So you’ve finally taken an impressive shot of that bird that you’ve been following for weeks. Congratulations! You can add it to your portfolio and show off your fantastic photography.
And regardless of your motivation for taking these photos—whether it’s about pursuing your passion or just about getting your work out there—there’s a sense of just to hold your mobile device’s camera over the eyepiece of showing people the photos you put a lot of hard work into making.
After all, isn’t it just amazing to share the beauty you witnessed on your birdwatching trips?
Taking bird photos requires some ingenuity. Birds are fast and high-flying creatures, and getting the perfect shot of them in flight requires skill and practice. But it’s also a great thing to get into if you want to get out of your comfort zone.
Whether you want to captivate images of birds in flight or in courtship displays, you’ll need to travel light and bring the right equipment. Take your photography game to the next level by gearing up and learning the tricks of the trade.
Must-Have Equipment for Long-Range Bird Photography
Getting into bird photography means having the right camera and equipment to capture quick flying birds in various lighting conditions and environmental settings. Some equipment you’ll need include:
DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the camera you should use for bird photography. It’s possible to take decent bird photos using your phone, just add a clip-on zoom lens to your phone so you can capture birds in flight. But if you want to achieve professional quality images, using a DSLR or mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses is more ideal.
Make your DSLR or mirrorless camera take impressive, vibrant photos by adding a long-range telephoto lens. Using this lens will also give you greater versatility in capturing birds on the move or tending their young.
As mentioned above, taking pictures with the right lenses is a must for all bird photographers. There are a wide variety of lenses for all skill levels from different brands. If you’re an amateur photographer, make sure you have a wide lens and telephoto lens in your camera equipment arsenal. A wide lens is a must because they have a focal length that is substantially smaller than a standard lens.
This means you’ll have a pan focus image-focused on the entire range. Get a 200 / 300mm lens so you can properly take a photo of birds from a distance, like a large flock flying by. These shots help provide context to your photoset.
A telephoto lens, on the other hand, can aid you in getting a more detailed photo of the bird in sight. This type of long-focus lens allows you to photograph faraway objects or magnify subjects in your frame. They also take clear images, even in low-light conditions. Moreover, they have an effective image stabilization mechanism, too.
But buying these lenses may be too much for a beginner’s wallet. If these are beyond your budget, you can always rent the lenses at a lower price.
Tripod or Monopod
When photographing faraway subjects with a telephoto lens, the photos you take become more prone to camera shakes. Tripods are perfect for these scenarios because they give you a level of stability you won’t get when you’re taking photos using your phone.
By using a tripod, you can free up your hands and use other equipment like binoculars while still keeping your frame in place. A lighter and more portable alternative to the tripod is a monopod. Just like a tripod, a monopod provides a similar level of stability to your camera, so you achieve sharp and clear photos wherever you go.
The difference is that it is smaller and more portable. Most monopods are also easily collapsible so it won’t bulk up your bag easily.
Imagine capturing an incredibly rare bird at a great distance using your camera. This is made possible through digiscoping, a practice making bird photography accessible to thousands of amateur photographers.
Digiscoping turns your camera into a powerful optical device so you can capture your favorite birds. It involves coupling your digicam with an optical telescope so you can record flying creatures at a distance.
Modern spotting scopes enable you to attach your smartphone camera on top of its eyepiece through the use of an adapter. But you also have the option to hold your mobile device’s camera over the eyepiece. If you want to optimize the quality of the photos produced by your digiscope setup, you may also download apps like the Pro Camera app.
Creative Ways to Showcase Your Bird Photos
Curious about how to strengthen your bird portfolio? We’ve shared a few tips on how to showcase your best work.
Submit to Bird Magazines
Getting published in a reputable bird magazine is one of the most satisfying achievements for a birdwatcher. But before you get your work out there, familiarise yourself with the photography style of the magazine you plan to get published.
Different publications have different preferences, so make sure your work falls into the shooting style the publication is looking for. Target local or regional magazines first, since they are more likely to accept and publish photos from amateur photographers.
Educate yourself about the many species of birds out there and take as many impressive photos as you can. Once you’ve built your portfolio and developed a name for yourself in the bird-spotting community, you can try sending your photos to more popular bird magazines.
Contribute to Local Tourism
Birdwatching tourism is a growing niche, and local tourism offices often consult bird experts and photographers regarding the location and physical attributes of different bird species.
Submitting your photos to local tourism spots could serve as a valuable resource that they can use for pamphlets, guidebooks, or websites. And you aren’t just gaining more widespread mainstream exposure—you’re also contributing to local bird tourism.
Reach Out to Bird Photography Communities
There are some bird conservation foundations like the Cornell Lab that encourage bird photographers to share their photos online. Birdshare, Cornell’s primary photo-sharing group, has over 6,000 members and 300,000 images.
By signing up as a Birdshare user, you can share your photos and let Cornell use your photos for your website. This allows you to gain a greater audience for your work while contributing to a good cause.
Upload your Photos to Image-Sharing Sites
One of the easiest and most convenient ways to gain exposure is by joining a photography group on Flickr and uploading your bird photos. You’ll benefit from the feedback, encouragement, and criticism you’ll receive from bird photography enthusiasts and professionals within that community.
Being a part of the community can also help you gain new friends who can accompany you on your next bird-spotting trip. Although these groups are not created for high-res photo uploads, you can also search around for bird photography groups on Facebook.
Simply resize your photo to a lower resolution before uploading. You may also opt to join an online forum that other birdwatchers are a part of so you can collaborate with them the next time you go birdwatching.
Join Bird Photography Contests
Keep your eyes peeled for photography contests you can join. The Smithsonian, for instance, holds a worldwide photo contest every year. It accepts bird photos that fall under its Natural World category.
Even though your entry may not get selected in these contests, participating is still an excellent way to master your photography skills. And with enough luck and practice, you might even be chosen as one of the finalists and get your bird photo published. Winning the contest could also come with a cash prize, too!
Hold your own exhibit
Exhibits don’t always have to be as sophisticated as those art spaces in New York. With the right preparation, you can hold a display in a classroom or office space. Ask for help from family and friends to organize the event.
Maybe one of your friends who’s a bird expert or enthusiast can host the launch. All you need to do is serve refreshments and play some music to give your exhibit a fancy, laid-back vibe.
If you successfully pull off the event, your local paper may even get in touch with you for a possible feature that can advertise your exhibit and promote your work even further. Let everyone appreciate the charm of what different birds can bring. After all, birds are not just animals with wings; they are creatures of exquisite beauty. Showcasing your bird photos is a great way to share the marvel of birdwatching.
By Meliza Summer
Meliza Summer is a traveler pesky to discover new hide-outs and cultures around the world. She is only accompanied by her camera and her favorite fountain pen. Meliza believes that there are many kinds of freedom in this world and you can enjoy one on writing.
I started the road of photography, repairing some film cameras. But soon I've realised that I need some knowledge on how the photos are formed inside the camera. This road is tougher than I thought, but life is always a learning experience, and I am hoping that you could join me in this wonderful world of photography.
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