Bird eye: how to take pictures of birds that stand out from the flock | Birds

Taking good photos of wildlife can be difficult, especially birds, as they often move in three dimensions. The right equipment certainly helps, but like most photographs it’s never all about that.

Composition and narration

Whatever equipment you have (and I’ll get to that), the first thing you need to think about is trying to be at eye level. You will find that this is not often an image that will work whether you are shooting up or down.

Second, try to make sure the eye (if it’s visible) is in focus. Many newer cameras are equipped with “animal eye detection autofocus” for this very reason. A blurry eye will usually ruin an otherwise good image no matter what is captured.

Thousands of king penguins come to breed in Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. Photography: Doug Gimesy

Third, try to tell a story. Whether it’s showing where the bird is, what it’s about to do, what it’s doing, or what just happened, the images of large birds (and all the wildlife ) usually tell some kind of story.

When and where

If you want to capture the beautiful fine details of their feathers, the best time is usually when the light is “soft”. This normally means that the weather is cloudy or the birds are in the shade.

And where is the best place? Well, it depends on the story you hope to tell, but the wonderful thing about birds is that they are everywhere. You just have to watch, listen and be a little patient.

Quick guide

How to vote for the bird of the year 2021


Fifty birds. Two weeks. One winner.

The voting system in 2021 has changed. The competition kicks off on Monday September 27 with a selection of 50 native Australian birds. The last five birds are eliminated at the end of each weekday, with everyone being able to vote again in the next round each day. You can again vote for the 45 most popular birds and so on. You have one vote per day, but it doesn’t have to go to the same bird. Eliminations will be suspended over the weekend when the vote count is hidden. Voting will end on Thursday, October 7 for the last 10 birds and voting will end at midnight. All the votes of the first rounds are rejected before the final count. The winning bird will be the one that obtains the most votes in a simple poll of the 10 finalists on Thursday, October 7. The winner is announced on Friday October 8.

Thank you for your opinion.


One of the advantages of cell phones is that most people always wear one, so they can capture spontaneous moments. Frighteningly, as I was writing this article, Sulfur-crested Cockatoos came and sat on the table outside my window, looking inside. With my old mobile, I could easily take a picture. Sure, it’s not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but hey, it tells a story, and it’s good for social media.

As the rain falls at The Otways (Victoria, Australia), an emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) from Wildlife Wonders looks up to the sky, watching.
An emu in the Otways, Victoria, basks in the pouring rain. Photography: Doug Gimesy

But if you want to get into serious bird photography, as a rule of thumb, some type of sports camera is the way to go – one that will focus quickly and take a lot of frames per second. Combine that with a long zoom lens (say 100-400mm) and you’re pretty good to start.

And why a zoom?

Well, you usually don’t know how far away you’ll be from the bird, and unless you have the money to buy and the ability to carry a large number of heavy prime lenses, zooming in will get you there. allows easy and quick dialing in the field and are easy to transport.


Once you’re ready to shoot, your settings will basically depend on what the bird is doing. Regardless of that, I always suggest taking creative control over your shutter speed and aperture and managing your exposure by setting ISO to “auto”. I know this will be heresy for many bird photographers who strive for the least grainy image possible, but in my mind who cares about a little grain if you get the speed of Perfect shutter and depth of field – that’s what helps tell the story.

And what should those shutter and aperture settings be?

Australasian gannets dive into the water to fish in Port Philip Bay, Victoria.
Australasian gannets dive to fish in Port Philip Bay, Victoria. Photography: Doug Gimesy

If the bird is in flight and you want to freeze the moment, I suggest a shutter speed of at least 1 / 1500th of a second, an aperture starting at around 5.6, and your autofocus continuously. . That said, you don’t always have to use a fast shutter speed and freeze the moment. Sometimes by slowing things down you can get some really creative results.

But if the bird is still, it’s just a matter of how still the bird is, how well you can hold your camera, and which f-stop will give the best results to tell this very important story that i mentioned. The focus mode here can be whatever you want; I normally go for the single autofocus.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, there are many different types of cameras, lenses, and settings that will allow you to take great pictures of birds. What you get depends on…. well so many things … but if you are just starting out, these tips should be a good place to start. However, the most important thing is to get out there, play around, see what works (and what doesn’t) with what you have, and always be ready with a camera in hand.

Portrait of a pied currawong (Strepera graculina) in the rain.  Skenes Creek, Victoria, Australia.
A currawong foot in the rain at Skenes Creek, Victoria. Photography: Doug Gimesy

Note: I almost always have my camera with me. This image (above) was taken through the open door as I sat inside on a rainy day writing this article.

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