How to Photograph Birds

Wild Bird Photography

Do you like watching wild birds? I do. Wherever I travel around the UK and the world the local wildlife is at least as interesting as the built environment to me. I take a lot of photographs without following any particular instructions and over the years I’ve produced very few good bird pictures, and that can be a bit frustrating at times. There are lots of pictures of small fuzzy distant ducks, little avian specs flying across a boring expanse of sky, and countless pictures of a wooden post from which a glorious example of an interesting bird species has just flown away out of sight. Why only yesterday I took a picture of a tree trunk with a goose flying behind it. How many shots have you taken like that?

Tree with flying bird behind

Tree with flying bird behind

I’ve kind of accepted that you can’t get good pictures with ordinary cheap point and shoot cameras. But I’m not the sort of person who lugs a large camera bag around all day long, let alone a full length tripod. So which are the best compromises?

Tips On How to Photograph Birds

Most days I take a walk around the local duck pond just for a constitutional really, and keep an eye on which birds are visiting. Tame birds are easy to photograph and so are large ones like swans and geese. Birds which are preoccupied with feeding or some other essential activity may also be photographed from closer up when they are distracted by something important. Getting up close is the key here. Patiently waiting quietly is a rewarding skill to practice, so work out where is the best place to lie in wait and then stay calmly for as long as you possibly can, but be ready for when the perfect bird appearance suddenly arises.

Basic Equipment for Taking Pictures of Birds

Optical zoom is essential, at least 3 times but preferably more powerful. You then need decent lighting conditions. Really, you do eventually need a digital SLR camera, not just a pocket sized micro point and shoot affair, although you can get some good results with these if you learn how to master the manual settings and strike lucky.

A tripod is not essential if you have a steady hand, but the use of something to lean upon such as a ledge, wall rock or tree can only help to get a sharper photograph.

A pair of binoculars will help to identify distant birds and inform your choice of the best place to wait. These should be wide field of vision rather than high magnification for bird watching.

RSPB Digital SLR Competition

To celebrate the spring, the RSPB is launching a Free Prize Draw on 6 April to win an Olympus E-520 Digital SLR camera along with a copy of the RSPB Guide to Digital Wildlife Photography (together worth over £400).

Five runners-up will also receive a copy of the illustrated book by David Tipling, one of Britain’s best known wildlife photographers.

Everyone who buys an RSPB membership online between 6 April and 14 May 2009 will automatically be entered into the prize draw including adult, family, children’s and gift memberships.

RSPB membership makes a great alternative gift at Easter time – with over 100 nature reserves to visit with admission free to members.

Join the RSPB

How to Photograph Birds Video


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