bird photography

How To Photograph Birds? Camera Settings and Tips for Bird Photography

Have you heard of Salim Ali? Well, known as the ‘Birdman of India’, he was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist. His landmark creation ‘The Book of Indian Birds’ helped spark popular interest in the birds of India.

One of the popular genres of Nature Photography, Bird Photography requires a lot of patience and determination; it’s both – interesting and challenging.

Bird Photography

For Bird Photography, pay attention to the sound of birds – it will alert you of their arrival. Having sharp eyes will help you spot birds that camouflage/blend with their surroundings.

Wildlife photography for beginners

Pro tips for Bird Photography

  • To photograph birds, you need telephoto lens (zoom lens) of at least 250 mm
  • On a trip to a nature reserve (wildlife sanctuary) – to blend into the environment, wear camouflage clothing and use a telephoto lens (zoom lens) of 600 mm to take sharp photos of birds without disturbing them
  • If you don’t want to buy, you can take a telephoto lens on rent
  • Sit down and take the shot at the eye level; use a tripod/stand for support (since the lens can be heavy) to avoid camera shake/blur images
  • Research the bird’s feeding/active time; be quiet & slow while approaching them
  • Set the focus on the eye of the bird (using single focus point); use Center-weighted average Metering mode
  • You can buy a bird feeder and attach to your window to attract birds
  • For resting birds, you can use Aperture Priority mode with wide aperture (f5.6). For moving/flying birds -use Shutter Priority mode, Fast shutter speed above 1/1000 sec, ISO 400/800/1600. To arrive at a correct exposure, camera will set the aperture. Fast shutter speed is essential here to freeze the action/motion of the bird so that your photos don’t come out blur. (You will have to set/experiment with fast shutter speed depending on the lighting conditions available since with very fast shutter speed under low lighting conditions – you may end up with a dark/underexposed image)
  • Zoom lens and wide aperture (f5.6) will create Shallow Depth of Field which means it will blur the background and make the bird stand out in your photograph
  • Use the Setting – Continuous Shooting so that you don’t miss out on any action/movement/motion of the bird; also you’ll get multiple shots so that you can pick the best shot – a sharp image
  • A Tripod/stand is highly recommended to avoid camera shake or hold your camera closer to your body to support your arms & elbows for stability or find a surface to support your elbows or lean against a wall

Greater Flamingos (adult on the left and juvenile on the right)

best setting for bird photography

Camera settings used: Aperture: f/6.3, shutter speed:1/1250 sec, ISO 1600, Single point focus was set on the eye of the bird, Metering mode: Center-weighted average. Used Centred Composition to capture reflections in water.

Fantail bird

Bird Photography
Fantails bird

Camera Settings used: Center-Weighted Metering, Aperture: f/5.6, ISO 1600, shutter speed of 1/640 secs

Take a look at the below pictures and Camera Settings that were used to photograph birds. In some cases, post processing was done in Lightroom to adjust exposure (brightness), contrast and sharpness:

Pigeon landing on the roof

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/ 5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec, ISO: 800

Black Drongo sitting on the wire  

Camera SettingsAperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/3200 sec, ISO 800

Kite bird on the lookout for its prey

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec, ISO 800

Curious Myna looking into my camera

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec, ISO 800

Robin singing and posing for me 

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/640 sec, ISO 800

Male Kite obeying the orders of his partner

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/320 sec, ISO 800

How to Photograph Birds in Flight (Kite bird in Flight)

How to Photograph Birds in Flight

Stood and took this photo from my window to capture the bird at eye level. Held camera closer to my body to support my arms & elbows for stability and prevent motion blur. Shutter Priority mode is recommended to freeze the motion of birds in flight.

Camera Settings – Shutter speed:1/2000 secs (to freeze the motion), ISO 800, Aperture F8, Focal length/Telephoto lens: 250mm.

Flying bird Photography settings (Flying Kite with its Prey in Claws)

How to Photograph Birds in Flight

Camera Settings – Shutter speed:1/2000 secs (to freeze the motion), ISO 800, Aperture F5.6, Focal length/Telephoto lens: 250mm.

Low Light Wildlife Photography/Bird Photography Settings

If you’re photography a bird in low light (at evenings after 6pm or later or maybe early mornings before 8am) and the bird is constantly moving – you will need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action and avoid motion blur.

But fast shutter speed will allow less light to enter the camera sensor that’ll result in an underexposed image. So, for correct exposure – you will have to go for a high ISO and wide aperture. Instead of using very fast shutter speed like 1/2000 sec, you can set your Shutter speed to 1/250 sec or 1/125 sec so that it can freeze the action while allowing more light to enter the camera sensor. (You’ll have to experiment with the shutter speed settings depending upon your lighting conditions and the speed of your subject).

Also use Center-Weighted Metering or Spot Metering so that the subject in focus appears bright.

The below photograph of the constantly moving Red-whiskered Bulbul was shot after 6pm using Center-Weighted Metering and Shutter Speed of 1/125 sec, ISO 1600.

low light wildlife photography

The above photo was processed in Lightroom to enhance it. (Below is the image post processing in Lightroom)

bird photography

We bring you ‘Jo & His Camera’ Comic Strips wherein a Magical Camera gives DSLR photography tutorials to Jo.

Click on the below Image to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, the concept  of Bird Photography with the help of practical examples.

Click on the below Image to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, how to capture birds in action with the help of practical examples.

When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.

Do Share The Learning – Like It, Post It, Pin It, Tweet It!

So, what’s your favorite type of photography? Is it Bird Photography?

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