There are few things as stunning to look at as a cardinal perched on a tree limb blanketed in snow, or as adorable as a group of baby geese taking their first steps in the springtime sun. Because of the size and skittishness of most birds, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting sharp and, more importantly, striking photographs.
Successful bird photographs will take careful planning on your part. What do you plan on taking pictures of? Are you planning on taking photos of birds in trees? Are you looking for birds landing in the water? What about the big birds, like eagles, hawks or owls that might be looking for prey and you want to capture them in action? Where would you go to get photos of that kind of bird. Plan on taking at least a half a day or a whole day just to go take those kind of photos. You can’t just go out into a certain part of a field or forest and expect to find the right kind of bird. You will need to do some kind of research first. My first inclination is to check to see if there is a bird refuge around that you could go and get started taking photos first.
As much as you like birds, they won’t you just let you walk up to them and take their photo. They are certainly, one of the most skittish of animals. So, the best way to get good bird photos is with a very large lens. I have used a 75-300 mm for a long time, and found that to not be strong enough in most cases. So, consider the bigger lenses if possible. If you have the economical 75-300 lens, then consider adding a 2X teleconverter to the lens to equal the 150-600 mm lens. Then you may have the best of all worlds. Then you know what your problem will be? You must have it on a tripod. There is no way you can shoot at anything bigger than 300 while still hand-holding this lens. A tripod is a must.
Even more so, get a good tripod that you can use in motion. A good ball head on a good tripod is my favorite to use if I want to follow motion and capture something that is still in motion and will still allow me to be steady.
Birds move fast. If you want to capture the bird in motion with no blur, you may have to use a fast shutter speed. If I have a good bright day, I may still use a higher ISO setting, just so I can use a faster shutter speed such as 1/500th of a second or 1/1000th of a second to be able to stop action. But, the other thing to consider, while making sure the shutter speed is high, is to make sure the aperture is open big, which is not a big problem if you are using a fast shutter speed. But, it is something you want to watch. It will keep the focus on the bird, and not the background
Birds that are in trees, if you have never noticed, are fidgety birds. Their heads and bodies are always moving fast. I think they fear everything around them, like they know they are about to be eaten by something, so they are always on the lookout for something to attack them. So, the best way to get a photo of these birds in trees, is, first, get zoomed in as tight as you can to the bird, and then, with your motor drive in continuous mode, just start shooting…… and if you shoot at 2 or 5 frames a second, that’s fine. One or five out of 30 shots will be great. Then discard the rest. That’s the best way to shoot these cute little fidgety birds.
This takes special skill as well to capture birds in flight. Think for a moment with me. Most cameras have this thing called automatic focus, and this time, it really doesn’t know that you are focusing on a moving bird. This is the time in most cameras, that you will have to take the lens off of automatic focus, and pre-set the focus. Do not set it at infinity. The bird is not out by the sun, or wherever infinity is. It is about 100 feet away, or wherever your bird is. If you want good sharp photos, you will have to quickly focus on one bird and then recompose your image and then start shooting to get the photo that you want. Make sure your shutter speed and aperture are set correctly too. Wow, so much to think about in a fraction of a second. Maybe you will just shoot it on automatic. Oh come on, now you will not get any exposure right. Be Brave, and still shoot manual, and try again. You will have more come in.
A bird show is a great place to try learning how to take pictures of birds. Some bird shows will have a variety of birds that they use so that you can really try your skills at taking your pictures.
Before you go and take photos of birds, it is always a good idea to learn about the different kinds of birds. A good bird show will have a variety of birds to learn about, or will have some close by that you can learn about. So, check these out, and talk to those who are presenting the show, and learn about birds. You learn about people before you take their photos, why not learn about the birds as well.
Practicing your skills at bird photography will only make you become a better photographer. You can become one of those, whose photo graces the walls of many a home.
Here are other great bird photos. Learn from these as you practice your bird photography: