Bird Photography Tips | 10 “Rules” of Bird Photography
As photographers, we constantly seek creative outlets and ways to maintain our creative muscles. As a wedding and portrait photographer, most of my weddings are canceled this year, so I’ve decided to explore different genres to keep up my creative skills, put my gear to use, and explore new hobbies. One of these genres is bird photography, and like many other eager photographers entering a new genre, the first place I went was Youtube. There I explored dozens of videos for information and found this video by Tim Boyer to be the most useful of them all. In it, he gives his 10 rules/guidelines for bird photography, which I think is a great place to start for any amateur bird photographer.
The Bird Photography Video
Below is a summary of his tips.
Point your shadow at the bird
Shooting with the light ensures even lighting. “If you point your shadow with the bird, the sun is behind you, that means the bird is evenly lit up, there’s no harsh shadows and the bird’s going to look really good.”
Use the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds applies to bird photography as well! “Conventional wisdom here is if you put the horizon on one of the horizontal lines, or if you put the bird on one of the vertical lines, or you put the action or the eye on one of the circle red dots, the action points, where the rule of thirds cross, you’re going to have a nice composition. It’s going to be balanced. It’s going to look okay.”
Focus on the eye
Like other genres of photography, a focus on the eye is critical. “Focus on the eye of the bird, our eyes search for the sharpest part of an image, and so that the birds eye is the sharpest part, then people will immediately connect with the bird. If the eye is fuzzy, people can’t really connect with the bird. They’re not going to be in the bird’s world.”
Get a sparkle in the eye
The similarities between portrait photography and bird photography is interesting! “Get a sparkle in the eye and we want a little highlight in the eye or a sparkle in the eye and that makes the bird look alive.”
Head should be angled slightly towards the camera
Again, here’s another general rule for portrait photography that applies to bird photography as well. “Just a slight movement in the bird’s head, pointed slightly towards the photographer, it’s a more engaging image. The head angle is inviting.”
Level your tripod
“You want to level your tripod for a couple of different reasons. So, the horizon can be level in your pictures, and also, if you’ve got a big, expensive telephoto lens on your tripod, by the tripod being level, it’s going to be more stable and your tripod’s not going to fall over.”
Shoot in the morning light
This is one of the more interesting things that I didn’t think about: Morning Light vs Golden Hour. “The morning golden hour’s better because A) Birds are more active in the morning and then, also, the light is cleaner and you get that warm buttery look to it. If you shoot in the evening golden hour, there’s more pollution in the air and the light’s going to take on red and orange tones, and it just doesn’t look quite as pretty or quite as nice as morning golden hour.”
Get a soft background
“There are three ways to get a soft background. One is, make sure that the distance between the bird and the background is far enough, so the background is soft. Number two is, use a longer telephoto lens so that you can press the background and that blurs out the background. And then three, shoot wide open at an aperture of F4, F5/6, F2/8.”
Get eye-level with the bird
“If you’re eye-level with the bird, you’re in their world, you’re connecting with them. It makes it easier for the viewer to connect with the subject and the images just look a lot more stunning. It’s more personal, it’s more intimate, and that makes a better image.”
Get separation for birds in flight
For this rule, Tim shows an image and talks about how there is room between the three birds, that they are not jammed up against each other, and that there is not one in front of the other.
If you want to learn more bird photography tips and tutorials, consider buying his book or taking one of his workshops. For more information, see timboyerphotography.com.