Ten More Tips For Better Bird Photos
Earlier on the blog I wrote about ten things that you can do to make better bird photos. You can view that post here. That was aimed more at the beginner. They are basic things that can quickly help your photos get better. For this post I will focus on ten more tips for better bird photos that are a little more advanced.
10. Vary Your Composition – One thing that I learned early on is that a gallery full of bird on a stick photos can get boring. With that in mind I don’t always try and get as close to the bird right away. I will try and use that extra space to show a little more of the surroundings that the bird is in. By doing this you can break up your gallery a little as well as show a little behavior.
9. Study Your Subject – During the spring I really wanted a photo of the Magnolia Warbler. I was just not having any luck. I decided to try and learn more about the bird online. Taking some of that knowledge I went out and found a few in my next few trips. Just taking the time to study my bird let me know a little more about it so that I could go to where it might go. This also helps when photographing birds eating. The great blue heron has a few tells that it is getting ready to strike. Knowing those tells can help you make better photos and capture that decisive moment.
8. Patience – This probably should have been on both lists. This is the key to any good bird photos. There are times when you will sit and wait for a bird to do something for what seems like an eternity. With a little patience you will be ready when the action does happen. I am not a very patient person, but bird photography has helped me learn a little patience. With this owl when I spotted the eyes it was in the brush a bit and mostly covered. By using my car as a blind and waiting a while I was able to make some photos of it when it came out to feed.
7. Have A Plan…Until The Circumstances Change It – This is a weird one. I always go out birding with a plan. I know what I want to see, and a general idea of where I want to see it. If things change though be prepared to scrap that plan. Some of my best bird photos were made when something came in to change what I had planned.
6. Buy Rain Gear – It is not usually pleasant being out in the rain. When the rain clouds are overhead the light is usually not very good either. Those moments just before and just after a rain though are usually amazing as the birds are furiously feeding. If you have the gear to get a little wet you can make some great photos by just being out in the elements.
5. Find A Good Background And Sit – One thing that makes for a good photo is to find a good background with some good light. If you know your birds and where they will be coming through you can pick a spot and sit on it. If you know that the bird visits the same spot everyday this makes this easier. By picking your background you control how everything will look. This is equal parts knowledge and patience. Another thought on backgrounds. When it is a cloudy, gray day I try not to photograph anything in the sky. The photos just never seem to come out well. On those days you have a good opportunity on the ground to photograph birds in a nice even light.
4. Focus Ahead – When I walk up to a spot where I hope a photo will be with a good background the first thing that I identify where the best photo would come from. I then immediately focus on that spot. That way if the best case scenario comes true I am ready for it.
3. Photography First…And Then Birding – This sounds crazy, but it is something that I have thought about for a while now. It is amazing to see a new bird up in the treetops. The bad thing though is that it does not make for good photos. If you want good photos you want to worry about what you can control. That is the area right in front of you. I feel that if you want good photos of birds near your area you cannot be swinging gear up at the treetops all of the time. Once I realized that those were the bad photos it made my trips so much easier.
2. Approach Slowly – This is one that makes sense, but I don’t always see people doing it. There are many ways to approach a bird. I find that if all of my movements are slow that I can sometimes get very close to a bird. Every bird is different though so you have to learn just how far you can go. I usually will make a photo, and then move a little closer. If that works I repeat the process. This makes sure that you have something from the encounter anyway. Approaching birds is so hard to do effectively. That is why I prefer to let them come to me.
1. Post Processing – This is the part of the post where I ask you to photograph in RAW mode. A RAW file gives you a lot more room for error all around. If you need to bring up the shadows on a bird you can. If the light suddenly changes when the great gesture happens you are covered. I find that good post processing just adds to the photo. A big part of this is knowing how to crop an image. As I have said a lot in these posts you always want to be closer to the bird. The best equipment behind you will stay make you want to get in tighter. Cropping is a good way to do that. Everyone processes their images differently. Find a style that you like and stick with it. I have a preset that I use for a starting point for all of my photos. Some need to be tweaked with it, and some need no work at all. Make processing fun, but not a task.
Bonus Tip – Have Fun! This is a fun and challenging way to spend your time.