Bird Photography

Does anyone have any tips on how to photograph birds? Today while on a hike I saw chickadees, robins, and a hawk, but I couldn’t get very good pictures of them since they blended into the background, plus they kept moving. Since most of them were up in a tree, they were backlit against the sky so that didn’t help either.



Without knowing what kind of camera you’re using, it’s difficult to provide specific advice.

Sorry didn’t think about that. I don’t have anything fancy, just my good old iphone :)

Thanks. Honesly, it’s just not easy to take satisfying bird photos with a smartphone camera, in my experience. They’re really not designed for it, they’re for taking photos of humans, pets, food, and landscapes. Depending on your budget you might consider carrying a bridge camera. See past discussions:

You can always record bird calls (if they’re vocalizing) with the app.


Thanks! I took a couple recordings of bird calls and posted them today. Phone is great for plants, but not birds I guess.

Another option that helps me (occasionally) is using a telescope lens that clips onto your phone camera. It’s a much smaller investment than buying an actual camera and has defenitely allowed me to get some observations that otherwise would have been impossible, but obviously you’re still dependent on a bird sticking around for long enough for you to attach and aim the camera. I got a cheap macro & telelens set and have found it very worthwhile


Thank you! I’ll have to look into that

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Practice practice practice. The iPhone just doesn’t do distance well. Don’t expect much. And you will be surprise how well the avian id people identify from blobby unfocused birds! I have a few, out of the many frames and hundreds of deletions.


I really enjoy bird photography because it is a challenge. Very much like hunting in that you don’t always get a clear shot and very often the animal gets away. It requires patience and stealth. I decided years ago that just seeing a bird with binoculars wasn’t very satisfying, I wanted to capture it in a photo. So I invested in all the equipment including SLR cameras and telephoto lenses. I don’t regret it, it’s made my birding experiences much more enjoyable. However I realize not everyone can afford that. I certainly couldn’t in my younger days.


I like the food part. Not something I do, but yeah I can see that. A pic of the Thanksgiving Day turkey could be considered a bird photo I suppose.

I do use my iPhone for plants and small not-very-mobile animals. But almost never for birds.


Phones will rarely cut it for birds unless you come across one who’s very obliging and willing to get up close and personal. I don’t know what the later Canon Powershot models are like, but I picked up a secondhand Canon Powershot SX530 for the equivalent of about $150. It won’t get you those crisp magazine shots of birds but it’s in an entirely different league to using my phone (and the zoom is something else)

This was a photo I took of a Yellow-throated Longclaw that was about 20 metres away


I realize trying to take photos of birds, especially small birds, takes luck, patience, energy and a good zoom lens. I have noticed that, as my health is declining, I don’t have the energy or patience anymore to really concentrate on getting these birds, so I am more dependent on luck. One thing that I have learned, and seem to do more naturally now, is plan my walks so that I get decent sun angle and I am not shooting into the light. The other thing I have noticed is that birds sense when I am looking at them. I can approach them fairly close if I don’t look toward them, or, especially, point my camera at them, but once I do, they fly for cover. And, somehow, they sense when I am in the process of pressing the button and fly and I get a picture of the limb with no bird. Don’t get discouraged, keep trying. FYI, I use a Panasonic FZ60 bridge camera which has a zoom of 24x and an electronic zoom of 96x.


When birds are overhead and all you can see is a dark shape, I don’t think there’s much you can do to get a good photo regardless of camera type. For flying critters including butterflies and moths, I use the “burst” or “sports” mode on my DSLR and can almost always get 1 or 2 shots in sharp focus. On the other hand, the DSLR is not nearly as handy, especially on short hikes.

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