A great way to get into wildlife photography is taking pictures of birds. Whether you are shooting from a hide, walking in public parks, exploring tropical jungles or even sitting in your own garden, birds can give you great results in honing your photography skills. Although birds are readily available subjects to shoot, one must be aware of behavior; birds in flight, static feeding birds or low light forest skulkers all require different techniques to get that perfect shot.
Here at Thaibirdspot Photography, I can help you overcome the hurdles of good composition and correct exposure out in the field with real hands on instruction. Each scenario brings its own techniques, whether it’s shooting at high speeds for birds in flight or low light, high ISO settings for those forest birds.
To take great bird photos, you’ll need to spend a lot of money on expensive equipment??
Whilst this is not exactly 100% true, a camera capable of shooting at, at least 1/1000th of a second at six frames a second or more should be considered as the norm.
APS-C crop sensor or full frame??
Many nature photographers prefer crop sensor cameras as they don’t need to buy expensive lenses to get the magnification they need. For example, if you attach a 300mm on a APS-C camera, it will be the equivalent of a 450mm. Professional, full frame cameras and long prime lenses can obviously get better results, but this ultimately comes down to the expertise of the user. A sturdy tripod is a must for low light bird photography to eliminate camera shake and thus, blurred shots.
That scary setting on your camera, with a little training, will turn out to be your best friend and one that you will never want to change from again. 'M' stands for Manual and this setting will give you total control over Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO, the 3 main keys to correct exposure. A higher shutter speed for birds in flight to freeze action may need a higher ISO setting, dependent on lighting conditions. Shooting handheld in low light will almost certainly require higher ISO settings to keep your shutter speed above at least 1/60s. Handheld shutter speeds were traditionally determined by focal length, ie, if the focal length is 300mm, your shutter speed should be at least that, to eliminate blur. Fortunately, most lenses now incorporate stability technology, so much lower shutter speeds can be used. Higher ISO settings do unfortunately come with a trade-off, the higher the ISO, the greater the amount of grain (noise) will be present in your image. The chart below shows how different settings will affect your image.
Correct composition and framing in bird photography can greatly enhance your pictures, it will take your shots from flat, uninteresting pictures to popping images where you eye falls immediately to the main point of interest. Setting your images off to one side using the rule of thirds will give space for the subject to appear to be looking into, getting down to the birds level and taking note of the background will all add to improve your images.. With this being said, I always encourage students to experiment and be creative.
Compare these two images, the first is shot at a slow shutter speed with a large aperture, giving that soft, blurry background, whereas the second, shot at a higher shutter speed and smaller aperture, gives a more cluttered looking background. In my opinion, only personal preference dictates which picture is the best
4. Stealth and Jungle skills:
All wild animals have a heightened sense of awareness which can be easily triggered, and they are usually aware of our presence long before we see them. In their environment we should try to blend in with the natural surroundings, so camouflaged or neutral-colored clothes will always work well, rather than bright colours. You should approach birds carefully without staring directly at them or making any sudden movements, and always be aware of your surroundings as many nasty critters also share the forest floor.
Birds like this crake will see you long before you would see them unless you can remain motionless and silent.
5. Hide Photography:
Pop-Up style, photography hides are a really useful and beneficial piece of kit. Sitting quietly in a hide at a food or water source can bring some amazing encounters. As the birds are far more confident to feed or bathe without being aware of your presence, you will have more time to think about composition and exposure.
With my relaxed style of instruction, all of these factors and skills will be covered out in the field in jungles or national parks. Whether you want to learn as a beginner or just a quick brush up, I have the plan for you. What better way to spend your day, than being in a beautiful jungle with you camera in your hand.
If you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for full details of my Wildlife Photography Courses.
ISO 1000 , 1/30s , f5.6 , 500mm
Shooting at 1/30s at f5.6 required a high ISO setting and the camera to be firmly mounted on a sturdy tripod. A cable release was also used to eliminate any need of touching the camera. Shooting wide open at f5.6 has kept the bird nice and sharp but kept the somewhat cluttered background soft and easy on the eye.
ISO 500 , 1/1000s , f4 , 300mm
Shooting this falcon in flight required a high shutter speed to freeze the action, but still give a little blur on the wingtips to give the effect of motion. Shooting wide open at f4 has kept the bird in focus and the background soft.
ISO 110 , 1/40s , f5.6 , 500mm
ISO 400 , 1/600s , f7.1 , 500mm
ISO 1000 , 1/640s , f5.6 , 500mm
ISO 500 , 1/25s , f5.6 , 500mm
ISO 1000 , 1/125s , f7.1 , 500mm
ISO 1000 , 1/100s , f5.6 , 500mm