Backyard Chirper

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Basic tips for taking great backyard bird photographs

So far, we’ve had a lot of great entries into the giveaway. Keep those coming and tell your friends! In honor of our contest that gives away a hummingbird feeder to a random person who submits a picture of a bird they’ve taken in their yard, we thought we’d share with you some tips for capturing the best photograph possible.

A while back, we spoke to our friend Jeremy Medina who writes a great blog called the AZ Birdbrain. In my interview with him, he dispensed some great bird photography tips, so this post will be building off his advice and giving basic tips that will give beginners a grasp on how people take such amazing pictures of birds.

Know your gear

Whether you have a simple point-and-shoot or a high-end DSLR, you won’t be able to capture great photos if you don’t know how to use it. Doing something as simple as reading the instruction manual or getting a free e-book will help you excel from a novice to an intermediate photographer. Take a lot of practice shots with your family or landscapes to experiment with various settings.

Use the best lens you can afford

Even though you don’t need the most advanced technology or most expensive cameras to get good shots, having a good lens with vastly improve your chances of getting a great close-up. Having something above a 200mm lens is ideal for birds, but again not a necessity.

Go to a spot that has a lot of birds and let them come to you

While you might be inclined to head out to a state park to take magnificent pictures of birds, you might be frustrated at the difficulty. Instead, start at places like your backyard bird feeder or a local spot where there are always numerous birds.

Get as close as possible

When you finally see a bird, you want to get as close as possible to get the best image. This can be pretty difficult because most birds are easily frightened and timid around people. That’s why you should let the birds come to you.

Use the sports setting

I probably don’t have to tell you that taking pictures of birds is really difficult because of how quickly they move and how little they actually stay still. If you’re not familiar with the shutter priority (TV) setting of your camera, put it on the sports setting. This will allow you to take good pictures of a moving subject.

Take a lot of pictures

If you have a digital camera, don’t be afraid to take hundreds of photos of one bird because more than half will come out blurry or terrible. The more pictures you take, the more likely you’ll get that one great shot.

Learn your subjects

As anyone who owns a bird feeder knows, every bird has its own personality and behavior, so learning more about the birds you take pictures of will help you capture more intimate shots.

Be patient and have fun!

Most importantly, have fun. It takes time to really learn how to take amazing pictures found in nature magazines, but taking photographs of birds is not only fun, but it also let’s you focus more on the behavior and personality of birds. It’s not going to be easy at first, but remember to stay optimistic and enjoy yourself!

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.


  1. I noticed that yesterday, someone asked how many photos could be posted – but I never saw the answer. How many photos can be posted for the contest?

  2. Hello Laurie, I replied to the question yesterday. You are free to post as many pictures as you want, but right now we’re only giving one entry per person. There may be opportunities for more entries later however. Thanks!

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