Photography: Tips on Photographing Wild Birds
Many people photograph wild birds at feeders, in trees, and in other locations. While they provide an interesting subject, photographing birds can be difficult because of their sudden movements, avoidance of humans, and – in some cases – their small size. However, there are a number of measures which can be taken to reduce the impact of these problems.
Most digital cameras have a delay between when the shutter button is pressed and when the photograph is actually taken, so this can be a problem when sudden movement is possible. Taking photos of aquatic birds which frequently submerge themselves underwater is especially difficult with digital cameras. It is generally preferable to use a 35mm or 110 film camera in this type of situation. For cameras with shutter speed settings, a fast speed (such as 1/125th of a second) is usually advantageous when taking photographs of this type. Blurring is less likely to occur if the shutter opens and closes before the bird moves. If it is possible to use a tripod, this will make blurring less likely as well, because it helps hold the camera steady.
If you do choose a digital camera for photographing birds, you may find that birds with colorful feathers, beaks, or feet have a more drab appearance in the downloaded photo. If you have a photo-editing program, increasing the color saturation may help to remedy this problem.
While close-up photographs of birds are usually better quality, keep in mind that focus-free cameras will take out-of-focus photos if they are taken excessively close. Most focus-free camera instruction manuals advise photographers not to approach the photo target too closely; the Bell amp; Howell BF-35 and Bentley BX-3 manuals suggest being at least four feet away from the subject, while the Vivitar BV-997 instructions advise users to keep at least five feet away. If you are taking photographs of birds at a feeder, try approaching it slowly, then wait for birds to land. They are less likely to avoid the feeder if you stay still and have the camera ready to use beforehand. Using a binocular-camera or camera with zoom features can make this less difficult, although more expensive.
Photographing birds or any subject which often quickly departs can make it easy to forget routine steps you would normally remember. If your camera has such features, be sure to remove the lens cap and set the aperture (f-stop) setting appropriately before you begin. Also remember to advance the film beforehand so that you don’t have to spend time advancing it when you would be taking the photo.
If possible, avoid using motorized cameras or flash units when conducting this type of photography. Wild birds are more likely to be disturbed by the sound of motorized cameras, especially models with loud motors like the Akira 7000DVT. Cameras with especially noisy manual winders (such as the Suprema GP-104) may disturb them as well. Bird photography is usually carried out in the daylight, so it is not necessary to use a flash unit in most situations. Unnecessary use of flashes wastes batteries and may cause photos to have a washed-out appearance. Cameras with inaccurate auto-flash features or flashes which always fire for every shot either shouldn’t be used or should have their batteries removed if they still function otherwise without them. Some disposible cameras have flashes which always fire and batteries which can’t be removed, making them a poor choice for outdoor daylight photography.
Keeping these tips in mind should help you take higher quality photographs of wild birds and the outdoors in general.