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Using Phottix for bird photography

Updated on September 26, 2012

For several years I have fed a variety of birds in my backyard. I live in Northern Indiana very close to Michigan. The most abundant birds are Cardinals, Blue Jays and various sparrows. My favorite birds are the Orioles. The feeding system I use was bought at Birds Unlimited. It's basically squirrel proof and four feeders can be help from the single pole. I go to Birds Unlimited several times a month to buy different bird feed and it was on one of my trips I came across a photo album they had of pictures local customers took of birds. I was hooked. I wanted to take pictures like these. First I had to find a good remoat for my camera I can use at long distances.

I have a Nikon D5000 and the standard Nikon remote is the Nikon ML-L3. It's a cheap little remote that can't be used in any situation except for short distances. Worse if your trying to use it behind the camera it's almost useless as the camera sensor is in front of the camera.

I wanted a substitute and posed the question on the Nikon Cafe forum. I had several replies that directed me to check out products from Phottix and one in particular, the Phottix Plato for the Nikon D5000 (actually they make this product for all the major camera brands). Its one of the simplier models from Phottix and costs about $50.00 and has a range of around a 100 meters.

I bought mine through a company in Hong Kong but now I see there are a lot of these for sale on ebay through a Canadian company.

Phottix also sells more advanced units for about $80.00 on Amazon, at the time I didn't know about the other products but knowing what I do now, I think I would spend the few extra bucks to get a unit with more features only because I like doing hdr photography and the advanced features would come in handy, but if you just want a basic unit then this model is fine.

Taking Pictures of Birds

Ok, this isn't going to be a National Geographic type of shoot. We're not going to be hiding in bushes with a camera and bug spray. I'm more of the type that likes to sit indoors with my favorite refreshment and and my camera remote.

I use a a 18 – 200mm f/3.5-5.6 Nikon lens, actually this is one of the more expensive lens. I have this lens because it's a all around type which I can use in most situations. Nikon also makes a cheaper version of an 18 – 200mm lens with a smaller aperture. If you have a expensive brand-name camera and only want a telephoto lens for shooting birds then you can use a cheap 3rd party lens such as a sigma lens. Reason being, is that a lot of the cheaper lens don't do auto focus with some of the cameras which isn't a problem with bird shooting the way I do it. I always manually focus when I shoot birds. I have found the results to be better then auto-focus.

Get a tripod, don't skimp on a good tripod. Buy a nice heavy one. Also always use your camera settings at the best picture quality (as you should always do). You can set the tripod and camera at a fairly close spot next to the bird feeder. If you have a bush or tree nearby you can use that to “camouflage” the tripod but it's not really necessary. Birds will soon get used to the tripod and camera, especially if you have an active bird feeder station.

Set the camera to manual-focus and put the shutter in silent mode if you have that option. Zoom in too a tight shot to the part of the feeder the birds most frequent. Use the remote from a good distance and take a couple of pictures. If your not satisfied readjust the camera angle.

Now all you need to do is get a book or a drink and relax about a 100 meters away and wait. When you see a bird take several shoots of every bird that comes into your cross hairs. (not like you'll run out of film). I use photo shop but you can use any photo program, and there are are a lot of free programs out there, that can zoom in and crop your pictures. That is why you want to use the best quality settings on your camera so you can zoom in on your shots of birds using your photo program without them getting grainy .

Here are some of my first pictures I took with the phottix. I took these on the first day I got the new remote.

Birds at my feeder

Oriole enjoying a orange
Oriole enjoying a orange
These Blue Jays prefer nuts
These Blue Jays prefer nuts


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    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      Love the photos and tips, especially about putting the shutter to silent mode (I always make sure my camera runs as silent as possible - noise annoys me).

      I was surprised the blue jays eat nuts! I would never have thought to give them to the birds - nuts are far too expensive and delicious for that!

    • redwhiskeypete profile image

      redwhiskeypete 5 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks will check out your hub right now.

    • Green Art profile image

      Green Art 5 years ago

      Great photographs here!! Nice write up too, Voted Up and Useful.

      I love taking photographs of the birds in my backyard as well. I live in northern Illinois so we have a quite a few Cardinals, Black-Capped Chickadee's, Gold Finches and more. I use a Cannon Power Shot SD1200 is Digital ELPH to take my bird shots. Check out my backyard bird hub if you have a chance. Birds are AWESOME!