I’ve always been awed and inspired by those top-notch bird photos that you see in popular bird magazines. Many of these photographers use lenses that cost thousands of dollars and being that I am not independently wealthy, this was not an option for me so I had to devise a way to try to achieve high quality bird photos on a budget. Here are some tips for achieving some great bird photos like the pros but on a non-pro budget.

First get the best DSLR camera you can afford with the following features:

  1. A high mega pixel count of at least 12 mega pixels (helpful to maintain detail when cropping a photo in post processing)
  1. Good noise reduction (helpful for using a higher ISO to get a faster shutter speed which will mean it’s more likely you get a clear sharp bird than a soft blurry one. Keep in mind though it’s ideal to use the lowest ISO that you can because noise reduction doesn’t do away with noise completely)
  1. The ability to shoot raw (helpful so you can make changes to things like white balance, slight exposure adjustments and sharpness in post processing if you didn’t get it quite right the first time when you shot the photo)
  1. The ability so shoot in burst mode (birds move a lot and you may not click in time to get the bird when it’s not moving. A series of shots 5 shots from a burst may get you 4 blurry ones but chances are one of those 5 shots will be sharp and a keeper)

Second get the best glass you can afford with the most reach. I saved for two years to get a 70-200 2.8 lens. Although more reach would have been better the fact that it is a 2.8 lens give me faster shutter speeds than say a lens that is 5.6 when zoomed out to its highest length. This higher quality lens also gives me more detail, which again allows me to crop in closer without as much detail loss in post processing. It is true when it comes to lenses that you get what you pay for so you still want to get the best you can afford. Although you may find a 400 mm zoom lens that is less expensive than a 2.8 200mm lens, the 200mm 2.8 lens is most likely a better buy considering you will only be able to use that cheaper lens in bright light situations due to slower shutter speeds.  A great feature that I now consider a must in a lens is image stabilization. This allows you to shoot without a tripod in instances where you could not with a non-stabilized lens. I was skeptical at first about how well this would work but I’ve found it really does work and is comparable to a tripod down to a about shutter speed 1/30. When following a bird I find it cumbersome to use a tripod because it’s hard to think of focus, composition and two or 3 knobs on my tripod while composing a shot and it often causes me to miss a shot.

Third bring the birds to you and set up your “bird studio”. You don’t have to be a wild bird tracker to get great bird shots. In fact, you can get them right in your very own back yard. All you have to do is set up some feeders for them and some perching areas for photos near the feeders. See photo below for a look at my “bird studio”.  It’s important to have a place in your bird studio where you can shoot without disturbing them. I shoot out my bathroom window with the window down just enough so that I can get my lens out the window. They seem to know I’m there but they would not come as close if I were shooting right out in the open.

Fourth consider what you are focusing on when shooting your photo. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment and just aim for the bird and hope for the best. However, if you look at great bird photos in magazines and on the web they all have one thing in common. The eye is in sharp focus. Even if you are using a shallow f-stop, if the eye and most of the head are in focus it will still give you a much more acceptable shot than if say the tail is in sharp focus but the eye and head are blurred. By focusing on the eye/ head this gives the viewer a more intimate portrait of your bird subject.

Photography is a learning experience. As I learn more tips and tricks I’ll be sharing them so check back to see if anything new has been posted. I hope this blog has been helpful to someone.

If you’d like to see more of my bird photography it can be viewed at this link 

Thanks again for stopping by to read my evolving blog.