A few people have emailed me asking for some bird photography tips and tricks of the trade. After some thought on the subject, I have come up with the following 10 tips for photographing birds.
Practice with the Locals. The best way to become familiar with photographing birds in your own backyard. What birds can you photograph at home? Do you have a birdfeeder or birdbath set up in your yard to draw birds in? Use these local birds to see behaviors such as how close you can get before they spook, and whether they eat at the feeder or take the food to somewhere nearby to enjoy it. Start by photographing birds in your yard to get used to their movements and feeding habits.
Timing is everything. Most species of birds eat in the morning or late afternoon. Get to know the habits of the bird that you are photographing and where it returns every day to feed.
Walk softly. Learn how to approach birds quietly and with very little movement. This goes for all wildlife photography.
Be respectful of nature. When photographing a bird, or photographing any wildlife, never corner the animal. Be mindful that the bird has a way of escape if it gets scared. This helps to ensure that the bird does not begin to fear all humans because of one disrespectful one.
Be wary of the weather. If the weather is threatening, the birds will tuck themselves where they will be safe from the weather. It may be best to just try another day.
Know what you want. Study bird photographs. Most bird photographs were the result of countless hours of waiting, and perhaps returning for several days to the same location that the bird frequents. If the image that you seek is of an Osprey catching a fish, the odds are very small that you will just happen upon that opportunity and get it, especially with the perfect light and background.
Do not chase. It sometimes is hard to finally see the bird that you want to photograph and not chase it around wildly. Be conscious of your movements and the signals that you giving to the animal. If you act frantic, don’t you think that the bird will too?
Behaviors make the best bird photographs. Photograph birds doing natural movements such as pruning, bathing, or feeding make for much more interesting photographs than a bird sitting on a wall.
Prepare in advance. When you know where you are going, and when the bird will be there, it is easy to get a chair and tripod set up so that you are ready to photograph the bird when it arrives. Do your homework.
Be patient! I always have to reiterate this with new wildlife photographers. The bird is not going to arrive and ask for its photo to be taken! It is a blessing when the opportunity for a great photograph happens. Appreciate it!