Bird Photography Tips

As you’ve probably noticed, I love taking photographs of the birds in and around my garden. It’s a joy capturing moments in their day, whether they’re feeding, taking a bath, preening, courting, or caring for their young. Many of my readers ask for bird photography tips so I wanted to share some with you.

attract hummingbirds, bird photography tipsBut before I dive into those, I’m frequently asked about the cameras I use. First of all, I have to be honest with you and say that I’m a bit of an amateur in that department! I don’t use fancy equipment or expensive cameras. I want to keep things simple, partly because I always seem to be short on time and partly because it’s my style. That also lets you know that it’s very doable to get into bird photography without spending a ton of money.

Let’s cover the equipment I use first:

I have two Canon cameras: a 50D DSLR camera with macro and telephoto lenses, and a PowerShot SX50HS. While the 50D allows me to manually focus the lenses, I have to admit the PowerShot is my favorite camera. Why?

It has a killer zoom on it — so important when photographing birds — and video capability. Let me tell you, once I had the ability to take videos, it opened up a whole new world to me! While I enjoy taking stills of birds, videos allow you to capture bird behavior which can teach you a lot about how they live.

Initially, I purchased the PowerShot as my travel camera because it’s smaller and much lighter than the 50D and its lenses. I still use the PowerShot for travel and it works really well for me. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I can’t manually focus the lens.

bird photography tipsI also have two tripods for the times when I’ll be keeping the camera in one spot and to keep it very steady for shooting videos. One tripod is heavy-duty, the other is super lightweight and gets much lower to the ground than the big guy. I should also mention that there are many times in the past when I should have used a tripod to keep the camera steady, but let’s face it: oftentimes, I know the moment will be fleeting so I don’t have the luxury of time to set everything up! I have to just go with my camera and do the best I can.

OK, about those photography tips. Here goes:

  1. Go out into your garden and sit down. Just watch what the birds are doing, where they tend to perch and how they interact with their environment.
  2. Try to capture them in natural surroundings, rather than while sitting on a bird feeder. That will give you much more appealing results.
  3. Try not to photograph birds through a closed window because the layers of glass distort the image. (I do realize sometimes that’s all you’re going to be able to do, because if you open the window or walk outside, the bird will fly away)
  4. During the colder months of the year, I remove the window screens from several windows throughout our house so I can quietly open a window and get a great shot of a nearby bird. But year-round, I keep the screens off my office windows since a lot of opportunities present themselves just outside them.
  5. If possible, keep your camera handy since you never know when an opportunity will present itself. I can’t tell you how often I’ll see a neat bird, but it flies away while I’m scrambling to locate my camera! That can be so frustrating.
  6. If possible, use a tripod when shooting video to keep the camera steady.

I truly believe that engaging in wildlife photography opens up a whole new world to you. It makes you more observant and allows you to see things that most folks miss out on. Have fun taking photos of birds in your garden!