Canadian Bird Photographer's tips for better bird photography.

The question bird photographers always ask themselves is, Should I remove the leaves, branches etc.? In some photographs it is ok to leave leaves etc. in the photograph. This photograph of the Pileated Woodpecker I left the leaves and branches in the photograph. I darkened the surrounding leaves with the brush tool to make the woodpecker more prominent. In this photograph the leaves etc. were ok in this photograph.

Yesterday, I photographed a Pileated Woodpecker. When I first saw the woodpecker I was in a wrong position to get a good photograph ( Photo 1 below). We can't tell a bird where he or she should pose for us, so, in this case I was photographing into the overcast sky. I moved around (180 degrees) and photographed facing north and placed the woodpecker in the frame with a dark background, ( Photo 2 below) the better photograph. My tip move around,get a lower angle, but eliminate the sky from your photograph, especially when it is contrasty. Note: photos are unedited, as photographed.

  Tip # 1

  Tip # 2

There are many different settings for your camera to photograph birds. Here are the settings the Canadian Bird Photographer recommends and uses:


1. Set camera to manual.


2. Set aperture to F 8 for the best possible sharpness. 


3. Adjust exposure with the shutter and try for the fastest possible shutter speed - birds in flight 1/2000 sec or faster.


4. Set the ISO to Auto - minimum 100 ISO and Maximum 1600 ISO. This can be done in the menu. On the newer DSLRs 3200 is more than acceptable.


5. Use a support, either a monopod or a good tripod.


6. Use the EV  to increase or decrease the exposure. Birds against blue sky use +1.5


7. Set camera to Continuous shooting mode with fastest rate, 7 frames per second etc.


8. In the Nikon menu under the pencil - custom shooting menu -  A1 and A2 the camera should be set to Release and not on focus. In A3 should be off.

  Tip # 3

  Tip # 4

Here are some common sense Tips for Bird photographers or you could say reminders:


1. Keep the sun in your back.


2. Try to get down low when photographing ducks and shorebirds.


3. Use a blind when possible.


4. Include a little of the surroundings - avoid cropping to close.


5. Keep your hand on the lens to avoid lens vibration.


6. Use a tripod when possible.

  Tip # 5

When photographing Ducks and Shorebirds, look for reflections. Reflections can add a lot of interest to a bird photograph as shown below.

  Tip # 6

Here is a tip for photographing ducks in the water. Look for dark areas on the water or wait for the duck to swim into the darker areas. (Photo 1 below). Photo 2 Below shows the same duck in sky reflected area in the water. The bright area is distracting and takes away the emphases of the subject - Red-headed Duck.

  Tip # 7

I have written about the background in bird photos on several occasions. Below are two photos of same Great Grey owl sitting on a fence post. In photo 1 I have an Aspen tree in the background. In photo 2 I moved to my left approximately three to four meters and got a much better unobstructed background. Don't be afraid to move around for better backgrounds.

Photo 1

Photo 2

  Tip # 8

When editing your bird photographs, especially birds with reflections, make sure you also edit the reflection. The top photo of the Wilson's Phalarope I edited the bird but not the reflection, In the bottom photo I edited the reflection to match the edit done on the bird. In the top photo the reflection is way to dark and on the bottom photo the reflection is where it should be. To lighten up the reflection I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom and brushed over the shadow area to lighten the reflection until I thought the reflection looked good.

Click on any photo to see a larger image and the name of the bird.

How many photographs do you need of the same bird?

I have mentioned it in other articles, but I will say it again, A good bird photographer will have at least 20 good photographs of the same bird.

This is important if you are trying to sell your bird photographs. Editors will ask for the most unusual photograph - one you don't have. This is why I photograph all of the common birds whenever I have a chance. In my portfolio I always try for a better photograph and then replace the older photograph with the newer and better photgraph - always improving.

Below is a list of some of the photographs you should strive to add to your prtfolio for every bird. The list by no means complete. This is my list and I am always adding to the list. By keeping a list you keep youself motivated and always looking for a bird photography opportunities. To the right I have a gallery with some examples you might want to add to you bird photography portfolio that illustrate the list below.


1. Side views pointing to the right and left with light in the eye.
2. View from the back.
3. Bird in flight (underbelly and side view).
4. Bird maiting.
5. Bird on nest (keep your distance).
6. Jevinile bird.
7. Both male and female in breeding plumage and without breeding plumage.
8. Bird in winter and smmer.
9. Bird catching its food.
10. Bird eating or feeding.
11. As many different birds in your area as possible.
12. Lucistic birds are always interesting.
13. Backyard birds.
14. Birds in their natrual habitate (American Robin in a tree and not on a post).
15. Bird feeding its young.
16. Bird with food in mouth.
17. Bird catching food.
18. Bird bring material for nest.
19. Dead bird. ( If you see a dead bird).
20. Rear bird.
21. Groups of the same bird.
22. Birds with other birds.
23. Bird landing.
24. Bird lifting off.
25. Bird with different background.
26. Bathing bird.
27. Bird sleeping.
28. Bird silhouetted (Sunrise and Sunset).
29. Rear Bird.


  Tip # 9