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Photography is a complex art. It becomes even more challenging if your target is a fast-flying winged creature that won’t stay still for a shot. You’ll need more than just a basic point-and-shoot camera and rudimentary skills if you want to capture stunning pictures of those feathered beauties.

However, as complex as bird photography sounds, it is not beyond the skill set of an average photographer. All you need to get a good shot is the right equipment and a basic understanding of some of the nuances of bird photography. This article will cover everything you need to know about taking extraordinary bird photographs.

Essentials Needed for Bird Photography?

Like any outdoor activity, you also need some essentials before engaging in bird photography. So, what are these essentials? Here are some equipment you need for successful bird photography.


A good photographer shooting with a smartphone may take better photographs than a poor photographer using the most expensive camera. Still, your job will be easier if you have a good camera. Almost all digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) cameras will take great bird photographs. However, if you will be taking pictures of birds in flight, you have to pay more attention to the camera specs such as FPS, autofocus, and so on.

For the best results, your camera should be able to achieve shutter speeds of up to 1/2000 of a second or even faster. With a camera like that, you can capture the motion of a hummingbird’s wing quite easily. The focus acquisition is essential as well. Your camera should also have a burst mode that allows you to shoot 6 to 9 frames per second. That’s not all; you must consider the following components or setting of your camera too:


Most birds are camera-shy, which means you can get close enough to get good shots. To make up for that, you need a good lens on your camera. Lenses of at least 200mm will help you take better photographs. Not only does this help you take more explicit pictures from a long distance, but they also give you a better background-blur effect.

The only problem here is that lenses with higher focal length or larger aperture tend to be larger, heavier, and more expensive to purchase. A 400mm, f5.6 lens would work great and will still be portable enough to carry with you.

Camera ISO setting

The ISO setting of your camera determines how much light goes into the camera sensor. If you’re not snapping birds in motion, cameras with lower ISO settings (somewhere around ISO 400) will work just great. However, if the birds are in motion, you have to up the ISO to capture enough light in milliseconds.


The aperture of your camera controls the depth of field. If you want the image background to be more blurred, the aperture should be set to the highest (the smallest number). If you’re using a telephoto lens, you can close the aperture a bit so some parts of the image do not appear blurry.

Additional Camera settings

Knowing the proper modes to use goes a long way in determining the outcome when photographing birds. If controlling the aperture or depth of field of the shot is a priority for you, then the camera should be in AV mode. Similarly, if you are photographing birds in flight, you want greater control over the shutter speed. In this case, your camera should be in TV mode. If you’re a pro with good knowledge of the right setting to use, you can go with manual mode.

As a general recommendation, you should shoot bird photographs in RAW. You can fix things like white balance later with your computer while editing the picture. Also, if you’re photographing a dark bird on a light background, you should set the exposure compensation value to positive. But if the goal is to avoid overexposed areas, it should be negative.


If you are taking bird portraits – photographs of birds sitting in their nest, standing in water, or perched somewhere else, you can get better shots if you use a tripod. It’ll help hold your camera steady so that you can increase the depth of field and reduce the shutter speed.

However, you don’t always need a tripod for bird photography. You’ll still need stabilization if you intend to take photographs of birds flying or moving quickly on the ground. But you’re better off ditching the tripod and using a light 200–500mm telephoto zoom lens with a fast shutter speed.

Tips for Taking Perfect Bird Photographs

Finally, let’s talk about the setup for the image itself and how you should do it. This is the final but equally important part of your shoot. It’s not enough to have a good camera; you’ll need to know certain tricks to take attractive bird photos. Some of the tips to keep in mind include:


Lighting is everything when it comes to outdoor photography. Since you cannot set up artificial lights, the time of the day you go out for your shoot is crucial. You’ll get a pleasant hue with little to no shadows if you go out in the morning or late afternoon. It’s easier to shoot in conditions like this than in the harsh light of the mid-afternoon.


A common trick is to leave more space in the direction that the bird is facing or flying. You can also apply the “Rule of thirds” to find the perfect composition. Keep the focus on the bird and avoid having any distracting elements in the frame. Experts also recommend having the bird at eye level when taking the shot for the best results.

The background

The ideal background for a bird photographer would be the bird’s natural habitat. Just make sure there are no distracting features in the background. Also, shooting with the sky as the background isn’t always recommended. The photograph comes out great sometimes, but it doesn’t work in most cases.

Shoot at the bird’s eye level

You’re unlikely to get great photos if you’re pointing your camera down at the bird from above or shooting from far below. You may have to get down on your belly to get on the same level if the bird is on the ground instead of shooting from a standing or squatting position.

RAW mode instead of JPEG

Shooting the image in RAW mode instead of JPEG allows you to capture more data. This gives the image more detail and more significant gradient, tone, and color variance. Your pictures will come out better this way.

How to Plan your Bird Photography Trip

It’s not enough to have a good camera. You have to plan your bird photoshoot carefully as well. Consider these pointers before you venture out with your camera the next time.

Plan ahead

If you’re taking photographs of birds, it makes sense to research them properly ahead of your trip. You should look at field guides that give you a clear idea of where and when to find the birds you’re hoping to photograph.

Learn how to adapt to the bird’s habitat

As earlier mentioned, most birds aren’t eager to have their photographs taken. If you don’t set up right, you will not be able to get close enough to get great photographs. Depending on the type of bird you’re photographing, you may have to set up for hours in an open field, marshland, or at the edge of a pond, as the case may be. Comprehensive knowledge of the bird’s habitat and habits at different times of the year will improve your ability to find the birds and get the perfect images.

Pick the right time

The ideal time to go out for bird photography is early in the morning or late afternoons. You’ll get the soft sun angles you’ll need to take crisp photographs. Shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is high up in the sky is not recommended.


There is no doubt that Bird photography can be pretty exciting. So, whenever you want to engage in bird photography, ensure you are with other essential equipment apart from a camera. And by following the tips and steps highlighted in this article, you should find it easier to take more beautiful bird photos to impress anyone who sees your work.

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