Hummingbird Photography Tips for Beginners

Hummingbird in Flight

This beautiful little male hummingbird was hovering near my birdfeeder.
This beautiful little male hummingbird was hovering near my birdfeeder. | Source

How to Take Pictures of Hummingbirds

I love to watch hummingbirds! They are amazing little creatures. They are the only bird that can fly backwards and they can hover like a little mini helicopter! They have beautiful iridescent colors and their wings can flap between 15 and 200 times per second! Did you know that some hummingbirds can fly up to 71 miles per hour! Photographing these little speeders can be quite a challenge! Here are a few tips and tricks for taking pictures of hummingbirds.

Hummingbird on the Ground

Unusual picture of a hummingbird sitting on the ground.
Unusual picture of a hummingbird sitting on the ground. | Source

Know Your Subject

First you are going to have to know where the hummingbirds are! If you have flower beds in your yard, you probably have hummingbirds. Watch to see which flowers they tend to go to. Put up a hummingbird feeder near a window of your home. You should get lots of hummingbirds to your feeder. Watch to see what time of day they usually show up. Normally they will visit your flowers early in the morning or late in the afternoon as the temperature begins to cool off. If you have a hummingbird feeder, they will probably visit it all day long.


Equipment

I personally use a zoom lens for my hummingbird photography, which gives me more flexibility and lets me zoom in to get much closer pictures of the little birds. Using a zoom lens or not, I would recommend also using a tripod. You don't necessarily want to "lock in" your ball head. Keep it some what loose so you may be able to follow the hummingbirds flight, at least somewhat. If you are not using a tripod and have an image stabilizer on your lens be sure it is turned on. Have your camera already focused on the area you think the hummingbirds will visit, such as a particular flower. If you are trying to photograph one as it hovers near your the feeder, it will be hard to pre-focus on anything buy the feeder. Have your camera on auto focus and it will focus for you quickly. I will go into focus a little more in detail in just a minute.


Hummingbird Tongue

I had never actually seen a hummingbirds tongue before!
I had never actually seen a hummingbirds tongue before! | Source

Patience

Now you will have to be a little patient. If you have a hummingbird feeder you may not have to be patient for long. I usually have between 5 to 10 hummingbirds at my feeder at one time. When you first go out, realize that you will scare them away, but just for a bit. I have found that once I get very still for just a few minutes, the hummingbirds will come right back. The same is true if you have found the place the hummingbirds like for sipping on your flowers. Set up your tripod, be very still and wait. They usually won't stay away for long.


Lighting

Hummingbirds have such beautiful iridescent colors. Your best pictures are going to be those taken in full sun so you can capture these beautiful colors. Depending on the time of day, you may have some shadow issues. You want to have the flower or feeder in full sun if possible. Shoot from which ever side you need to in order to get the sun on their beautiful feathers. Using a flash will help to freeze their wings, if you are lucky enough to catch one in flight. Your flash will put some light on them, but I still prefer to photograph them in full sun. Full sun is really going to help you get such better detail.


Focus

You will want to use the auto-focus setting on your camera. This allows the camera to re-focus, as your subject is moving. Using the auto-focus feature will allow you to keep the hummingbird in sharp focus as it speeds through the air. It will also be important to use the center AF point on your camera and keep that point on the hummingbird as much as possible. As fast as they are, you are going to have to have a little luck. Personally, I usually don't try to zoom in too close as the hummingbirds are too hard to follow with the camera. Zoom out a little so you can keep them in sight and crop the pictures after you get them home.

Female Hummingbird

Hummingbird Showing His Tongue
Hummingbird Showing His Tongue | Source

Shutter Speed

You will have to use a high shutter speed, somewhere around 1/800 and a high ISO, at least 400 or higher. If you go too high, above 800, you are going to get too much “noise” and your picture will be grainy. If you want to freeze the motion of their wings you are going to need to use an external flash. A hot shoe flash is a good idea. They are not very expensive and as a beginner, you don’t want to make this any more complicated that necessary. I really prefer a little blur of their wings myself, to show some motion.


Take Lots of Pictures

Now you are going to need a little patience and a lot of luck, yes luck! These little birds move so fast, you are going to need to take a lot of pictures to get a few good shots. I have taken over 100 pictures to get 2 or three good shots. Set your camera to take pictures in a burst. You can set it to take 4-5 pictures per burst. The more pictures you take, the better the chances are that you will get a few good shots.


Hummingbirds are beautiful, amazing little birds. The challenge of photographing hummingbirds is well worth it once you get that one shot that just says “Wow”! Remember to take lots of pictures and keep you camera as steady as possible. You may not get a lot of success your first time. Just keep on trying, the more pictures you take, the better your chances of getting that “Wow” shot!


Have you ever tried taking pictures of hummingbirds?

See results without voting

More by this Author


Comments 41 comments

sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 17 months ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi poetryman! Actually, I had taken about 20 or more pictures and got lucky on this one!


