how to
photograph
wild birds

Camera and equipment for photographing wild birds

Want to take photographs of cute, cool, and beautiful birds?
What kind of equipment will you need?
How should you go about taking the pictures? Here's where you can find pointers on choosing the right camera and tips for beginner photographers.

Image
Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye
Japanese White-eye
Enlarge

After a cold, tough winter, a plum flower provides sweet-smelling syrup to white-eyes. It is quite difficult to photograph white-eyes, because they move around quickly. If you watch carefully, you may see it rest for a moment. Your best chance to capture the moment when the white-eye's head pulls up from a plum flower with using continuous shooting mode.

Image data
  • Aperture value: f/4.5
  • Shutter speed: 1/1250 second
  • ISO speed: ISO400
  • Exposure compensation: 0
  • Focal length: 500mm
  • DSLR Camera (APS-C image format)

Share: “How to photograph wild birds: Lesson 1”

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on twitter
  • Share on Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Send via LINE

What is the best type of camera for photographing birds?

Image

There are three types of digital camera: digital compact cameras, digital mirrorless (or compact-system) cameras, and digital SLR cameras. The best types of camera for photographing birds are digital mirrorless and digital SLR cameras, both of which make use of interchangeable lenses. To learn about lenses, please refer to “How to photograph wild birds: Lesson 2.”

But, you can still take good photographs of faraway birds by using a digital compact camera equipped with a long telephoto lens.

  • Image
    Digital SLR Camera
  • Image
    Digital Mirrorless Camera
  • Image
    Digital Compact Camera

What other equipment will you need?

Image

You'll also need an SD card to store images. Using a tripod and/or a monopod to support the camera when shooting can reduce camera shake. Depending on the season and location, other items may also be helpful. In the summer, sunscreen, bug repellant and a hat are necessary. In the winter, be sure to wear warm clothing. On rainy days, a raincoat and collapsible rain boots are useful. Bring along what you'll need based on the season and location. You may even be able to find fashionable and clolorful varsions of these items.

Where can you find wild birds?

Image

If you approach a wild bird, it will fly away quickly. When starting out, it is better to photograph caged birds at the zoo. Another opportunity is to photograph birds at a park that's familiar to you. Birds you may find there include a duck, an Oriental Turtle Dove, and a Black-back Wagtail. Once you have more experience with photography, visit a spot designated for bird photography, which you can find in a wild bird guidebook. If you watch carefully and listen to their songs, you can find many kinds of wild birds. The types of birds vary by season, and the best times to go are spring and fall, when more types of birds are around.

What is the best shutter speed for wild bird photography?

Image

At first, it is very hard to photograph a wild bird in the center of the frame. It moves around quickly.
Observe the bird carefully and anticipate its next action. It's a good opportunity when the bird is feeding or bathing.

Digital SLR Camera Digital Mirrorless Camera Digital Compact Camera
Portability
Easy settings
Preferred settings
Expandability
Usages Enables the capture of especially beautiful images. Compatible with a wide range of lenses so suitable for advanced-amateur photographers. Allows users to easily capture impressive images. Suitable for casual use. Very portable with easy-to-use settings. Suitable for vacations and travel.

Portability

Digital Mirrorless Camera
Digital Compact Camera

Easy settings

Digital SLR Camera
Digital Mirrorless Camera
Digital Compact Camera

Preferred settings

Digital SLR Camera
Digital Mirrorless Camera

Expandability

Digital SLR Camera
Digital Mirrorless Camera

Usages

Digital SLR Camera
Enables the capture of especially beautiful images. Compatible with a wide range of lenses so suitable for advanced-amateur photographers.
Digital Mirrorless Camera
Allows users to easily capture impressive images. Suitable for casual use.
Digital Compact Camera
Very portable with easy-to-use settings. Suitable for vacations and travel.

one point advice

Types of image sensor

Two common sensor sizes employed in digital SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras are 35mm full-frame image sensors and APS-C-size image sensors. 35mm full-frame image sensors enable the capture of images with a wider angle of view while APS-C-size image sensors enlarge a narrower range of the image to create the same effect as a telephoto lens (approximately 1.6 times the focal length of a camera equipped with a 35mm full-frame image sensor).

Cameras with an APS-C-size image sensor are popular for bird photography. If you use a 35mm full-frame image sensor camera, you would probably benefit from a longer telephoto lens. But take note: EF-S-series lenses are specially designed for APS-C-size image sensor cameras and are not compatible with cameras equipped with a full-frame image sensor.

  • Image
    You can see big differences in the angles of view between a full-frame camera and an APS-C image format camera!
  • Image
    Full-frame cameras can capture images with a wider angle of view and a higher level of resolution.
  • Image
    APS-C image format cameras enlarge a narrow range of the image area.