How to Photograph Flying Birds


We’re at rocky neck State Park on a very cold morning to talk about how to photograph flying birds Chelsea tell them about shutter speed the first thing you want to think about is your shutter speed you can start at about 1 Mm, and I like to either have my settings on shutter priority so I can quickly switch shutter speeds or Manual mode with auto ISO for the same reason because I know we’re talking about shooting flying birds But sometimes they perch and that can make a good shot too, so you’ll start at 1 mm of a second And that’s usually good for any smooth flying bird not doing too much crazy movement once you get into a bird That’s smaller and diving like a Kingfisher You might want to bump it up You might also find that if you have a really high resolution camera it Introduces more camera shake or motion blur so you might have to bump up the shutter speed for that too But a little bit of trial and error goes a long way Zoom in 1 to 1 to see if there’s any kind of shake or blur and then if there is just up your shutter speed a bit a Good feature to know how to use is exposure compensation you always want your subject to be the thing that is exposed Properly, so if you have a very bright white bird Let’s say an Egret you want to put your exposure compensation Down so that you’re not blowing out the highlights and the feathers if your shootings Said that the animal is backlit or the sky is very bright You can also put your exposure compensation up so that your camera isn’t exposing for the bright background instead of your subject you can Experiment by taking pictures first and then exposing it up and down and see what works for you You might want to take a moment while you’re shooting to check your histogram make sure you’re not clipping any highlights on your subject Don’t you decide to poop I Find that the lighting on your subject can make or break your picture I typically try to shoot with my back to the Sun so that my subject is lit up But that doesn’t always work out birds typically take off into the wind And the Sun can be in a different direction So you can’t always have it perfect another thing is overcast days can kind of make your subject look soft But I tend to just go out and shoot anyway. You never know what you’re gonna get if you can choose perfect conditions I love the golden hour, and I like to have to bat my back to the Sun Right now. There’s some really beautiful soft light on this Hawk, and he’s looking right into it And so we’re getting some really nice pictures where his eyes are nice lately when I shoot I tend to shoot raw plus JPEG and when I say that I mean I shoot raw to my faster card and JPEG to my slower card raw is easier to bring out the details when you’re editing and post JPEG is a little more cemented, but there’s still You still have some ability to edit your picture or bring up the shadows bring down the highlights just not as drastically I don’t tend to have buffering camp problems with my camera but I might run into that issue if I’m getting really fast action like a bird diving for a fish if that’s a problem for you If you feel like you’re missing shots because you’re filling your buffer Then you might want to consider switching to JPEG that will allow you to get more shots before your buffer is full But like I said you might not be able to recover those shadows or highlights as easily So you kind of have to decide for yourself? Which works best for you? Are you missing that crucial shot because your buffer is filling you can consider JPEG if it’s just fine like me shoot raw or raw plus JPEG For my eye, so I’m pretty much always in auto ISO And I know you’re gonna get a lot of people saying they like to meter the scene once and then just use manual ISO But I just haven’t found that that works for me. I find that especially with flying birds They might fly from full Sun into the shade and then your exposure will change drastically And I know maybe you’re super smart and super fast and you can do that while the bird is flying but for me I’d rather let the camera do it because it can do it multiple times per second other things cannot change your overall exposure that require me to use auto ISO like the Sun moving behind the cloud can change the exposure by two four stops even on an overcast day where the lighting seems even The Sun will move from patches of really thick clouds to thin clouds And you might see the exposure changed by a full stop even on a clear day over the course of 15 minutes The sun’s usual path will change the exposure by maybe a third of a stop so for me I’ve used an auto exposure all the time Focusing is super important All your settings don’t matter at all if the bird is out of focus so of course for a flying burger and continuous focusing mode for a bird that’s flying against a Cluttered background like they’re flying against the background of the trees or the water I use a single autofocus point and I do my very best to keep it on the bird Now on the Nikon d5 and the nikon d 500 I find the 3d tracking Works well enough that i’ll use it to attract the bird isn’t moves across the frame on the da 50 and pretty much every other camera in the world I end up just using a single fixed Autofocus point it is really hard to keep that focusing point on a bird with a big telephoto lens though especially when it’s handheld it Just takes practice now if the bird is against a clear sky That’s great news because I can just use all the autofocus points and that way as the Verdon meanders through the frame the camera is Gonna track it and keep it in focus I am a back button focused person we have a video on that if you aren’t familiar now some of the latest cameras like the Canon five years are the Canon 5d Mark for the D 500 D 5 D 850 and the Sony 89 and the Sony a7r 3 they Allow you to buttons that you can use for back button focus and I program one of them to do a single Autofocus point and the other one to do all auto focus points that way if I’m tracking a flying bird And it goes from a crowded background Or I want the single autofocus point I’ll hit the AF on button that does Single autofocus point if it moves into the clear sky I can make my life easier by hitting the other autofocus button and tracking all the autofocus points check our Tutorials for detailed information on how to configure back button focus for your camera if this video helped you out you can subscribe down below And also hit that notification bell. That’s pretty crucial so that you know about our next video You can also learn more about wildlife photography by checking out our book stunning digital photography specifically chapter 8 It’s $9.99 for the e-book, and it comes with 14 hours of video. Thanks so much Unbelievable Tony Tony I Heard that the D 850 has 4k video. Did you read about that? Would you recommend people buy that one Tony do your puns make you think I’m low real birch Son of a birch Are you leaving me because of the pun are you leaving because of the puns bye