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 17 months ago

Congratulations on capturing the hummingbird tongue. It must of taken a lot of time and patience.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Sid! Thank you for your kind words. Patience is a big part of hummingbird photography. As far as the heat goes, I hung my feeder just outside my living room window and take many photos from inside the house. It works great! I wish I had some of your Florida heat here right now! It's 2:00pm and only 54 degrees with a 10 mph north wind, my spring sprag away! Thanks for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! :)


SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thank you. The photos are beautiful, and the tips are great. I have a feeling that patience will be the key for me - and patience in the Florida heat!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Brian. That really a great idea! I am due a new tripod/monopod as mine is really getting quite old. That sounds like a great idea for my next birthday present! LOL Most of my pictures these days are taken while I am going on walks, so my camera is the only thing that goes with me. I really hate carrying around extra equipment. Thanks for the idea! Have a wonderful day! :)


brianrock profile image

brianrock 3 years ago from New Jersey

Well with a 300-600mm, I doubt my hands would be any steadier... that's a huge lens! You might try using a mono-pod instead of a tripod. They're real common among sports photographers using bigger lenses (like 400mm, 600mm). They're a bit easier to swivel and maneuver than a tripod, although I personally find them clunky and uncomfortable.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Brian! Using a long zoom lens, 300-600mm, I find the image stabilization a must. It's nearly impossible to shoot hummingbirds using a tripod, unless you set up on a place they tend to land or hover at. r If you want to get "the best" detail of their feathers, I find that a tripod makes a huge difference. When I am after that "great detail" I always use a tripod. Your hands may be much steadier than mine. I would never make a good brain surgeon!

Thanks for stopping by, I always enjoy talking to another photographer! I look forward to reading some of your hubs! Have a great day! :)


brianrock profile image

brianrock 3 years ago from New Jersey

Nice photos.

Do you find the image stabilization / tripod actually make a difference...? I never bother with image stabilization when I'm shooting action, because I figure the high shutter speed (like the 1/800 you recommended) will eliminate any possibility of camera shake.

I guess if you had a super telephoto (400mm) lens it might make a difference, but you should be able to handhold a 70-200mm fairly easily...


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Eddie! Hummingsbirds are fast little speeders and hard to catch with a camera. I usually get my shots as they are coming and going from the feeder. It's amazing how close I can get to them without scaring them off. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I always appreciate your votes too! Have a wonderful day! :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Gus! Thank you for stopping by and your kind comment. I am anxious for the weather to improve here in Oklahoma, so I can get out more and my hummers will come back. :)


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Thank you jainismus! I appreciate your comment and I will check out the Facebook page, thank you! :)


eddiecarrara profile image

eddiecarrara 3 years ago from New Hampshire

You have some great tips here Sheila, and your photos are awesome! I know how hard it is to catch them in the lens, they're so quick. I have a patch of tall zinnias in the front yard and they love to hang out there, so sometimes I have an opportunity to snap a few shots, only if I happen to have my camera close by :)

Up and beautiful!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Peggy! I love to watch the hummingbirds. We have a feeder just outside our dining room window. Most spring and summers we can have as many 13 hummers at the feeder at one time! (It's really hard to count them!) Getting a good picture of one is really hard to do. I am still after that "really good" picture. Thank you for stopping in and leaving such a wonderful comment, and of course your votes and share! Have a beautiful day! :)


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 3 years ago from USA

A good one here, Sheila (sgbrown) -

The techniques you suggest for making photos of hummingbirds will work well for the making of photos of other sorts of wildlife in motion.

Gus :-)))


jainismus profile image

jainismus 3 years ago from Pune, India

Thank you for sharing these very useful tips with great photographs.

You may like to join a Facebook page for photographers at:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photography-Equipmen...


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

Hi Sheila,

We do have hummingbirds who visit the flowers and flowering bushes in our backyard but I have never had a camera at the same time. You have some amazing photos! I had never seen a hummingbird's tongue. I knew that zoom off at amazing speeds but did not know that they can travel at 71 miles per hour! Up, useful and beautiful votes and will share.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello emitchell! Thank you for your kind comment. I hope you get some great pictures! :)


emitchell1 profile image

emitchell1 4 years ago from Utah

Wonderfully written and great tips I will try.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello jantamaya! Thank you for your kind words! Actually, we can stand a foot away from the hummingbird feeder and they will fly all around us. Hubby says he is sure that one was looking him right in the eye and cursing at him for letting the feeder run dry. Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! :)


jantamaya profile image

jantamaya 4 years ago from UK

I love your very informative and well written hub! Thank you for all the tips you have shared with us. I would add only that there is a good idea to hide well (to make yourself invisible) because hummingbirds are very shy, cautious, and swift.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello livingpah2004. It is rather difficult to take pictures of hummingbirds, they are sooo fast! I hope my tips are of some help to you. Thank you for your kind comment, vote and sharing. It is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


livingpah2004 profile image

livingpah2004 4 years ago from USA

Very fascinating topic. I love Hummingbirds and it is very hard to take a picture of them. I tried and failed. You have some great advise to catch them in a camera. Thanks for sharing it. Voted up!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Denise. Thank you for your kind comments. When my husband hangs the feeder they will hover right up in his face, it's reall awesome!I will check out your daughters hub right now. Thank you for reading, commenting and voting up, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

