Photography Cheat Sheet: How to Photograph Flying Birds

Want to take better photos of birds in flight? Today’s photography cheat sheet will make sure you nail your shots.

Flying birds may be one of the most popular but challenging subjects to photograph, especially for beginners. But today’s photography cheat sheet tells us it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. All you need are the right camera settings to achieve the results you want. So, if you’ve been frustrated but ready to give it another go, make sure you bring these helpful tips with you!

In the cheat sheet below, by Digital Camera World, we learn about two options for photographing birds in flight: freezing movement or blurring it. Which option to go for depends on the look you want, or if you want to experiment with creative shots.

If you want to freeze the movement of your flying subject, set your camera to aperture priority, and the ISO to 200 or 400. Use the widest aperture of your lens so your aperture will be fast enough to freeze movement. On the contrary, to blur movement, set it to shutter priority mode, ISO 100, and shutter speed between 1/30 sec and 1/125 sec, depending on how blurred you want the bird or the background to be.

Next, take test shots of the background, whether it’s foliage or the sky, and check the histogram. If you’re shooting against foliage in sunlight, the peak should be near the middle. If it’s foliage in the shade or overcast light, the peak should be to the left of the center. If you’re shooting against clear blue skies, the peak should be around the middle of the histogram. If it’s against bright or cloudy skies, the peak should be toward the right side. To correct the histogram, set a stop or two of positive exposure compensation to bring it to the right, or negative exposure compensation to bring it to the left.

Finally, select the center focusing point, set focus tracking, and shoot in continuous mode. Pan the camera to follow your subject, keeping the shutter button half-pressed to maintain the continuous focusing. Shoot in burst mode if necessary. Fast shutter speeds will freeze the background, while slow shutter speeds will blur it out.

Check out the rest of our nifty photography cheat sheets for more useful tips and tricks for your next shoot!