Action shots of small birds are difficult to pull off well, partly because they’re so incredibly fast. Success usually requires appropriate photo gear, planning ahead, experience, luck, and lots of practice.
Bird photography, especially wild bird photography can be quite challenging. Birds of prey are some of the most exciting wildlife subjects you’ll ever photograph, but their fast movements and the bright sky behind them pose big obstacles for photographers.
Bird photography tips for perfect bird portraits:
1) First things first – Your camera, is your bestfriend!
So, what DSLR is good for fast-action photography? I would recommend a fast camera that can handle at least 1/2000 of a second shutter speed with 6 to 9 fps (frames per second), if you want to get the best results, plus a good autofocus system for quick focus acquisition. But if you already have an entry-level DSLR, it doesn’t mean that you cannot capture birds – it just means that you might miss a good shot, just because your camera is not fast enough. The most important thing to keep in mind – the speed of focus acquisition both on camera and on lenses is far more important than DSLR’s frames per second.
2) Finding the Subject – Locating birds
Now that you have your equipment set up, you need to find birds to photograph. I recommend starting with the most common birds such as finches, sparrows and robins that are used to people and do not mind cooperating with and posing for photographers. Try to develop some skills and techniques by photographing them sitting on benches, eating, sleeping and flying. The best time for photography? Early morning is typically the best for bird photography, because birds actively look for food for themselves and their youngsters. So try to go out and shoot some local birds and see what you can do. Great Shot!
3) Approaching birds – Don’t scare them away!
What do you do if the bird you are trying to approach gets scared and flies away? There are many different techniques to approach wild birds and I will go through what works for me. Pretty much all birds have superb vision, so it is very likely that the bird will see you first. Also, all birds have their own “comfort zones” and if you try to get any closer, they feel threatened and fly away.
So, here is my technique to approach shy birds:
– Do NOT wear clothes with bright colors and try to blend in with the environment as much as possible
– Do NOT make sudden moves. If you need to raise your camera and take a picture, do it very slowly. In short be Quiet!
– Do NOT stare at the bird while approaching it. Animals in general perceive direct eye contact as a threat and they will flee at their first opportunity
– Try not to walk if the bird is looking at you. The best time to approach is when the bird is looking away or is busy doing something.
4) Post-processing and cropping
Cropping is a big part of bird photography. Unlike people, birds do not sit and pose in front of the camera, so filling the frame with the bird is not always possible. If you photograph a bird from a distance and try to resize the image to a smaller resolution for the web, the bird will look too tiny.
Lightroom is a great and easy tool to organize your images and catalog your bird collection, while Photoshop is great for fixing images that cannot be fixed within Lightroom. I probably spend 90-95% of my time in Lightroom and about 5-10% in Photoshop. I shoot everything in RAW (and I recommend you do, too), so I can achieve much better results while manipulating images in Lightroom or Photoshop, since I have a wide spectrum of colors that I can work with and maximum image quality.
Most importantly, photographing your favorite bird should be a fun experience. Take your time and remember the key to a great photo is always patience. Until next time, happy birding!