The Joy of Photographing Birds by Paul Bivins

Eagle 01 paul b.jpg

Hello all, in this short blog I want to cover:

1. Why I like bird photography

2. What it takes to make a good bird photo

3. The techniques that I use

Why I enjoy bird photography:

      I would say the best reason to me would be the challenge.  Here I am out there trying to capture a moment of time with a fast unpredictable subject looking for that WOW moment. One that I can never get close enough to, always fighting light, using up a lot of patience and relying on a lot of luck.

     Trying to capture a bird in flight will challenge everything you have ever thought you knew about operating your camera, and stress every setting you wish you knew.  But when you pull off that one shot were everything you do just clicks into place, and there it is before your eyes on the camera screen:  now to me that is so satisfying.

What I now find myself looking for in taking a bird photo:

Duck 3 paul b.jpg

      I use to be where I would see a bird and spray or, one would say, burst my shots with the camera in hopes to get a shot of some sort.  But now any more, I look at where the light is, is the wind to my back or a side wind letting me know the direction I hope the bird will take off to, and what is around the bird?  I try to get what most people rarely see a bird doing, is it calling?  Is it displaying for its mate? Singing, eating or feeding young, any odd moment and of course flight.

And now to technique:

    These are the ways I shoot birds whether they are technically right or not I really don't know.  It is just what I have studied on many hours of you tube videos and applying myself, adjusting to what I like as I go.

     Most of the time I have been hand holding my camera in fact close to 70% of my shots are done that way I find myself more and more bringing my tripod if the situations allows.

My go to settings or at least my start point settings are as follows:

Blue 2 paul b.jpg

     I use Auto ISO with my max setting at between 3000 and 4000, for I know birds fly into shadows and back in to light so fast.

     For flight I try to keep my shutter in the 1250 to 3000 range I might lower this setting if the bird is sitting still.


Back Focus:

     It took me a long time to get use to this method but now I will never shoot wild life any other way, I set for single point for a sitting bird and continuous with 9 focus points in center on moving birds. And believe me it takes a lot for me to remember to change points back and forth.

Now for F stop:

Eagle 17 paul b.jpg

     Most of the time I'm shooting wide open, however if I bird has landed, I do adjust to bring more into the focus; f 9 or so.

     Anyways, I have most likely bored you enough with this blog, all I can say is get that gear out and get to shooting. Bless all, Paul


Paul Bivins has been a member of the Southwest Missouri Camera Club for 3 years, and is Committee Chair for Scavenger Hunts.  You can find many of Paul’s bird and wildlife photos on our Facebook page.  Leave Paul a message or ask him a question below in the comments.