Photographing birds: hints and tips to help you

By Jan Linden

The following are several basic tips we have learnt along the way, we hope that they may assist you with your photography. I tried to describe them all as simply as possible.

General:
Bad or lacklustre photos are caused by laziness. Unfortunately, too many photographers, amateurs and professionals, will approach a photo assignment with a pre-conceived notion of attack – mostly from “history of style” and wanting to play it safe. Rarely will the photographer step back, put down the camera and size up the assignment before proceeding. Instead, many of us will execute the photo from the angle we initially approached the subject, never thinking to study the subject and its environment first.
Hold It Steady:
A problem with many photographs is that they are blurry. Avoid ‘camera shake’ by holding the camera steady. Use both hands, resting your elbows on your chest, or use a wall for support. Relax, don’t tense up.
Light:
Light is the most important element of any photography. The difference between a great photograph and an average one is often only the light in which it was captured.
Time of day:
The best time for bird photography also coincides with when the birds are most active, which is early mornings or late afternoon. The light at these times is softer and more pleasing to the eye. Photographing in the middle of the day is usually only acceptable if it is overcast. Otherwise you are wasting your time.
Opportunity:
Opportunity plays a big part in bird photography, whether the photographer is prepared for whatever may happen, or is creating the opportunities that increase their chances of a good shot. Generally we never go out to get a specific shot, we wait to see what opportunities we are given, thus eliminating frustration with the introduction of chance.
Time:
Time is very important when photographing birds. We rarely use hides and prefer to spend a great deal of time in one area. By doing this, the wildlife eventually accepts that you are not a threat to it, and in some cases their curiosity may even get the better of them, and they pay you an even closer visit than expected.
Depth of the picture:
Depth is an important quality of good photographs. We want the viewer to think that they’re not looking at a flat picture, but through a window, into a three-dimensional world. Add pointers to assist the eye. If your subject is a distant mountain, add a person or a tree in the foreground. A wide angle lens can exaggerate this perspective.
Location:
Location is another important consideration. There is no point being where the birds aren’t. When visiting new areas, keep in mind that a source of fresh water may be a good place to start. Also, places such as valleys tend to act as highways for birds. Visiting different habitats will allow you to experience a greater diversity of birdlife and hence offer greater opportunities.
Behaviour:
Be thoughtful of birds and other animals when photographing them, never puting their safety into question. Be aware that you could upset their breeding patterns with inappropriate behavior. Avoid photographing nesting birds and be sure not to unduly stress a bird for the sake of a photo.

Enjoy your time spent in nature, it helps you understand that we are all a part of nature, not apart from it. If you get some great shots that’s good – but if you don’t you still had the chance to commune with nature, which is even better.

About The Author

Jan Linden is a professional photographer and fine art designer.

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