Behind the lens – 7 tips that work for me

Great Blue Heron f/8 ISO200 1/800

I’ve said before that I am by no means an expert on wildlife photography. I started taking my photography efforts more seriously in 2014 when I saw my first great blue heron when I was canoeing on the river not far from my house. So I’ve only been at this for 6 short years but I’ve learned a lot in those years and I thought I would share a few tips that work for me…

1: Wildlife photography takes a lot of practice and patience. And when I say a lot, I mean more than imaginable. It’s really easy to get frustrated with it but the longer you stick with it the better you will get.

2: More often than not when I am photographing birds that are not in flight I shoot in AP mode (aperture priority) and I use auto ISO. I usually have the aperture set wide open and when I shoot in AP mode this helps force the camera to set a high shutter speed to keep the auto ISO level as low as possible. This works great on bright sunny days. On gloomy days when there is not a lot of light to work with then I will switch to manual mode and dial in a high shutter speed. Yes I will likely get an image with a lot of noise but the high shutter speed helps to offset any camera shake from holding the heavy lens and I know that I can always deal with the noise in photo during post processing.

Red Tailed Hawk f/6.3 ISO500 1/3200

3: When I am shooting small birds I use auto focus combined with a single focus point set up and when I shoot large birds I use an expanded focus point set up. I always have my camera set up for high speed continuous drive mode. Sure I get a lot of extra shots but that’s okay – there’s plenty of room on the memory cards for lots of images.

4: I always clean my lens and check my battery levels before I head out with my camera and I always carry an extra fully charged battery and extra memory cards.

Common Grackle f/8 ISO400 1/1000

5: I always shoot in RAW mode. I want all the data that the camera can record and I don’t want the camera to make any decisions regarding color or to process the image in any way for me which is what it does when you shoot in .jpg mode.

6: I shoot with long lenses and they tend to exaggerate camera shake so I keep my shutter speed high and as a general rule I set them faster than the focal length of the lens. When I am using my 400mm lens I keep the shutter speed at least 1/400th or faster and with my 600mm I keep it at 1/600 or faster. A fast shutter speed helps to get nice sharp shots.

7: I always try to focus on the eye. A sharp eye draws the viewer into the image and helps them connect with the subject.

Eastern Blue Bird f/6.3 ISO160 1/1000

You can view (and purchase) the images in this post here on my website.

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