Top Tips: How To Photograph Garden Birds

Garden birds are a great photographic subject, whether you’re a DSLR obsessive or a smartphone snapper. With the Kent Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Photography competition in full swing, now is a great time to learn how to take great pictures of our flying friends.

Get the birds into your garden

Placing food down will attract more birds to your garden, which will give you plenty of opportunities to photograph them. If you’re just starting out, it might be easier to take a photo of a still bird rather than one in flight. Set down some food, and they will perch to eat it: this is your chance to snap away!

Find a nice background

Position food in front of a nice backdrop, so the birds are the focal point. Leafy trees or fences that are one block colour make great backgrounds. As your birds will come to the food, you can frame the image in advance as you’ll know where they’ll perch.

Work with natural light

The golden hours are sunrise and sunset, when the sunlight is low and looks best. Shoot then to get the best results with lighting and exposure. Avoid using flash- it startles the animals and overexposes the photo. Natural light will look more realistic and improve your photo’s balance.

Hide!

Keep yourself tucked away if possible- a good spot is either through a window of a house or shed. Staying still and hidden will stop birds from becoming startled, and allow you to get closer to the subject. If you’re using your phone, you might be able to extend your arm to get closer to the bird. Don’t forget to put your phone in silent mode, though!

Find a place where you won’t disturb the birds! Image taken at Milton Creek Country Park’s bird feeding station

Use your zoom

As you’ll be shooting from a distance, you’ll need to use your camera’s zoom functions to get a high-quality closeup shot. If you’re using a digital camera, a good additional lens will improve the distance and quality of your zoom. You can buy small, detachable lenses for smartphone cameras too, which will get you closer to your subject.

Keep the camera stable

If your photos are blurry, consider using a tripod for added stability. It will also help you frame your image as you can keep the camera in one position, and you can play with different angles too. If you are shooting from inside your house, you could rest your camera or phone on a windowsill to give you a better grip and reduce shakiness.

Set your shutter speed

A high shutter speed is the best way to get a photo of a garden bird, as they move a lot, even when they’re perched. If you can, manually change your camera settings to speed this up, as it will give you a better chance at getting a great action shot. This isn’t usually possible on a phone, but taking multiple photos in quick succession will increase your chances of getting a clear shot.

Be patient!

Patience is key when taking pictures of garden birds, so be prepared for a short wait and some trial and error before you get the perfect photograph. Make sure your camera is ready to go so when a bird comes into shot, you’re prepared!

We’re sponsoring Kent Wildlife Trust’s Junior Wildlife Photography competition! If you’re 17 or under, from Kent and interested in wildlife photography, submit your photos by September 4, 2017. For more information, head to http://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/photography-competition

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