Written by Kirby Flanagan
Bird photography is one of the most exciting and challenging forms of photography. And the most frustrating! My goal in this article is to remove some of the frustration involved and make it a little less challenging. Birder’s photograph birds for a variety of reasons, but all photos can be improved with understanding of some basic principles of photography.
Seeing the Light
Learning to see the light is the most important and perhaps the least intuitive way of improving your photography. Lighting your subject in photography is divided into front lit, side lit and back lit. Front lit means the subject is directly lit by the sun and the light is coming over your shoulder. This is the most pleasing kind of light and the easiest for your camera to deal with. Side lighting can sometimes be more exciting because it brings out the textures in your subject and is fairly easy for your camera to deal with. Back lighting is the most difficult to deal with and should be avoided until you’ve mastered the other two. Here are some examples:
Avoid putting the bird in the center of your frame as this generally makes for a boring photo. Alternatively, leave enough room to crop your photo later so that the bird is looking into the frame and has room to fly into the frame. Give it some breathing room or room to fly.
Try to position yourself so that the bird is clearly seen. Avoid twigs or branches crossing in front of the bird or sticking out of its head. The bird should be the center of attention.
Finally, look for a catchlight in the bird’s eye as seen in the above photo. A catchlight is a reflection of the sun and it makes the bird look more alive.
Putting all of this into practice will take time. Don’t get discouraged! The result will be worth the effort, a bird photo that you’re proud to show off!