How to Photograph Wild Birds
A beginner’s guide to backyard bird photography.
Ripples is all about us non-experts trying something, learning from mistakes, and sharing what we know with others who might want to try it, too. Often, Ryan & I find ourselves learning from experts in a field we’re interested in tapping into without dedicating our entire lives to that subject. For example: wildlife photography. I’m not a professional photographer – I’m not even a frequent picture-taker. But I did get a picture of a raccoon published in a photo anthology a really long time ago! Haha.
Here’s what I’ve learned about photographing birds, and my rather poor first few weeks’ (yes I said weeks) photos of birds visiting our feeder. I’ll be taking more pictures soon, and can post the better ones here once I get the hang of this new skill. For now, I wanted to share the bad ones to let you know that things take time and effort, that I’m no expert, and yet it can still be fun to learn something new that connects us with nature. So enjoy the “blooper pic” and look forward to better ones to come!
Photographing Birds: Tips
The biggest tip I’ve learned, in my weeks sitting scrunched up trying not to breathe while the birds consider whether they should land at the feeder or not, is not to chase after the birds trying to snap a photo: get the birds to come to you. You’re basically setting up a planned-in-advance perch. If you have a bird feeder, it might be that’s all you need. If you want a bird to land on a branch above an attractive log or wildflowers, you can sprinkle some black oil sunflower seeds below the perch you’ve created. Then, all you need to do is wait, which is easier said than done. Using food is the best way to attract birds to you, but you may also use bird call recordings. Beware that this may stress the birds or disrupt their normal behavior, and some birding enthusiasts discourage using bird calls too frequently or for too long a duration.
Setting up a “blind” like hunters use may also be helpful. The birds get used to the blind in time, and consider it part of the natural landscape, allowing you opportunities to observe their behavior in the wild. You could hide yourself behind a homemade “tent” or buy a hunter’s blind at an outdoor store, but it could be expensive. The biggest tip bird photographers seem to suggest is patience. I think the largest amount of work in getting a good photo, besides the occasional uncomfortable or awkward positions, is waiting. Not just waiting in line at the post office, but waiting for weeks for the exact bird species to land on your perch setup. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and having knowledge of your camera to quickly capture great photos in what could be mere seconds’ worth of time while the bird is perching.
Or you could do it like me, and take pictures of the animals that don’t move as fast