot of practice, so choosing slower, larger birds, to begin with, can make it less frustrating to learn. Shooting in high continuous mode is necessary for any flight shots. A camera with a high frame rate will help you out enormously with getting sharp images, as well.

ISO 1600, 100-400mm, f5, 1/2500SS

5. Perched birds

For beautiful bird portraits, look for perches that have something to add to the image-a flower or nice texture, for example. Wait for the bird to choose a perch with a simple background or choose a shallower depth of field to minimize distractions or less than pleasing backgrounds. Consider your composition and try to place the bird looking into the frame rather than out of it. Capturing bird behavior can also add to your image-look for birds preening, singing or feeding. If it’s nesting season in your area, capturing feeding time for the fledglings can make great images.

ISO 800, 100-400mm, f6.3, 1/250SS

About Lacey Cloud: In late 2017, on a trip to Yellowstone National Park, Lacey photographed her first majestic bison in the snow. Since then, she's been hooked on both traveling to amazing locations and exploring her local area as a hobbyist wildlife photographer. The rest of the time, Lacey lives on a horse farm in Texas with her husband, Great Dane and a few chickens.

How you can connect: Find Lacey on Instagram @lcloudstablegirl


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