Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

My Top Ten Ways You Can Improve Your Bird Photography

Bird PhotographyTim Boyer

1. Master Your Camera Settings

Being able to change ISO, F-Stop, Shutter Speed, Exposure Compensation, Focusing Modes, Drive Modes, and knowing how your camera is set up is probably the most important thing you can do to get a better image. You'll be ready for any changes, and can catch teh action.

2. Practice Creates Mastery

Just by sitting in your backyard or on your couch at home and practicing changing the camera's functions and modes, so you know them by feel is time well spent. It’s preparation for being in the field.  The more you practice, the fewer shots you’ll miss.

Killdeer

Killdeer

3. Be Intentional

What are you trying to say or show the viewer? What’s the story you’re telling? How can the image you’re creating best connect with the viewer? What are you trying to do, say, to have the viewer feel, how are you creating the image, so what you want is communicated?

4. Light

Shoot the golden hours, get up early and then go back out in the late afternoon.  Using the warm buttery tones of early morning light can help make your images look sharper, and that light can be so beautiful that it will tremendously improve your image.  Light matters!  So be very intentional and only shoot in the best light.  Or learn to add light with a CTO gel and a flash unit or a gold reflector.

The second part of this is having the sun at your back, and point your shadow at the bird.  If you can't, point your shadow directly at the bird made sure you intentionally shoot as close as possible to the angle of the sun This will allow you to manage the suns angle as it lights up the bird for the best images.

 

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

5. Sharpness

There’s a huge difference between an intentional pan blur and an out of focus image. So, focus on the eye of the bird, if you only get one thing sharp in the image and it’s the eye, then you score!  For most images, there has to be a place of the eye to land and start viewing it from.

6. Point Of View

If you can get eye level with the bird, you’re photographing your image will look so much better. Shooting wide open (f/4), you’ll have a wonderful soft foreground and background. Since the bird is separated from the background, it will pop. Always try to get eye level or as close to eye level as you possibly can. 

Sanderling running

Sanderling running

7. Background

By using a long lens 400, mm or greater, and shooting wide open the background of your image should be blurry.  The more distance between the bird and the background the softer or more blurred out the background can be.  If the bird is sitting in branches or a nest etc. it will be difficult to get a clean background, so try to get the opposite and shoot at f/8 of f/11 and get more detail in the branches and nest material.

8. Edges of the Frame

Visually scan the edges of the frame while you’re looking through the viewfinder so you can make sure there isn’t something sticking into the frame you don’t want there.  Branches, buildings, garbage cans, etc. can creep into the frame when you aren’t looking so do a final check before pressing the shutter button. 

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

9. Composition

Create a pleasing image, first by paying attention to the compositional “rules,” then by breaking them, but making sure the composition works for the story or feeling you’re trying to tell or evoke.

10. Exposure

And finally, Exposure, because if you did number 1, 2 and 3 getting the right exposure was easy.  But a couple of things to remember the camera’s internal light meter what’s to turn whites into 18% gray, so you need to over expose a little, and if you have a dark bird on a light background, you need to over expose.  If you have a white bird on a dark background, you need to underexpose.  Set your exposure for the bird, not the background.

Sanderling with marine worm.

Sanderling with marine worm.

I hope this was helpful, these are the things I think abut everyday.

Tim