Why Are My Bird Photos Blurry and not Sharp?

July 28, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Question:
Do you want to stop getting blurry photos of birds? And you want to know the best settings to use?

Answer:
In this post, I will share my favorite settings to get sharp photos.  In a video on Youtube, I outlined 3 methods in just over 3 minutes, and you can check that out on the link above.  But since it covered three methods it may have gone a bit fast.

So in this video, I describe my GOTO method I use for bird photography in more detail with examples.

I am going to describe TWO ways for this one method.  And I say two ways because not all cameras have my favorite feature.  But both ways achieve a similar outcome.  Sometimes I combine these two ways.   It just depends on the light.

If you watched my video, you know that a fast shutter speed will help you get sharper photos and not just for birds.

I prefer aperture priority over shutter priority to control the background, so it is hopefully blurred to give focus on the bird.

The two ways are:
1.    Aperture Priority with a minimum shutter speed or
2.    A fixed high ISO with aperture priority.


Check out this video How to Set a Fast Minimum Shutter Speed on Canon | Best for Bird Photography

The benefit to having a minimum shutter speed is it forces the camera to adjust the ISO more than the shutter speed when you are in aperture priority

This feature is not available on most consumer cameras, so that is why I have my second method of setting a fixed ISO to allow the shutter speed to be faster.  When I use this method, I will start with a minimum of 1600 ISO and move up from there.  Even on the brightest days.  You will begin to introduce some noise, but I would rather have a little noise than a blurry photo.

So, here is how I get some of my bird photos.  To get access to birds I provide a habitat in my backyard with colorful flowers, a variety of feeders, bird houses, and a bird bath.  With these in my yard, I have many different birds visiting to give me plenty of opportunities for photos.

This first photo has a shutter speed of only 1/250 and is handheld.  At this speed, the potential for camera shake, and the bird moving probably resulted in the blur of this bluebird. Blurry BlueBirdBlurry BlueBirdBlurry BlueBird
The second image is of a blue jay in flight but is at 1/1000 of a second.   I cropped it in close so you can see that even at 1/1000 the shutter speed may not be fast enough. BlueJayBlueJayBlueJay
The third image is the same bluebird before taking off and is also at 1/1000 of a second and is very sharp. BlueJayBlueJayBlueJay

The deer like to get in the shots from time to time too.  They asked me to tell you to hit the subscribe and like the Youtube videos and to leave comments.  Thanks.

Baby DeerBaby DeerBaby Deer

Image number 4 is of a morning dove sitting in the seeds.  Don’t know why they do that.  Anyway, this is also at 1/1000 of a second and you can see the sharpness around its eyes.  I like photographing morning doves because of their defined lines and not a lot of extra feathers that can make them look blurry. Morning DoveMorning DoveMorning Dove
The 5th image is of a blue bird on the house where she was building a nest.  I provide mealworms in the bluebird feeder to keep them coming back.
 
Blue BirdBlue BirdBlue Bird
The 6th image is of a robin.  We have many robins around where I live, so they are not as exciting because I see them most every day.  However, check out how sharp this photo is.  I shot it at 1/1600 of a second. RobinRobinRobin

Most of these photos were taken using my Canon R5 with a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000.  In the first photo, I used my Canon 5D Mark IV and not sure what mode I used.  So, the point here, is that people won’t know if you shot in automatic, manual, or some other mode as I describe here.  But if it is not sharp, they will notice that. 

So try out one of these settings and let me know in the comments below how it worked out for you.  Let me know if you used a minimum shutter speed or a fixed aperture or both.


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