Are you interested in taking your Bird photography skills to next level? Don’t wait, start reading this and start shooting perfect Bird Close up.
Bird Close Up Photography Techniques
Use Telephoto Lens
Use telephoto lenses with your DSLR camera for photographing Bird close up. Any focal length greater than 400mm is good. You can make use of a prime telephoto lens or a zoom telephoto lens. I recommend using a prime lens since it gives you better details. You can get crisp and sharp details of bird feathers and eyes.
A telephoto lens will help you to get good background blur (provided the bird and the background is at a distance apart)
Spend some Time with Bird
You need to spend some time with the bird so that the bird get used to you. Initially, It would be seeing you as a threat. So, once you give some time. It will get used to you. Thus, you can get closer to the bird for close-ups.
Don’t try to chase the bird if they start flying the moment you point your camera. It is better to leave such a shy bird since it is never going to pose for you. Look for other birds.
Use Single Shooting Mode
Single shooting mode is good for Bird close up. If you use continuous Burst mode for shooting then the bird will fly away after hearing the irritating sound of the continuous shutter firing.
Enable Silent shooting mode if your camera supports. In this way, you can reduce the shutter noise. Even though the name is Silent, some amount of sound would be there.
Shooting in Aperture Priority Mode
If you are a beginner in photography, then use “Aperture Priority Mode” to shoot. You can go for the lowest possible Aperture to get a narrow depth of field. This will help you to get a good background blur.
If you are too close to the bird then you will have to increase the Aperture by 1 or 2 stops so that the body is also in focus. In such situations, you can even try for a creative shot by using low aperture values like f2.8 or f4. You can focus on the eye of the bird in such a situation. So, only eye and face will be in focus, blurring rest of the parts
Shooting in Manual Mode
Here, you have full control over your camera. You can get the desired exposure, depth of field and color balance.
The settings which I have mentioned for the Aperture Priority is mode is also applicable over here.
Always focus on the bird’s eye when photographing bird close-ups. Try to keep your lens face parallel to the head of the bird so that you get the full head in focus. This is very important while shooting close ups.
Sometimes you may have to do Manual focus since you are photographing close-ups. So, switch to Manual Focus by sliding the focus button to “MF” in the camera lens.
Rotate the focusing ring manually to lock the focus. Use Live View and zoom digitally to ensure that you are getting a proper focus lock.
Importance of Background
Background plays an important role in Bird close-ups. The image will look uninteresting if the background is white in color. So, you need to ensure that you have a good background.
Examples of good background include clutter free blurred colors of different shades of green and brown. Even a low key image with a black background is a treat to watch.
The right metering mode gives you the right exposure. Since you are shooting close ups, you can use of Spot metering mode or Evaluative metering mode.
I use Evaluative Metering for most of my shots.
In order to get a blur free image use a tripod. You will also get the benefit of low ISO value. If you are shooting handheld then you may have to go with a high shutter speed to avoid any camera shake. This, in turn, calls for a high ISO value. So, it may result in a slightly noisy image. Tripod solves this issue.
Read this for Selecting the Right Tripod.
Using Tripod may not be a feasible solution over time. So, you may have to shoot handheld. Here the trick is to set the correct Shutter speed to avoid Image Blur.
As a thumb rule use the focal length of the lens to derive the Shutter speed. Suppose you are using a 500mm lens, then choose a Shutter speed of 1/500 or a faster one. Thus, you can get a sharp Image. Always switch on the Image Stabilisation feature in camera lens when you are shooting handheld. This will take care of some amount of shake.
In certain cases, you may not be able to follow this thumb rule, especially in Low light conditions. From my experience, you can deal with this condition in 2 ways. Reduce the shutter speed by a stop if your camera lens supports Image Stabilization / Optical Stabilization.
You can even reduce the exposure by a stop. Here you need to make sure that the image is captured in RAW. You can adjust the image exposure correctly later in post processing.
I recommend shooting in Manual Mode when you are shooting handheld.
Close Up of Ground Birds
When you are shooting close-ups of ground birds like desert birds. You can lay down on the ground and start crawling until you reach the comfortable photographing distance to photograph the bird.
In this way, you can get an eye level shot. The image will look like a painting with a nice blur in the foreground and the background, with the subject in focus.
Here, you can play with your Aperture values to see the change in the feel of the image. Try it Out.
Shooting in RAW
When you are taking close-ups of the bird then you may have some bright portions of feathers along with dark ones. So, you might burn the highlights in the photograph when you do a 0 exposure. Shoot in RAW so that you can recover the highlights during post-processing. It also helps to recover the details in Shadows if have your shadows have gone darker.
Now you have covered all the techniques needed to shoot a perfect close up bird photo. Start using these techniques and be a better Bird photographer.