10 Down & Dirty Quick Bird Photography Tips

Here are 10 short/quick, down and dirty tips for aspiring bird photographers. (In no particular order.)

1. When the sun and the wind are from the same direction, think flight photography. These are perfect conditions to shoot birds in flight. See tip two below to put this into practice.

2. Flight or not, keep the sun at your back. Stay on sun angle. That is – if you want to make commercially acceptable bird photography. More than 90% of the photos published in bird-related publications feature a bird lit by direct sunlight or in open shade.

3. Flight photography is easier when the sun is low in the sky behind you. If its too high, the underside of the bird is heavily shadowed.

4. When the sun is rising or setting think silhouettes and underexpose. If you shoot in aperture or shutter priority, be sure to use negative exposure compensation to increase the effect and bring out the color in the sunrise or sunset.

5. When photographing groups of birds look for separation between the birds. If their wings are overlapping – wait until they aren’t before you press the shutter.

6. The cleaner the background, the more the bird stands out in the image.

7. Study your subjects. The more you know about birds, the better your bird photography will be.

8. Be patient. Birds will get used to your presence the longer you are in any given area. Stick with it and let the birds come to you.

9. Stay low and go slow! Fast movement scares away the birds. If youre walking up to a perch keep your tripod collapsed and move very, very slowly and quietly toward the location to avoid spooking the subject.

10. Know your gear BEFORE you go into the field. Spectacular bird photography opportunities tend to be over within seconds of presenting themselves. This is not the time to learn how to set your camera. Practice at home before you go and make sure youre ready.

Here’s a bonus tip. You need to get off the couch and away from the computer to go find birds to photograph. Finding them is half the fun!


Photo Courtesy Levi Sim

Scott Bourne is a member of The Board Of Advisors at Macphun, an Olympus Visionary and a professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded Photofocus.com and is co-founder of the new Photo Podcast Network (photopodcasts.com.)

Scott is a regular contributor to several photography related blogs and podcasts and is the author of 11 photography books.

Scott is available to speak to your birding group, photography group and for both private and small group bird photography workshops. For more information on engaging Scott as a speaker or workshop leader, or for image licensing and print information, e-mail scott@scottbourne.com.


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