1. Photograph birds at eye level when possible. You will get much more flattering shots showcasing more of the bird and less of its underbelly.
2. Take note of the weather and plan your scene accordingly. Dark skies may contrast better with some birds than others. Dark birds may not expose properly against an overcast sky. And colors and markings may be more distinct on some birds depending on the weather. Look at the weather, determine what bird you plan to photograph, consider the background possibilities and aim to set up a scene.
3. Use very high shutter speeds. Take control of your settings by using Manual or Shutter priority, a.k.a TV or S, on your mode dial. The smaller the bird, the higher your shutter speed should be. For sharp bird photos you should start with at least 1/1000 and go up from there.
4. Use single point, back button focus. Many people want to know what all the fuss is about, and bird photography is a perfect example of just how handy back button focus can be. It allows you to separate the buttons for focusing and actually taking the picture to avoid accidentally refocusing on the background and missing the shot during the process.
5. Study bird behavior. It is important to understand the habits of the bird you are aiming to photograph. There are movements and calls that will signal you when a bird is about to take flight or strike another bird. For example Sandhill Cranes will lean forward before the take off.
6. Use Spot metering to allows the camera to measure the light on the bird, and expose properly for that, instead of adjusting exposure for the background, or overall scene.
7. Research migrations for more successful outings. Plan ahead to see what weekends may be better than others for bird photography. And look at what type of birds are in the area, which may change your setup for the day. You can see live bird migrations here at Bird Cast.
If you are getting into bird photography you are probably aware that you need a telephoto lens or possibly a teleconverter. We highly recommend the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary and if you shoot Nikon, the Nikon 200-500mm F5.6. Other, shorter, options are the 70-200mm lenses, they are versatile and great for bird photography too. We recommend the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 for it’s sharpness and if you’re looking for a great deal, the Tamron 70-200mm f2.8 is a more affordable choice that will also give you great quality. If you're using a 70-200mm you may find the need for a teleconverter. It will get you extra reach out of a smaller more manageable lens, and it's also a great choice if you already own a 70-200mm. The downside is that it slows down your auto focus and causes a loss of light.
The great new is you can rent all of these lenses from us! Spending $30 for a day beats buying a $1200 lens if you only plan on using it a few times a year. Our rental department has some really great deals too.
Try & Buy – Rent for a day and we’ll take the price of the day's rental off the purchase price if you decide to pull the trigger. You can take advantage of this deal up to 1 year after renting a unit from us.
Sunday Special – Pick up Saturday and drop off Monday for the price of one day.
Weekend Warrior – Pick up Friday and drop off Monday for the price of two days.
Week Rental Special – Rent for a week but only pay for three days.