Quick bird photography tips
In bird photography 80% is to find the bird and get close, 20% to make the photo. It is often requires lots of preparation, and planning, sometimes constructing things as well.
There are basically three approaches:
a. sitting in a hide (usually in a good place)
b. walking around (or ride with a car or boat or other vehicle)
c. combination of these two.
How to find and approach the bird ?
1. Nesting places are the best locations – for some species it is forbidden to go close, sometimes permit is needed. Not disturb the bird in the nest. Wait and photograph the bird which supply the food. If you find a good location a temporary hide can be very useful. Nests are usually in thick vegetation, or on huge trees, but artificial boxes are also useful.
2. Best time is Spring for birding at least in Europe when the birds breeding and singing.
3. Study bird voices. I recognize all birds I know just by hearing them (sometimes not, I usually know if the bird song is from an unknown bird).
4. Check nice photos where are they taken to have an idea about locations.
5. Think about National parks and surrounding. The best places with the most interesting species are in protected areas. Inform from the National park’s people about the best possibilities.
6. Think about unusual angles and places, for example use a tower or high building. Try to approach the birds in an unusual way, not where all people arrive.
This pics was made from a 2nd floor window for example, from 0.5 meters (2′).
7. Study the birds. The more you know, it will be easier to make the photo.
8. Bird chicks are the easiest to photograph, because usually they don’t fear man so much. It is easy to find them because they constantly calling their parents, if they see no man around.
How to get close
1. Avoid white, contrasty, and colorful clothes
2. You arrive first to the place, you need to be 100% sure where the bird arrives, by studying them. It is the better situation, but sometimes it is not possible.
3. If you move, move slowly, or pretend to do something else. The critical pointis when you lift up the camera, better to lift up as soon as possible before, helps in hiding as well. (Eyeballs scare birds the most as I see)
4. If necessary use a hide.The best results come from a fixed hide in the best locations, but not everybody has an option to have a fixed hide in the neighborhood. A Hide can be a car or boat as well.
How to make the nicest photos ?
0. Practice with an easy bird (mallard, sparrow, or what is the easiest to photograph) with close distances, take the time and learn from the results what you can do.
1. Good light is very useful
2. Use high shutter speed
If you want action photos like this, high shutter speed is a must. In numbers 1/1000s is my preference for flying birds against sky try 1/2000s (some overexposure is also needed for dark birds if you use matrix metering). If the bird is closer less shutter speed can be ok, if the distance is bigger higher shutter speed is needed.
3. Colorful birds
4. Search for water
The best pictures made in the water. Very hard to beat the light+water combination.
5. Go close, use a hide, or wait
6. Paid hides are also an option, usually with great results
7. Golden hours are the most interesting (sunrise, sunset).
8. Post processing is essential, sometimes more, sometimes less. Crop, adjust curves, sharpen, noise reduction, add contrast depends on the picture.