Birds are one of the favorite subjects of many wildlife photographers; and many people, who are also birders, use photography to record the birds they add to their birding lists. Of the many wildlife species, birds can be easier to spot, although many migratory species can only be found in specific places at specific times of the year. Birds are often more of a challenge than other wildlife because many birds are small and virtually all of them move quickly. Integrate the following tips into your photography skills and you should see a marked improvement in your bird images.
1. If you’re serious about capturing excellent photos of birds, then you must spend some time researching where and when you’ll find them. Most locales have active birding clubs or other groups that can provide you with information about what bird species where you live. Of course, the Internet is full of this kind of information, too. It’s especially helpful if you want to travel to a faraway place to photograph specific species.
2. When you determine a good bird photography location, spend some additional time exploring that environment. Look for advantageous positions and angles, take notice of how the light illuminates the area during different times of the day and, most importantly, study the behavior of the birds.
3. The equipment you need for bird photography proves the point that it’s more important to buy the right lens, and then the camera that works with that lens. A 300mm or 400mm telephoto lens is the preferred choice. A telephoto zoom is also acceptable, such as a 70–300mm, but a prime, or fixed focal length, lens typically has better optics and is faster (with a wider aperture, f/2.8 or f/4, compared to f/4–f/5.6). A wider aperture also creates a shallow depth of field and better bokeh (background blur), which will give your photo more dimensionality and strongly highlight the bird against the background. Remember, you always have the option to rent the right lens for bird photography before buying an expensive model.
4. Another important piece of equipment is the BushHawk Professional Shoulder Mount Kit. Shooting with a telephoto lens, even if it has built-in image stabilization, and trying to achieve a narrow depth of field and accurate focus, requires a very stable camera platform. The BushHawk Kit creates the steadiness you need. It includes a double-handle shoulder mount with a trigger and comfort pad, a shutter release cord that is compatible with your camera model, a quick release plate and tool kit, Neoprene adjustable grip strap for right- or left-handed use, Window Pod and a sling strap.
Maneuverability is another important benefit of the BushHawk Professional Shoulder Mount Kit. Birds are always on the move, so you must be able to move with them. You simple don’t have time to detach your camera from a tripod, fold it and move to a different location. The bird you wanted is already in the next county. With the BushHawk securely in place, you’re able to shoot and turn in either direction or walk to another position quickly. For more information about the BushHawk Professional Shoulder Mount Kit, visit http://bushhawk.com/bushhawk/bushhawk-shoulder-mounts/professional-kit
5. Because birds are so small and your photos will tend to have a narrow depth of field, it’s recommended that you select auto-focus points manually. Auto-focus technology is wonderful, but it’s still doesn’t have the precision you need for bird photography. Double check that your AF points are clearly on the bird’s head or eye.
6. Faster shutter speeds are preferred simply because of the constant motion of birds. In the exposure formula, a higher ISO setting, such as 800 or 1,600, is the best technique to ensure you’ll have that speed. A higher ISO setting can produce some digital noise, but the ISO ranges of DSLRs, especially the newer models, are so wide that 800 and 1,600 doesn’t create much noise. Professional wildlife photographers will tell you that they would rather have a very sharp image, even with a bit of noise, instead of a blurred, unusable image caused by a slow shutter speed.
7. Another important tip has nothing to do with photography: it’s your comfort and safety. Dress appropriately for the environment and the weather where you are photographing birds. Add raingear to your camera bag; wear a hat and apply sunblock to protect you from a harsh sun; and use mosquito repellent if you’re shooting in a wetlands.