Wild Bird Photography
Capturing a bird's image is challenging, frustrating and fun all at the same time. Digital images have virtually replaced film images as technology has improved and prices have plunged. Bird photographers have discovered that their scope can be turned into a powerful camera lens! With readily-available attachments, you can now mount your comera on your spotting scope and capture some amazing images. This new hobby is called "Digiscoping."
Here is a great web sites that deals with Digiscoping in great detail:
Nature photography, and photographing birds in particular, has its own special challenges. Try to get the bird's eye in focus. Don't put the bird in the exact center of your picture. Show the bird doing something interesting.
If you know the bird and its habits, you may be able to predict what the birds will do next! Then you can be ready with your camera to snap that perfect photo. If you are incredibly lucky, you might some day find yourself documenting a first State Record with your photos!
Go ahead and enter your pictures in photo contests at birding magazines or web sites. Even if you do not win anything, judges may give you valuable tips to improve future pictures.
World class photographers may have camera lenses that cost $6,000 and more. But there are plenty of affordable camera bodies and lenses for the rest of us! To get decent bird images, expect to spend around $1,500-$2,000. A 300mm telephoto lens with a 1.4x extender is about the minimum you should consider. For smaller birds, a 600mm lens is required for good photos.
Most of the pros use Nikon cameras. Canon cameras are also popular. Perhaps 70% of the professional photographers use either Nikon or Canon equipment. Of the remaining 30%, Minolta is probably the next most popular model.
Be sure the camera system you choose has a manual override of automatic functions. A camera which does not let you chose the exposure and focusing point you want isn't very useful. The easier it is to override the automatic functions, the better.
A complete camera system should be available when you are ready to spend the extra money. That means the camera line should have a good choice of lenses and accessories.
It's also a good idea to have things like depth-of-field preview and some form of mirror lock up (or prefire).
A solid tripod is also essential for good bird photography. Bogen (Manfrotto) make very good tripods.
Here are great places to buy bird photos if you need just one or two for a special commercial project or dozens for a nature center exhibit:
VIREO Visual Resources for Ornithology
Bird Stock Photos
Arthur Morris Birds as Art
Brian E. Small
Here are some personal web pages with bird photos. These were obviously taken by very good photographers and birders!
You may be able to take some acceptable photos of the birds at your feeder with your current camera.
But for really good photos, you will need a SLR (single lens reflex) camera and a good telephoto lens. An extender tube will increase the magnification of your lens. Professional nature photographers always try to get the bird's eye in focus. With narrow depth-of-field, that can be very difficult.
You can take better photos if you know your subject. Where will you find the bird? What will it be doing at certain times of the day? Answering these questions allows you to anticipate the bird's actions and set up your camera and tripod for the best shot.
Years ago professionals use slide film and the rest of us use print film. It was more forgiving and easy to develop and to view. ASA 400 film was "fast" and could be used to capture motion. Slower films produced higher quality photos. Today virtually everyone has switched to digital photography.
As you experiment, you will find that fill-flash will greatly improve your photos.
Getting closer to the bird will help too. You may want to experiment with a home-made blind. You car also works well as a blind.
Try bring the birds to you. Water dripping into a small pool in your yard might lure the birds even closer. Or sprinkle seed on the ground just in front of your hiding spot.
Read all you can about bird photography and talk with other photographers.
If you are interested in recording bird sounds as well as photographing them, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Library's Maccauley Library is the place to visit forfield recording techniques.