Essentials of Bird Photography
Today, I’ll try to give you some hints about photographing birds in the field. Some of these hints are essential to good bird photographs. At the least, they might help you not be disappointed when you get back home at the end of the good bird photographing activity and see all your images have camera shakes, blurs, and out of focus situations.
1 - Be patient. Patience is the key to beautiful bird photographs. It takes some time for the birds to get used to the environment in the presence of a human being and approach you.
2 - If possible, use a long lens (telephoto or super telephoto) like 300mm , 400mm, 500mm and so on. You may also prefer to use zoom lenses (telephoto zoom) as well like 100-400mm, 150-600mm but try to choose lenses with apertures f/2.8, f/4.0, and f/5,6 as you will need plenty of light for sharp bird images. Using lenses with Image Stabilisation (IS) may also help you to refrain from hand/camera shake.
3 - Always use a sturdy tripod or a bean bag where possible to stabilise your camera. Such equipment will help you avoid unwanted camera shake which might ruin a good day of bird photography. Remember to turn off Image Stabilisation while on a tripod because using Image Stabilisation together with tripod has negative effect on the quality and sharpness of the picture.
4 - Wear clothes that match the environment, this helps you not to be noticed by the birds easily. Camouflage is another alternative not to alert birds. A good camouflage will cause birds not to get away from you. Hiding under a tree or bush might help you even if you don’t have camouflage clothes.
5 - Try to be as close to the bird as possible. This distance changes according to the size of the bird, but for small birds like warblers be as close as 5 to 8 meters to the bird so that your images can be sharp and show all the details on feathers and wings.
6 - For birds in flight, try to maintain a shutter speed of minimum 1,250 or 1600 so that you may be able catch the action and refrain from unwanted blurs and out of focus situations.
7 - Bird photographs shot at eye level attract more attention and they look better. Whatever bird species you’re photographing, try to stay at eye level with them. For example, if you’re shooting waterfowls swimming on a lake, get down on the ground, and take your pictures on that level. You will soon notice the difference between images taken at eye level and others. You may use a mattress to avoid dirtying your clothes.
8 - Refrain from using the bird sound excessively. Overuse of bird sounds may alert the birds and cause them to stay away from you at a safe distance. And we should also respect their privacy.
9 - If you don’t need the photographs for research purposes, stay away from the nests at the breeding periods and do not take photographs of the chicks. Refrain from photographing the nests and eggs since this action of yours will frighten the mother and father and keep them away from their chicks which in return might cause the nestlings starve to death.
10 - Always protect nature. Do not disturb other animals around you. Do not harm the fauna. Keep your garbage in a bag and dispose of them properly.
May the light be with you.