10 Steps to Perfect Bird Photographs

Chipping Sparrow by Eliot Porter

Chipping Sparrow by Eliot Porter

We need to do a couple of more posts on some basics of photography before this series of How to Take Bird Photographs is complete.  And we need to discuss Eliot Porter, David Utterback and a few others who have done it well.

But we promised in our most recent post that this one would be our 10 step program to good bird photography and a promise is a promise.  We’ll be back with more about apertures, shutter speeds, and composition.  In the meantime, here they are: The Ten Steps to Perfect Bird Photographs.

1.  Ascertain where the birds you want to photograph live.
2.  Go there before sunrise. You will scare them off when you arrive.
3.  While you wait for them to come back, get your camera ready. Small apertures give in-depth focus but require slower shutter speeds.  Use a tripod. If you have a gigantic telephoto lens, point it where you expect the bird.
4.  Remember the rule of news photographers: “F8 and be there.”
5.  Sit down and don’t move; the birds will return after they get used to your imitation of a tree.
6.  Sit still some more. Don’t scratch that itch.
7.  Ask yourself the big questions.
8.  Answer them.  You have plenty of time.
9.  After the birds return, slowly, ever so slowly, raise the camera to your eyes or lower your eyes to the tripod.
10.  Focus and trip the shutter.

Pinon Jay by Eliot Porter

Pinon Jay by Eliot Porter

Start over.  Repeat until the sun goes down.  If it is winter, don’t wait for sunset; repeat until your eyelids freeze or until your fingertips turn black from the frostbite.

With any luck at all, you’ll have one or two photographs worthy of the name.

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One Response to “10 Steps to Perfect Bird Photographs”

  1. planetcity1 Says:

    I love the chipping sparrow shot; it’s terrific how you’ve caught the protective enfolding of the bird’s wings around the babies in the nest.

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