Fly Away: Tips on Getting Started with Bird Photography
~ by Joan “Jones” Kissler
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? – Matthew 6:26
Are you enjoying the newfound appreciation for life, nature, and God’s undying love that birdwatching has taught you? Take it to the next level by documenting it through photography. But do not take just any photo—bring out the exquisite beauty of birds with these bird photography tips for beginners:
First things first: get the right equipment
Birds are God’s work of art. So make sure you get the gear that allows you to easily glorify the Great Artist through your photos. Most bird photographers use a DSLR camera since its interchangeable lenses feature gives more control. For beginners, experts suggest using at least a 20mm lens.
Telephoto lenses allow you to capture every detail of a bird in its full glory. Image-stabilized lenses enable shooting in low-light conditions and while the bird is in motion. If you are not ready yet to shoot photos without support, you can use a monopod, a portable alternative to the heavy, bulky tripod.
When using your DSLR, make sure to set it to aperture-priority mode for the flexibility of a wide aperture and the ability to set the shutter speed to your desired setting.
On the other hand, some enthusiasts use smartphones for bird photography. They use a technique called digiscoping, which is combining a smartphone camera with a spotting scope. For on-the-go shooting, I recommend using an adapter to combine your phone and the spotting scope, so you can easily snap a photo instead of painstakingly trying to hold up your phone correctly against the the spotting scope. Also, you can install some apps and maximize your camera phone’s built-in features to churn out better-quality photos.
Parakeet being photographed by Phone
Know your birds
You do not have to look far to know where to find birds as your next subject. Just open your Bible, and you will find the answers:
- In trees (Psalm 104:17, Ezekiel 31:6)
- On the ground (Deuteronomy 22:6)
- In clefts of rocks (Num 224:21; Jeremiah 48:28)
- In deserted cities (Isaiah 34:15)
- Under the roofs of houses (Psalm 84:3)
Read up on the behavior and habitat of different kinds of birds so that you will know how to get them to come to you or to get as close to them as possible.
If that is not your style, join an expert birder in taking photos. You will definitely pick up some pointers on which birds come out during which time and season, where they usually live and breed, and what they usually eat.
Feed them as the Father would
The Great Creator cares for birds so much that He makes sure that they are always fed well, as stated in Matthew 6:26. Show your compassion for these creatures by giving them something to eat when you are photographing them on location.
To make birds feel naturally at home, plant some shrubs and trees they normally feed on in your garden or lawn. For instance, expert photographer Matt Mcray planted Rose of Sharon and hibiscus to attract Ruby-throated hummingbirds to his yard.
You can also strategically put bird feeders where you want to shoot your subject. Just remember to place them on the side from where you’ll be taking the shot to keep the feeders off the frame. Also ensure good natural lighting in the area where you will stage your shots.
Make them feel safe
God created birds to be free, so avoid threatening their sense of freedom and respect their need to hop from one space to another and fly.
One of the biggest mistakes that beginners make is to haphazardly approach their subject and click on the shutter button in haste. This normally ends up with the bird flying away and the shot being ruined.
To keep this from happening, remember these tips:
- Do not disturb the birds in their natural habitat.
- Do not come too near their nests, especially when their nestlings are there.
- Give them ample breathing room so that they won’t feel threatened in your presence.
- Do not shoot immediately.
Here are some tips on taking your first successful photo:
- Go where the birds feed or drink.
- Walk as calmly and quietly as possible around the birds.
- Repeat for days or weeks until the birds get used to your presence (Yes, patience is a virtue).
After repeating these steps for quite some time, your subjects will eventually warm up to you, and you will be able to take several shots easily.
Capturing a shot of a creature as elusive as a bird reminds us of the gift of freedom that God bestows upon us. With the ups and downs of everyday life, it can be easy to forget that we are free. May your foray into bird photography serve as a constant reminder that we are.
Joan contacted me about putting an article on the blog. After reviewing this article, I think you will find this article fits well with the objectives of our blog. To honor our Lord. Thanks, Joan, and I trust that you will provide us with more interesting articles like this.