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Tips for taking Good Pictures of Birds


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22 hours ago, Colton V said:

What really sucks is that the only birds that I ever get close enough for potentially decent photos are always in the dark shadows, so I end up having to crank up the ISO or lower the shutter speed, resulting in fuzzy or blurred photos. The only way I ever get a bird in good lighting is if the bird happens to land in a spot with good lighting - so basically only luck. How can I actively seek out and purposefully get a bird in good lighting? What does "focusing" on lighting entail?

This may be more than what you are looking for, but if you shoot in RAW or JPEG+RAW, you can edit your files in Lightroom or other post-processing photo applications. With a RAW file, you can lighten the shadows or exposure, and save a potentially dark and ruined photo. Natural light is of course the best, and focusing on getting in good position to shoot a bird in good light is a very important strategy, as others have already stated. But, if that's not possible, sometimes you can salvage a photo, especially if it's of a rarity or a bird you need to document in eBird or your local listserv.

Taking photos for documentation purposes versus taking photos for personal enjoyment versus trying to get award winning photos or high ratings on eBird are very different topics that have varied strategies. It really depends on what you are trying to do with your photography. I hope that makes sense.

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On 11/16/2020 at 9:41 PM, Colton V said:

What really sucks is that the only birds that I ever get close enough for potentially decent photos are always in the dark shadows, so I end up having to crank up the ISO or lower the shutter speed, resulting in fuzzy or blurred photos. The only way I ever get a bird in good lighting is if the bird happens to land in a spot with good lighting - so basically only luck. How can I actively seek out and purposefully get a bird in good lighting? What does "focusing" on lighting entail?

Sometimes you have to create light where there is none/little. Have you considered using flash?

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1 hour ago, lonestranger said:

Sometimes you have to create light where there is none/little. Have you considered using flash?

A word of caution. Using a flash is somewhat to very controversial in bird photography, as some people suggest that it interferes with the birds natural behavior. You may get some serious push back from other observers/photographers if you use flash, especially if you are trying to take a picture of a bird they are observing/photographing as well. I, personally have never seen anyone use flash while photographing birds in the field. Maybe at your house at a feeder it would be more appropriate.

My suggestion would be to try and take advantage of natural lighting situations.

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sorry-lost my internet connection.   I was saying:  

@Candydez12--I'm still a novice at bird photography, but I found the following things helpful

You can practice on easy birds (depending on your area)--Pelicans & Turkey & Black Vultures in flight & Great Blue Herons doing anything are awesomely easy to photograph & very helpful in helping one get comfortable photographing birds, and learning manual settings.   Use a tripod (with or without a remote shutter release) for taking photos from a stationary spot;  you can carry & use your tripod like a monopod, also.  

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On 11/16/2020 at 9:41 PM, Colton V said:

What really sucks is that the only birds that I ever get close enough for potentially decent photos are always in the dark shadows, so I end up having to crank up the ISO or lower the shutter speed, resulting in fuzzy or blurred photos. The only way I ever get a bird in good lighting is if the bird happens to land in a spot with good lighting - so basically only luck. How can I actively seek out and purposefully get a bird in good lighting? What does "focusing" on lighting entail?

Sometimes some of the best spots are 'transition zones', where one habitat starts and another ends.  Do you know of any fields that have trees or heavy brush around the border?  How about the cleared 'right of way' for utility lines?  If these areas face east and are open to the morning sun, birds will gather there to warm up, and to hunt insects that are also there to get warm.

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2 hours ago, floraphile said:

You can practice on easy birds (depending on your area)--Pelicans & Turkey & Black Vultures in flight & Great Blue Herons doing anything are awesomely easy to photograph & very helpful in helping one get comfortable photographing birds, and learning manual settings. 

This, this, this.  Great Blues are some of the most cooperative birds to photograph.  They're large and easy to focus on, they often remain still for long periods, or at least move slowly.  Ones in parks and urban settings are more acclimated to humans so they don't spook as easily.  Ducks in urban ponds are also comfortable with letting you get close (because they expect a hand-out!).

Practice on easy birds at feeders and parks.  That's a fine time to fiddle with ISO / shutter speed / aperture / scene modes / etc.

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On 11/6/2020 at 2:02 PM, Charlie Spencer said:

Take a look at these:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/products/Point-Shoot-Digital-Cameras/ci/8612/N/4288586279?sort=PRICE_LOW_TO_HIGH&filters=fct_brand_name%3Acanon|nikon|panasonic%2Cfct_camera-type_4056%3Asuperzoom-bridge%2Cfct_customer_rating%3A1_5_stars|2_4_stars%2Cfct_price%3A0..500

That's a list of cameras available for under $500 from B&H.com.  More specifically, it's a list of 'point and shoot' cameras (as far as we're concerned, that means the lens is a built-in part of the camera and cannot be removed or replaced) that are also 'superzoom' (that means you can zoom in on the bird from an extended distance).  I narrowed it down the three major manufacturers of superzoom cameras (Canon, Nikon, Panasonic).  Notice the 'Optical Zoom' ratings - the more money you can spend, the greater the magnification you can buy.

Nikon has the best image stabilizer. This is important with these super zoom point and shoots unless you want to lug around a tripod.

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