© Copyright John Maher
If you enjoy photographing birds, you may agree that actually finding enough birds to photograph is the most challenging part. For instance, when I go hiking, I rarely see birds, unless it’s a hawk circling for its next meal. I actually see more birds in my backyard and in my neighborhood, besides the usual pigeons and ravens. Bluejays, sparrows, and robins are frequent visitors. John Maher photographed this mourning dove shown above at his workplace.
Photographing birds is a numbers game: The more birds you see, the more opportunities you will have for great shots. The best way to get photos of birds is right in your own backyard. You just need to keep ’em coming!
Here are four tips on photographing birds from an article on the Digital Photography Now website, with an extra tip thrown in by me at the end.
1. Birds are creatures of habit. Keep the food coming and on schedule and the birds will be waiting there for you to bring them their food. Paul, the author of the article at Digital Photography Now, has four containers in his main feeding station: two for seed, one for nuts, and one for fat balls which all types of birds like. Every morning he puts food in two small trays at the feeding station, and the birds are often waiting for him. Don’t let any of the feeders remain empty.
2. Feed birds throughout the year, including winter. As Paul explains, “Winter feeding is very important because their natural food source is virtually nonexistent. If you maintain regular feeding through winter, they will be firm visitors for the rest of the year and will bring their young with them in spring. This establishes a regular feeding pattern for them.”
3. Bird baths required. Birds need a constant supply of water for drinking and bathing, so having a bird bath in your garden is definitely a good idea to attract birds. The bath also needs to be cleaned weekly.
4. Hide yourself when shooting. Paul sets up his camera in the doorway of a shed which is less than 12 feet away from his feeder station, so it’s easy for him to get his close-ups. The birds are used to him being there, and the shed also allows him to shoot without worrying about the weather. Even when he’s working in the garden, the birds don’t seem to mind at all. They actually may come very close to feed from the freshly dug area. Just work as normal, without any sudden, harsh movements.
5. Practice, practice, practice. Like any photography subject, the more practice you get photographing birds, the better you will be. In the article “Telling the Story” in the Photobird Learning Center, Michael Reichmann explains that professional photographers shoot with little regard to how many photos they’re actually shooting. In an article I wrote last month in the Photobird Daily entitled “Technical Details of a Professional Photo Shoot“, the photographer shot at least 3000 photos a day, 14,000 over a 4-day period. Memory cards and hard drives are inexpensive. Keep on shooting. And be sure to consult Photobird’s Simple Guide to Great Photos.