Photography Cheat Sheet: Photographing Flocks of Birds

Flocks of birds are among the most popular subjects for photographers of all levels. Today’s photography cheat sheet will help you get the best out of it.

Previously, we shared some tips for photographing birds at the zoo and birds in flight. Now, it’s time for us to share more tips to further improve your bird photography skills with a photography cheat sheet for groups of birds. It’s one of the most popular subjects for both pro and beginner photographers, so we’re sure you’ll find something useful here to achieve better, more creative shots.

In the flow chart below, put together by Digital Camera World, we have a bunch of tips to try whether you want to photograph static or flying flocks of birds. With this photography cheat sheet, you’ll be able to do it with a little technical knowledge and some creative approaches.

First, if you’d like to photograph a flock of flying birds, you can capture them either frozen or blurred. For the former, set your camera to shutter priority mode, ISO 200 or higher, and a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec. For the latter, set to aperture priority mode, ISO 100, and a shutter speed of 1/30 sec to 1/125 sec.

Next, fine-tune the exposure following either the Greenery or Sky portion of the photography cheat sheet on birds in flight. With that settled, set the focus tracking and continuous shooting, then pan as you shoot, following a single bird. Alternately, you can also set to single-shot AF and continuous shooting so you can blur the moving birds and produce a random effect.

You can also use a shallow depth of field by setting to aperture priority mode, ISO 100, and the widest lens aperture, or deep depth of field by setting to aperture priority mode, ISO 200 or up, and aperture of f8 or f11. Then fine-tune the exposure by doing test shots and checking the histogram, using exposure compensation if necessary. If the shutter speed isn’t fast enough to prevent shake, increase the ISO. Lastly, set the focus point for the foreground, middle-ground, or background — wherever you want the focus to be — and shoot with single-shot autofocus and continuous shooting mode.

Need more photography tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out the rest of our photography cheat sheet collection!