Bird-photographers are not satisfied by only clicking birds which are perched. They try to take action shots which do not always give them the desired results as it comes with its share of difficulties. Here we list a few pointers which may enable you achieve better results in future:
- Higher Shutter Speed: In order to freeze such fast action, a good AF tracking system along with a higher shutter speed is recommended. My recommendation would be a shutter speed of atleast 1/1600th of a second which may go up if you are photographing birds like the Peregrine Falcon. In order to achieve higher shutter speeds, you have to raise the ISO.
- Proper Framing: Placing the bird in the right part of the image is crucial. You must try and avoid providing too much negative space on both sides. It is better to have space in front of your subject rather than behind it.
- Focus Modes: Along with keeping a high shutter speed, you have to set the Autofocus mode accordingly. You have to set your camera to “AF-C” mode for Nikon and “Al-Servo” for Canon. And do not forget to switch your release mode from “Single” to “Continuous” or “Burst” mode.
- Background: Try to get a clear and uncluttered background. Sometimes you may get blue sky or you may have to use other options when the birds swoop lower to the ground.
- Right Direction: The Golden Hour provides the perfect soft light which is great to capture flight. Press the shutter only when you can get the catchlight or the bird moves to a part where the lighting is more favorable. Remember to have the Sun at your back when you are trying to capture such swift action. In sunny conditions the lighting would be harsh and would be unfavorable to shoot birds in flight.
- Knowing your subject: Studying your subjects help a lot in understanding the time of flight or when they would take-off. Be ready and see to it that your settings are right.
- Panning: In case the bird is approaching towards you, get your focus locked. Keep firing the shutter while panning your camera in the direction in which the bird is flying and also at the speed at which it is flying.
- Tripod: Using a tripod with a ball head helps to balance your camera and lens. Less force is required to pan the camera both right and left and also up and down.
- Exposure Compensation: When you are photographing birds in flight, very often you will find that the features of the birds will appear dark and would not project much detail. You can change your EV meter to +0.3 or 0.7 depending on the situation.
These are some of the techniques which may qualify you in attaining desired outputs. Practice and experimentation will help in getting the perfect freeze you always wanted to achieve. So, set out in the field where flight movements are move and get to work!!