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Backyard Bird Photography

Backyard bird photography offers photographers a great opportunity to have fun taking photos close to home. Whether it is taking photos of birds in your own backyard or at a local park, backyard bird photography is a fun and challenging way of improving your photography skills.

Red Headed WoodpeckerBirds can be one of the hardest types of wildlife to photograph due to their size and speed. Getting great bird photographs even in your own backyard takes discipline and good technique. The tips and resources on this page will give you a great starting point for capturing some great backyard bird photos.

Backyard Bird Photography like any other type of wildlife photography requires that you practice the "PEQ's" of wildlife photography. That means that for the best pictures you need to: 1--Be Patient, 2--Be Early and 3--Be Quiet. Following these basic rules will help you capture great pictures of birds wherever they are.

Equipment For Backyard Bird Photography

Photographing birds, especially birds in flight requires a camera with fast auto focus and a good telephoto lens. This means the best camera for bird photography will be digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera with at least a 300mm zoom. While you might be able to get by with less zoom if you have your backyard setup for optimal bird viewing, generally speaking the long the zoom the better.

House FinchAnother important desirable characteristic of a good camera and lens for bird photography is a fast telephoto lens. A fast lens is one that is able to shoot at f-stops of f/2.8 or f4.0. This is helpful because it will help you take pictures in lower light settings. A faster lens will also allow you to shoot with smaller depth of field creating a nice blurred background the helps the subject stand out more.

A flash and flash extender can help even when taking pictures of wildlife or birds in the daylight. Using a hot shoe flash with a flash extender like the "Better Beamer" helps by providing fill light to help bring out the detail and properly expose the darker body of the bird as well as adding some "catch light" or reflections to the bird's eyes. This is especially helpful when you have a darker colored bird and a lighter background.

HummingbirdA tripod or some other form of camera stabilization such as a bean bag, etc. comes in very handy when photographing birds. Keeping the camera steady is a key to sharp, in focus photographs. This is especially important when using longer telephoto lenses.

If you have your backyard setup for optimal bird viewing you can use a tripod and pre-focus on the area like your bird feeder and be ready to capture those great backyard bird photos.

In addition to tripods there are other things that can help you steady your camera such as beanbags, etc.

If you cannot afford a DSLR don't give up. With the right technique and the proper backyard bird environment you can still get good pictures with a point and shoot camera or high zoom camera.

If you are looking to buy a camera to use for photographing birds and a DSLR is not in your budget I would recommend one of the Super-Zoom cameras on the market today. They generally offer a little more control over the typical point and shoot camera and have telephoto lenses with the focal length needed to fill the frame with with even the smaller birds.

Camera Settings For Backyard Bird Photography

GoldFinchIn photographing birds you will want a fast shutter speed to "freeze the action" and avoid motion blur.

Also a larger aperture opening (lower f-stop) allows you to help blur the background and avoid backgrounds that distract from the subject.

For these reasons I recommend that you use aperture priority mode for bird photography. Using this mode allows you to control your depth of field while maximizing your shutter speed. Setting your aperture lower such as f/2.8 or f/4.0 will allow your camera to use the fastest possible shutter speed for the available light.

The ISO setting should be as low as possible and then increased during lower light settings such as dusk, etc.

For cameras with creative styles you might try a "vivid" setting to boost the color saturation a little and really bring out the colors of bird's feathers.

Creating The Right Environment For Backyard Bird Photography

HummingbirdYour backyard bird photography experience can be improved by having a bird friendly environment in your yard. Here are few tips for setting up your yard to attract more birds.

  • Learn what species of birds are native or migrate through your area then plan your backyard bird environment with those birds in mind.
  • Birds need shelter, food and water. Using bird nesting houses, bird feeders and bird baths can make help attract birds to your yard and provide great opportunities to photograph them.
  • Landscape your yard with a variety of plants that will provide a "bird friendly" environment. Creating a "bird garden" in your yard will provide a natural habitat and provide a great setting for backyard bird photography.

For more information on creating a "bird friendly" environment and for great tips on attracting wild birds to your own backyard visit: