Photography Tips, Tricks and Accessories for Bird Photographers

After posting the above picture here on my blog earlier this week, I received several emails asking for some bird photography tips. Here goes!

Above: Behavior shots are often more impressive than portraits. To get behavior shots, you need to be patient and lucky. I was lucky to get this shot, but the dove was not that lucky . . . .

If I could recommend one lens for bird photography, it would be the Canon 100-400mm IS. Image stabilization is must for hand-holding long lenses.

Don't be afraid to boost your ISO when you need a fast shutter speed to avoid camera shade and to stop action. What would you rather have? A picture with a bit of noise or a shot that is out of focus, soft and blurry.

Above: These portraits are okay. However, the background is distracting in one shot and boring in the other. Remember: the background can make or break a shot. Maybe the one good thing about both pictures is that I shot at eye level.

Above: Birds-in-flight shots are cool. To stop the action, use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000 sec. In Photoshop, selectively blur part of the wings to add a sense of motion to your still shot.

Above: And speaking of Photoshop, always envision the possibilities that await you in the digital darkroom.

Above: Try to get some light in the bird's eye. Select a good shooting position or use a flash. To extend the range of your flash, use a Better Beamer. I use one on my Canon Speedlite 580EX.


Above: When choosing a tele-extender, go with one that is made by your camera manufacturer. Also, 1.4x tele-extenders are usually sharper than 2x tele-extenders. I use a Canon 1.4X tele-extender on my Canon 100-400mm lens and Canon 70-200mm lens. 


Above: Another cool accessory is the Puffin Bad, designed by my friend Wayne Bennett.

The Puffin Pad was originally designed to fit over the window of your car, via a slot running the length of the underside.  However, the Puffin Pad is so versatile that it can be used on the beach to shoot eye level with shore birds, it can be used on gates, chair backs, tables, side railings of boats and more.

For more information and sales, go to

Above: Go where birds hang out. I took this picture in Bosque del Apache in New Mexico in early December. I used a shutter speed of 1/30th of a second to slightly blur the action.

Juan Pons and I will be leading a photo workshop to Bosque in early December 2011. Shoot me an email if you are interested in joining the photo and Photoshop fun. 

Above: Speaking of hanging out with birds, here is one of my favorite shots from a recent workshops to Alaska on which I was the co-pro leader with photo pro Hal Schmitt. Here is a link to more pictures and tips.

If you want to join Hal/me in 2012 for the Bald Eagle workshop, shoot me an email.

Above: Know everything about your camera - so you can shoot even with one hand. Also master your flash and daylight fill-in flash, so your pictures do not look like harsh flash pictures. The key is learning how to balance the light from the flash to the daylight.

Above: Have fun!

Explore the light,