Bird Photography


 Bird Photography

Bird photography is a popular way of capturing the beauty of nature through the lens. Bird photographers are able to capture birds in all their glory by taking time to identify them, finding their perfect spot, and waiting for them to fly around. But what has been accomplished when it comes to this photographic art form?

This article will discuss some ways that bird photography has evolved over the years as well as some examples of past bird photographers. In doing so, this article hopes to provide you with inspiration and ideas as you start your own journey into photographing birds.

How has Bird Photography Evolved?

Bird photography started to take off in the late 19th century when ornithologists started to document bird behavior (Baker, 2008). This meant that birders no longer had to just observe birds through binoculars; they could actually see them move around and interact with their surroundings. This helped many people understand the birds that lived in certain places and how they interacted with each other. This led to great advances in photography of birds as well as other animals (Baker, 2008). Another reason why bird photography has evolved is due to the fact that people are often able to identify more species of bird than ever before. Due to technology, we are now able to identify birds by their songs, which has led to greater knowledge of the birds in our backyard (Baker, 2008). This allows us to understand the bird’s behavior better and can help us predict how they will act when we are trying to get a photo. Also, with social media and the internet it is easier than ever before to share photos of birds that were once thought impossible (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014).

Here are some examples of different types of bird photography taken at different times.

John J. Audubon (1785-1851)- Audubon’s Birds of America is a book that was created using special techniques. It was the first published book to use steel plates instead of copper (Macmillan, 2013). This type of printing allowed for more detail in the bird pictures and resulted in a higher quality book. Over 435 different species of bird were included in the book and it took Audubon 12 years to create all the prints (Macmillan, 2013). The quality was so high that photographs based on his work were still being used over 100 years later by ornithologist such as David Sibley and Roger Tory Peterson (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008).

John James Audubon - Audubon was the first person to ever record birds on paper. He was able to capture a wide variety of different bird species and variations (Macmillan, 2013). To get these images he would sometimes use a live specimen of the bird or even draw it from memory. He would then painstakingly paint each feather on the bird so that you could see it in all its detail (Macmillan, 2013). Many people were fascinated by his work and wanted to see more of his work. This helped him make money by selling prints as well as making him famous in many circles (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008).

Edward J. W. Cadbury – Edward was a bird researcher and author who wrote over 56 books on birds. His most popular work was The Birds of the British Isles (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008). He was only able to get his book published in 1992, but it has become a popular work because it is so comprehensive and easy to use (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008).

Roger Tory Peterson – Roger was also an ornithologist who wrote many books about birds as well as radio programs that focused on different species. One of his most popular works is A Field Guide To The Birds, published in 1961 (Macmillan, 2013).

Both Audubon and Peterson had "wings" that could take them to different parts of the world in order to find new species. They were able to record many different species that were unknown before, which allowed people to understand them better and made it easier for them to communicate with some people in other countries (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014).

What Makes a Great Bird Photo?

Bird photography can be an art form in its own right and has become popular for many reasons. However, there are many things that make a good bird photo great. Before you start taking pictures of birds it is important that you know why they are great and how you can capture some of the same qualities in your work. To do this let’s look at some examples of good bird photos.

Use Light and Shadows Correctly

The key to taking good pictures of birds is to take note of the small details that make a great bird photo (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014). These small details include light and shadows. The light used in a photo can make or break it. It is important to use light correctly because if you are not you will end up with photos that make the viewer question how the birds could possibly be shining in the daytime (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008). The same applies for shadows. You want to use shadows to highlight the birds' features. The more you can get the viewer to focus on the details, the better (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014).

Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment

Looking at good photos of birds is a fun and educational experience. However, it is also important not to get stuck in a rut taking pictures of birds all of the time. You must be open to trying different things and doing different things if you want your bird photography to evolve (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014). This means experimenting with camera settings as well as where you are shooting from. It can also include different things you are doing to lure birds to your area (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008).

Take Notice of Backgrounds

It is important when you are taking photos of birds that you take notice of the background. If you have a dull and mundane background it will make your bird seem dull as well (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008). Try to use a plain background with other colors in it. If you don’t have anything like this, try adding some other elements from the environment such as plants or trees. You want to create something interesting that will draw the eye towards the bird (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014).

Take Good Care of the Environment

When you are taking pictures of birds it is important to think about the environment you are shooting in. If the environment is beautiful and clean then it will be easier for you to take good photos (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008). It is also important that you don’t do anything that would make the birds uncomfortable or put them at risk. Make sure to use caution when walking in areas where there may be animals or plants living. There isn’t much point in trying to get great photos if it means you will be putting yourself in danger (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014).


Your overall goal when you are taking photos of birds should be to provide people with something they can enjoy for a lifetime. To do this you should try to amaze them with all the small details you can capture. You want your photos to tell a story and connect with the viewer (Salisbury & Adams-Smith, 2014). You also want your work to stand out among other photographers. To do this use your creativity and explore different perspectives as well as techniques (Cadbury & Harrison, 2008). Experimenting is an important way of coming up with new photos and it will help get you out of any photographic ruts that you might be experiencing.

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