If you thought pet photography was difficult, brace yourself for one hell of a ride with backyard bird photography. The mere fact that you plan on doing it in your backyard should tell you that it will require a lot of preparation. For starters, you will have to set up your backyard in order to lure in these beautiful but highly elusive creatures. Moreover, your camera has to be ready to capture the action within the short window of opportunity provided. Nonetheless, bird photography is very fulfilling when done right and the pictures are quite marketable. So, if you want the know-how on backyard photography, I suggest you pay attention to the tips below.
Backyard Bird Photography – Tip #1
Lure Them In
As I said, birds are very elusive. To be able to capture them, you will have to put in a lot of effort in luring them in. Birds are easily attracted to food so, set up a few feeders in your yard to attract them. Water also catches the attention of birds especially insect-eating birds that may not be lured by seeds and other bird feeds. This can be achieved by constructing a small pond in your backyard.
While setting up you have to be smart about the placement of the food. When you have your birds lured, reduce the number of feeders to prevent too much movement which might deter you from getting your shot.
Lastly, you want the photo to look as natural as possible. Nothing about a bird in a feeder says natural. So, be ready to take things up a notch by providing a natural setting for your shoot. For starters, you should have a branch (or two) on which the bird will be perched. Also, make sure you do not include the feeders or cages in your picture especially if they are metallic. It will deny your photo the much needed natural flair.
Backyard Bird Photography – Tip #2
Background And Composition
While up close, tight frames are acceptable for bird photography, incorporating a natural background will give your photo much more flavor. Include the trees and leaves around your subject and in most cases, blurring out the background usually, results into less distractive photos but still filled with the natural color of leaves and trees.
If your background comprises of houses and vehicles or anything that is not natural, you should find another angle if possible, if not, tighten up your frame and focus on the bird.
While composing, don’t just place the bird in the middle of the photo. Consider the direction the bird is facing and place it in the opposite direction of your frame.
From experience, photos that tell a story usually get more attention and are quite rewarding. So, if you can capture a bird feeding, in flight or doing everything else that birds do, then you have yourself a winning shot.
Backyard Bird Photography – Tip #3
Timing Is Everything
When talking about timing, I am referring to the ability to get a good shot at just the perfect moment and also, the right time of day to do it. The former is pretty much self-explanatory. Birds are quite fidgety so you want to be swift in taking your shots.
It is easy to assume that the best time to capture birds is early in the morning. This is not entirely wrong but, be sure not to set out too early as most birds will not be active yet. Two to three hours after sunrise is a good time to start shooting. Also, two to three hours to sunset can work and will give your photos a nice warm glow.
Notice that these two timelines do not have the hot glaring sunlight that might give your photo harsh lighting conditions. So, optimize on this.
When it comes to the best season for bird photography, spring usually triumphs other seasons. But then again, different seasons bring different bird species. A little research on the bird you want to capture might help in knowing when to set up.
Backyard Bird Photography – Tip #4
Camera Gear And Settings
It goes without saying that you will need a tripod to steady yourself for this kind of photography. Keep in mind that birds are easily distracted by movement so you will want to keep your movements on the low. As I always say in almost all my posts, for added stability and to avoid camera shakes, a remote shutter release comes highly recommended. You will also need a zoom lens since getting close to the birds without upsetting them is quite difficult.
Setting your camera is the tricky part since it depends on your experience and whether the bird is in motion or not. For beginners, auto setting will help in getting the aperture, ISO and shutter speed right. But if you are not new to photography or you want to get unique shots, consider manual or continuous focusing.
While doing this, pay attention to your exposure and white balance to avoid having over-exposed photos. For birds in motion, make sure you set the shutter speed correctly as well as the aperture. This takes some skill to execute correctly as well as practice.
Backyard Bird Photography – Tip #5
Position Yourself Right
Birds always seem to have a sixth sense for detecting human presence hence the need to keep your distance or blend in with the environment. That is if you ever want to have a picture of these delicate, beautiful creatures.
For one, investing in camouflage gear will help achieve this. Most people use tents which not only protects the camera from elements but also keeps you out of the bird’s sight.
You can hide behind trees and vegetation or simply rely on your zoom lens and stay indoors.
Clearly, there is nothing easy about bird photography. More so, in your backyard. It involves a lot of setting up, practice, deleted shots and most importantly, patience. Nonetheless, all these challenges are often motivation to any true artists/photographer. Suck it up, set up right and take the tips above with you as you set out for backyard bird photography. Oh, remember to thank me later when you get breathtaking shots.
If you have any comments or additional tips on backyard bird photography, please leave me some words in the comment section and I will get back to you in a jiffy. As usual, it has been a pleasure. Hope to tackle some more photography challenges with you soon.
If you like taking pictures of animals in general, don’t miss this tips for pet photography.