Bird Photography Tips

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Bird Photo Tips

Photographing birds, like photographing most animals, takes patience, determination, research and luck. In bird photos: the eyes must be clear and in focus.

They rarely stand still for long and are jittery. What makes a good bird photo or portrait, depends on how clear and sharp the photo is.

Here is a tip which I have found to be extremely helpful. Regardless of what species I am trying to photograph or its location, my focus and efforts go into trying to get the eyes as sharp as possible. If other parts are not 100% sharp does not distract from the photo as much as not having eyes which are 100% sharp.

The viewers eyes are naturally drawn to the eyes of the subject in your shot. Try it yourself next time you gaze upon a bird or any other animal picture. See where you naturally look first.

Because a bird's feathers naturally overlap and colors merge the eye does not focus much on them, but eyes are usually clearly visible on most animals and are most often a vibrant color, thus making them stand out and can make or break your shot.

I normally try to occupy the majority of the shot with my subject's head, thus the eyes play an important factor. I have taken shots in which most of the bird is completely sharp with the exception of the eyes and the photos are often unsaleable.

To better your odds at home try placing bird feeders on your backyard, balcony etc. If you live in the south, buy or make some hummingbird feeders also. If making your own, mix three parts water with one part sugar. Do not use honey, sweeteners or food coloring and make sure that your hummingbird feeder has some red colors in it (attaching red ribbons work well).

Soon you'll see many bird species flocking to your feeders. This is an easy, inexpensive as well as a fun way to practice your craft. Once you feel confident that you can more often than not get the eyes in focus, then exploring other locations would be worth it.

Among the best gear that you can have in your photography arsenal is a long zoom or telephoto lens and a good tripod. Use the lens to get close ups and the tripod to keep your gear stable since at high magnifications even the smallest movement will show on your images.

A good tip is to never use a shutter speed that is lower than the focal length of your lens. For example if you are suing a 600 mm focal length lens then the best shutter speed should be one that is at least 1000 mm.

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) | Source
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Sometimes the overall color is so dominant that the eyes lose importance
Sometimes the overall color is so dominant that the eyes lose importance | Source

Did you know how important getting the eyes right was?

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez

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Comments 5 comments

memoreton profile image

memoreton 5 years ago from Blaina South Wales UK

Wow! your photos are awesome. I LOVE birds. I've managed to get a few photos of birds on a feeder and filmed them. Was a bit tricky, but the result wasn't too bad for a first attempt. Thanks for the tips.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

I'm confused that you're telling folks how to photograph birds and 1/none of the photos seem to be taken by you and 2/ the photos you've chosen don't represent at all what the text is telling us. Peace!! Tom


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

@justom: I have been shooting film (positives) for well over 25 years. I have not yet made the switch to digital. Scanning all my images would be a huge undertaking.

The main point of the article is to capture the eye of the subject as clearly as possible. But you are right, I should have chosen better images.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

That's cool, I have the same problem, years of stuff on film and slides but not converted to disc. I wasn't trying to be mean spirited about it, just curious. Peace!! Tom


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Comments and input is what keeps me on my toes, and I appreciate it all. Thanks to you I realized that I should have been more precise in my choices.

Thanks justom.

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