How to Photograph a Bird

Photography is a fun and rewarding activity. Photographing birds can be very challenging, since the subject can be small, hide in less than favorable places, and be aware of approaching photographers. But, once you get the photo, you will be able to enjoy its beauty forever.


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    Be ready. Bird photography is hard work. You need to know what you are up for. Patience is the key, and an impatient person will not make a very good photographer. Also, make sure you can handle the disappointments, weather, and trips to places.
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    Get a camera. It must be of good quality. It should also have a fast shutter, because the birds can move at any split second. You should use the longest lens you have or can afford to get the bird larger in the photo. Also, if the birds won't come out when you are around, set the settings on your camera to trigger the shutter by remote control. Then you will be able to watch from farther away.
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    Decide which type of bird you would like to photograph. Depending on what type of bird you choose, you will need to go to different areas to photograph it.
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    Stay passionate. Being passionate for birds just makes it easier to photograph them. You also need to respect them. Do not throw things at the birds if they fly away from you. This might make them never come back.
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    Get some good camouflage and appropriate clothing for the place you plan on going to. If the birds don't notice you, you will be more apt to get a shot of them. You should also try making a hiding spot for yourself. This is called Bird-Blind Photography. Make a sort of barrier around yourself, with plants or whatever is handy, and set the camera up either inside it or outside. The birds won't care so much about the camera as they will about you.
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    Go to a place that you know many birds inhabit. Or, go to a specific place where you see one bird go to over and over again. Different birds live in different places, so you should be prepared to travel to different places. Also, you might want to try going somewhere where there aren't many leaves in the trees. This will make it easier to photograph, but there may be fewer birds.
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    Go at the time of the day when birds are active. Birds are very active feeding in early morning and late afternoon, so you might consider going around these times. That isn't the only times they are out, though. Birds can be feeding and active at any time of day.
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    Understand that birds migrate. You should understand migration. Some birds migrate at different times of the year. If you are trying to photograph a specific bird, find out when it usually migrates.
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    Remember that there may not be many birds at the place when you arrive, but they are probably hiding. Once you arrive, find a place to stay, and plan on being there for a while.
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    Take the shot! If you are using a remote controlled shutter, you might want to take more than one shot, to give you the best possible chances of having a perfect shot. If you are trying to get a close-up shot of one, wait for it to come over near you. Otherwise, take a picture at the appropriate time.


  • Try getting photos with different angles. This will make the photos even more enjoyable.
  • Wait until the bird does something interesting. A shot of a bird doing something is usually more exciting than a shot of a bird standing around.
  • Zooming is key in photography. If a bird does not directly come over near you, you can still zoom in on one. This will make it look like you were right next to the bird.
  • If you don't want to travel far, start attracting birds to your neighborhood. Birds are easily attracted by feeders.
  • You might want to use a car. Sometimes cars might work better when trying to get a photo, as birds will see you as part of the car and not as a threat. In some situations, you can get closer to a bird in your car, but you have to approach slowly.
  • The auto-focus focused on the background here instead of the foreground. Learning to manual focus can save some shots Digital cameras are preferable, because you can delete the photos that are junk, and save all of the good ones.
  • You might want to study photos before you actually start taking photos. Studying them will give you a better idea of what you want to photograph like, and you can set goals for yourself. If it is an exceptionally good photo, you should try to obtain similar results.
  • Be as quiet as possible: verbally and physically. If a bird becomes alarmed, it will fly away. If one member of a flock is disturbed, the rest will usually follow.
  • Patience is essential. You need to just keep trying, because if you keep trying you will learn more. Wait for the birds, and they will come right to you.
  • Photograph alone. Unfortunately, one person can get a photo easier than a group. With a group the birds are more likely to be upset, and it only takes one small mistake to scare off a good photo opportunity. Going alone will really increase your chances of getting a great photograph.
  • Use the Internet. On the Internet you'll be able to find sites that record sightings of birds in your area. You should also check out the Rare Bird Alert Network that will notify you of rare bird sightings in your area.


  • Never touch or go near nests. Some birds are very defensive toward their nest and young and some birds may become so upset that they abandon the nest site. In the United Kingdom it is illegal to disturb the nests of the vast majority of birds.
  • The bird's welfare always comes first. Never try to hurt a bird. If a bird appears agitated, back off and leave it alone.
  • If you see an exciting bird while located in a hide, resist the urge to point. If your hand leaves the hide, the bird will register it as a threat and most likely leave. This is a good way to upset fellow birdwatchers.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • Telephoto lens (optional. Only applies if you have an SLR camera)
  • Tripod (optional)
  • Camouflage
  • Birds

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Animal Photography | Birdwatching