Photographing Backyard Birds

An American Goldfinch

Maddie, Bailey, and Hannah’s Mom, Christine, is an avid aviary enthusiast who has created a backyard haven for birds. Christine, who even builds her own birdhouses and has had her property certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, has been photographing birds for approximately five years.

According to Christine, there is no “official” camera equipment required in order to photograph the birds in your own backyard.

“It’s all a matter of personal preference,” Christine advises. “Some people like 35mm and some like digital. I like digital. I started with just a simple Canon camera, and now I have a Canon Powershot. It’s a better camera, and I can get better zoom and clearer pictures.”

In photographing birds, Christine tells us, getting close enough to the bird to snap a good shot is crucial, but how close should you get? And how do you get that close without scaring the birds? Approaching birds, in large part, is trial and error.

“The closer (you can get), the better,” Christine says. “Some birds in my yard let me get very close, and I can get great pictures. My bird area is about 50 feet from my front windows so I can get some great shots from my windows.”

Lighting is an important factor in bird photography. A sunny day is preferable, according to Christine, who warns against using a flash in the early morning hours or later in the evening, which will produce a picture that “just doesn’t look right.”

What should an amateur photographer focus on when trying to capture a bird on film?

“If you have to zoom in a lot,” Christine advises. “I just try to keep the bird in frame. If you are closer, it doesn’t really matter. Unless you are taking a picture of a bird that has really beautiful tail feathers or colorful head feathers, then you would want to focus on those. Take several of the bird from different angles.”

While Christine prefers to shoot still photographs, she admits that there are some action shots that can be beautiful, such as a hummingbird feeding on a flower. For these special shots, Christine recommends a camera with an action setting.

How often do you take pictures of birds? What about the other wildlife in your yard? Any suggestions for photographing other backyard wildlife? I like to take picture of them whenever I can. Just the other day I had the sprinkler on and some birds found a little puddle in my yard from it and were playing and bathing in the water. It was very neat. I have taken pictures of squirrels and a really cool spider but that’s about it. We had a small herd of deer in the woods behind our house, but I did not have a camera with me.

An orb-weaver spider Christine photographed in her yard.


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