How To Take Better Bird & WIldlife Photos
If you are a serious about bird photography purchasing the correct equipment is vital to the end product. This style of photography can be difficult to master and can require huge amounts of patience and stealth, so it's not usually ideal for a day trip with the children or your dog. You may also like to make a trip to your local disposals store and pick up some camo gear and a pair of hiking boots, having said that you may just walk down to the local park and snap the local birdlife.
1 x DSLR Camera and (crop sensor cameras are beneficial here)
1 x Lens Hood
1 x Monopod longer lenses can be quite weighty and this will offer much needed support and mobility necessary to capture a sharp image.
1 x Spare Battery, if you plan to shoot all day this may come in handy.
1 x Back Pack, this will keep your gear safe and also save your back if you plan on doing a lot of walking
1 x Binoculars, great for scouting locations saving you time wandering around (optional)
Plenty of Memory Cards, the last thing you want when outdoors is to run out of space for photos.
1. Before you head out it is important you check your equipment by charging batteries and formatting all memory cards (this will erase all data so be sure you have transferred recent photos to your computer). Pack your backpack well making sure the weight is evenly distributed, don't forget to take some lunch, water and sunscreen.
2. Once you have reached your location you will need to scout for a position, this is where binoculars can come in handy. It also pays to research the area and the species of bird to help you predict feeding actions, movements and habitats allowing you to get in the best position as you may be there a while.
3. Once you have found your target you will need to set up your equipment prior to moving in on your subject. Attach your lens to the camera if you have teleconverter attach this first then a compatible lens (note not all lenses can be used with teleconverters). In most environments particularly out in the elements a UV filter would be beneficial to have, mainly for protection of the front element of the lens, the lens hood also helps with this and the added bonus of sun flare reduction resulting in more clarity. Don't forget to insert your battery and memory card/cards.
4. Larger lenses come with or need a collar; this is a ring around the lens with a 1/4inch thread used to attach monopods or tripods giving the user a better balance and more versatility when shooting. There are a few different types of heads available for monopods which is more of a personal choice and can also be job specific so take some time to research which one would be best for you.
5. Now you are set you need to move into position, try to choose an area with some cover. It won't be necessary to bury yourself just find somewhere which will allow a good angle and that is preferably comfortable. Now all you need to do is be patient and wait for that moment (like fishing).
6. While you are waiting practice your exposures, preferably shooting on F2.8 (a teleconverter will also multiply your aperture value for example, 2 x converter on a F2.8 aperture will see your widest aperture now at F5.6), keeping the aperture wide open will generate a beautiful blurred background placing the emphasis on the subject.
7. Practice your composition also; composition is relative to subject placement in the photograph. This is a perfect example showing the rule of thirds, splitting the image into 3 horizontal and 3 vertical sections creates guidelines which you can use to help place the subject onto. If you look at this shot the birds head is exactly on the far top right intersecting lines making for a more visually pleasing image. To help with this you may consider moving the automatic focus point to the right hand side (some lens/teleconverter combinations will not allow this).
8. Be observant, a bird will generally drop of a branch and return to the exact same spot, this is when your best opportunity will arise. When it does you will be ready for the shot.
Note: It may pay to research the wildlife prior to photographing, it can help to understand motions and predict when to press the shutter button.
9. Shoot like no one is watching™