The trick to bird photography and successful birding is partly dependent on the equipment you use and partly on the tips and tricks you use. For bird photography, you’ve to ditch the short telephoto lens and get something that will get you close to the bird you’ve in mind without getting physically close to it. The last thing you want to do is scare the living daylights out of your subject.
In this discussion, I shall share a bunch of entry-level and mid-level tips that will help you improve your bird photography skills.
Look for opportunity
The first thing you need to shoot great bird photos is the opportunity. By opportunity, I mean a place frequented by birds and readily accessible to you. Living in an apartment building in the middle of the city can be a challenging place to find an excellent opportunity to shoot birds. But you can make amends. Get yourself a bird feeder and hang it on the balcony. In no time, you will find birds coming to your balcony. You already have an advantage if you’re blessed enough to have a back garden. Plant some seasonal plants and get a bird feeder. If you don’t have a balcony or a garden, try to find a nearby park or a walk with many trees around it.
Find the right gear to shoot with
The primary tool that you need is a good lens. We’ll talk about the camera later. Most beginner bird photographers will have 18-200mm or 70-300mm and those sorts of entry-level lenses. While these lenses offer the focal length (with some help from a teleconverter), you lose out on the maximum aperture. These lenses don’t offer a fast enough aperture, which can be a big issue when shooting birds. For example, the 70-300mm open up to only f/6.3. The 18-200mm opens up to f/5.6 (a Tamron version opens up to only f/6.3). Plus, when you use it in low light conditions, especially the kind of environment where birds thrive, you will find it very difficult to manage sharp frames without pushing the ISO.
Watch out for the perfect light
The kind of light you’re shooting in also affects the quality of your images. Let’s say that the sun is directly overhead when you’re shooting. Your images will have less contrast and a lot of shadows in them. The bird’s underside will be in shadows, especially if it’s flying when you capture the image. The best option would be to shoot during the early morning and late afternoon hours. These are the times of the day when the light will parallel the surface and produce beautiful colors and a lot of contrast in your images.
Coming back to the same spot
Returning to the same spot repeatedly increases your chances of capturing exciting photos of birds (and animals) endemic to that location. You can track the bird (and the animal) better and know its habits, giving you a better chance of capturing stunning images.