This is a fabulous hub, sg. I really enjoyed it. You're right that those tiny birds 'hover' in one place for what seems like 'forever'. Beautiful photos and very useful and inspirational information. I remember one afternoon in CA I was sitting outdoors and a hummingbird hovered over my head for almost thirty minutes before it flew off...of course it had a pot full of flowers that interested it standing right next to me.

My daughter had an encounter with a hummingbird moth last summer. Be sure to catch that hub (under hubber: cardelean. Be sure to catch her video about that h.b. moth.

Voted up and across/sans funny


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello precy. I am glad you enjoyed my hub! Taking pictures of hummingbirds is not an easy task. With some patients and lots of pictures, you can get some good shots. I am ready for the hummers to return this year! Thank you for reading, commenting and voting on my hub! Have a wonderful day! :)


precy anza profile image

precy anza 4 years ago from San Diego

Hi Sgbrown! I sure did found this Hummingbird Photography hub. :) And I enjoyed reading it. Reminds me of that first time I tried to take a hummers photo and I stand there like a statue, lol. ^.^' Voted up and enjoyed the photos!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Brett! These little speeders are so very fast, it's hard to catch one still long enough to get a picture! I understsand why your friend takes so many pictures! Thank you so much for sharing my hub! Have a great night! :)


Brett.Tesol profile image

Brett.Tesol 4 years ago from Somewhere in Asia

Some great tips here, I can see why you would need a few shots to capture them! You sound very much like my friend, he shoots around 500-1000 shots a morning, and keeps 10-20 lol.

Thanks for SHARING.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hello Dolores! You will probably have to take a lot of pictures to get a good one, they are so fast. Hang a hummingbird feeder near a window and you will see many of them all day. They are amazing little birds. Thank you for your vote up. Have a wonderful day! :)


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Well I don't have a good camera, but one of my son's does. I'd love to attempt to photograph hummingbirds, they are such amazing little birds. I have a trumpet vine near the house and last year saw one perched there - had never seen a hummingbird perched. Voted up!


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi 2uesday! Hummingbirds are amazing little birds. I love to watch them. I hope you get to see more of them some day. Thank you for your comment. Have a great day! :)


2uesday profile image

2uesday 4 years ago from - on the web, I am 2uesday.

We do not have these lovely little birds in the UK but I have been lucky enough to see them twice while on holiday. Three things amazed me when I saw a hummingbird for the first time, the brightness and iridescent color, the speed at which their wings move and seeing them hover. I was also surprised how small they were and how they seemed to be able to stay near the flower to feed.

I hope to see a humming bird again one day. You photos are amazing as they portray the bird in action.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

@Jade, thank you for stopping by and reading my hub! I love to watch hummingbids, they can be quite comical as well as beautiful. They do provide a challenge to photograph, but I enjoy trying! :)


Jade Coleman profile image

Jade Coleman 4 years ago from Birmingham, UK

This has always fascinated me. The hummingbird is a beautiful bird and I've always loved the photography but have imagined that its always something so hard to photograph.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

@Movie Master, thank you for your kind words. I wish you had hummingbirds also, they are really fun to watch and are very beautiful. Thanks again, have a great day!


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 4 years ago from United Kingdom

I wish we had hummingbirds in the UK to photograph, they are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing these tips, a really interesting hub and voted up.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

@ Hi Janet! We have also had a hummingbird come into our house when we were doing some work on the front room. My husband was able to pick it up and take it outside. (I did take a couple of pictures of it before he let it go.) Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub, I do appreciate it! :)

@ Hi Jenny! Thank you also for taking time to read my hub and for your kind words, it is appreciated! :)


Jenny 4 years ago

What an awesome hub. Very interesting and informative.

Great work!


Janet Brown 4 years ago

Good article. We have a hummingbird feeder outside our kitchen sliding glass door and we love to watch them. We have even taken a few pictures, but we don't have a good camera. We even had one come into the house once when the sliding glass door got left open a little. My parents came over to let our dogs out (we were gone) and the poor little thing was so tired from trying to get out of the house that they were able to pick it up and take it outside and let it go.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma Author

Hi Don. Thank you for the kind words. I do love hummingbirds and I guess I like the challenge of trying to photograph them. Thanks for your comment and I look forward to reading some of your hubs. :)


Don Simkovich profile image

Don Simkovich 4 years ago from Pasadena, CA

What a great hub. Hummingbirds are fascinating and I would imagine they'd be tough to photograph.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working