Do you want to stop getting blurry photos of birds? And you want to know the best settings to use?
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.|
|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.|
|The third image is the same bluebird before taking off and is also at 1/1000 of a second and is very sharp.|
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.
|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.|
|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.
|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.|
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.
Are you learning different rules in photography? If so, occasionally forget about them and get what you want. You can apply them in post anyway. Rules break creativity. So, let it go from time to time.
I am lucky to live in a community that has a lot of wooded areas for wildlife. We have deer, coyotes, raccoons, mink, squirrels, skunks, and many more. My favorite in our environment is the fox. There are some years that I don't see the fox, but this year I am seeing a family with two kits running around near my house.
Fox dens are often on the edge of woods, on a hillside, in a brush, and close to humans because coyotes will get their young. The coyotes tend to stay clear of humans giving the fox a place of safety.
Here is a photo of what I think is the mother of the two kits we have seen. However, I have not got a photo of the kits (yet).
I was out with my Yorkie when I spotted this fox. She was coming around the neighbor's house when she spotted a squirrel. She tried to sneak up on the squirrel but it had run into a small bushy tree.
She saw me and my Yorkie and approached and watched us from about 50 feet and went back to the treed squirrel. I took my Yorkie into our home and quietly returned with my camera. It was a Canon R5 and had my 150-600mm Sigma lens.
I took a few photos to ensure I had a shot before I attempted to get closer. Once I had a few shots I slowly got to the same spot that I was at with my Yorkie. Since she already had seen me and checked me out, I feel she was comfortable with where I was.
I was able to take these photos without disturbing her while she waited for the squirrel. At one time she climbed into the tree, but could not reach the squirrel
Eventually, she was startled when the neighbor opened their door unaware the fox was close to her front door. With that noise, the fox ran off. But I did get these photos.
If you take a lot of photos and need to cull (remove the "bad") images, do that before importing them to your favorite photo cataloging software. I use FastStone Image Viewer to cull some images prior to importing. This software is good for both RAW and JPG, and is also great for a quick screen show.
One of the keys to sharp bird photos is a fast shutter speed. Keeping with that theory, a fast shutter speed for bird photography is my priority. In most cases, I am striving for 1/1000 or faster. There are cases where a slower shutter speed may work if the bird is perched and 1/1000 or faster is best and will work fine for a perched bird as well
In this photo of a crane taken in Leesburg, Florida I was not quite a 1/1000, but the bird was walking slowly. My settings were 1/800, F2.8 ISO 160.
In my second photo, the robin was jumping around a lot so I was at a faster shutter speed but caught her when she was still on the branch. My settings were:
1/1600, F4.0, and ISO 800
Here are three methods I use to get the desired faster shutter speed for my bird photography.
The easiest mode is Shutter Priority and will work for any camera. The benefit is that you have full control over the shutter speed to ensure you have 1/1000 or faster. However, this comes at the cost of the camera adjusting the Aperture and ISO with no input from you.
To improve using Shutter Priority metho, you can also set the ISO to manual and set it to a value your camera can use without adding excessive noise. For most cameras that is around 1600 or 2000. You can even go higher, but realize more noise will be introduced. Then when adjusting the shutter speed the camera will use the Aperture to compensate for the correct exposure.
This is the hardest mode for bird photography, and I seldom use manual mode. I only use full manual mode when the lighting conditions are not going to change. If I am taking a photo on a specific spot and not going to point my camera in a different area then manual mode might be my choice.
This is one of my go to modes for bird photography. My Canon R5 and Canon 5D Mark IV both have a setting to limit how low the shutter speed can go. So, I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/1000 and either let my ISO be in auto or a high ISO such as 1600. I can then adjust my Aperture to get the effect I want.
Bottom line you can see the common thread in all my options is a fast shutter speed. That is my priority. I use all three modes and in each I strive for 1/1000 or faster.