100 thoughts on “How to Photograph Flying Birds

  1. #1 book with 14+ HOURS of video at Amazon: http://help.tc/s

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  2. Hi, I've always found your videos useful for me…
    I want to ask are there any true lenses for crop sensor cameras?
    If not why they don't make them?
    Like, how can I get a perfect 24mm lens for my crop sensor body?

  3. Why when discussing the Sony A7riii on the cameratv piece you dont mention the 100-400 fe lens for wildlife. I currently use the tamrom 150-600 g2 amount with adaptor which is good but I was thinking about the 100-400.

  4. Thank you for the information that will help a lot as I am starting to do bird photography for a bit of fun. Chelsea you are a riot of laugh; I could not stop laughing at you teasing Tony like a 16 yo college girl would lol.

  5. so eloquently spoken !!, almost as if the photographers were using kit lenses …..NOT !!.

    LET'S GET REAL NOW -, how many " average " photographers can walk around with a $5K + lens with no care in the world ? – oh yes , and don't forget to shoot RAW !! ( JPEG is only for amateurs !! )

  6. I don't normally enjoy out-takes that people put on their videos but in this case I did think they were really funny 😀 thanks for sharing Oh, and the reminder to click the bell icon, I subscribed AGES ago but had not clicked the bell till NOW.

  7. Helpful video for a beginner like me! Now I’m able to figure out how to use my settings in varying light situations. I appreciate your videos because you’re not using so much jargon my head wants to explode. It’s awful to feel like a dork BEFORE even taking a single shot. For me, photography should be fun. Since watching your channel, the # of expletives I’ve uttered has decreased dramatically. They might even let me back into the park! 😉 Thanks!!

  8. Good video. I always use auto ISO for the reasons you pointed out – works for me. I find crows/ravens flying against a bright sky are the most difficult to expose correctly. Their solid black plummage is a real bugger – worse than British/European magpies – themselves not easy due to a mixture of dark blue and white. That D850 + Nikkor 600mm must be a stunning combination: but I'll stick with my poor man's D500 + Nikkor 200 – 500mm and Olympus EM1.2 + 300mm f4 + 1.4TC. I think I would need a hip replacement if I had to carry your systems around for a few hours every day.

  9. Your puns are worse than mine @@ My lens is manual and high ISO performance rather weak so I'm pretty much limited to smooth glides and focus traps but I almost never have to worry about the buffer.

  10. Manual mode with auto ISO is an Auto exposure mode. The problem with Auto exposure is that as you track your target and the tonality of the BG changes, so will your ISO and exposure change. You want to decide on an exposure for your subject (SS, F-stop and ISO), lock that in and use it.

  11. I really like these two people , and their photos and info was fantastic , but a lot people like me , cannot afford the massive and beautiful lenses that they use . I have a Nikon D5300 and use a budget Tamron AR 70-300m telephoto lens with Macro facility , which when held still , will give surprisingly good results . I did try tracking with it , but it couldn't handle it. However , instead of moaning about what you don't have have , do the best with what you've got. I keep the camera on auto all the time , as magical moments and light opportunities , only last a few seconds. Sometimes I do get lucky , and have taken some fairly acceptable sharp shots of birds and other animals using the Tamron , so it can be done . A lot of people buy very expensive cameras in the belief that they'll get fabulous pictures immediately , thinking that their new toy can do it all for them , not so , it's more about the person who's operating the camera , and how observant and creative they are . I've seen some magical pictures shot on just a simple point and shoot camera , so again , it can be done. There's a lot of talented and resourceful amateur photographers out there , Happy Shooting !

  12. I don’t think my Canon T4i can keep up with Raw + JPEG in speed but I see switching to JPEG would be better for action & shadows not much of a problem. Thank you

  13. Wov..what a great pictures are you shooting.. … . Your tutorials helps me a lot , thanks for sharing.

  14. From the very beginning of this video I was thinking Tony was having a rough morning. lol Thanks for the tips, you guys are awesome

  15. Hahaha loved the end of the video 🙂 you guys are the best and always make me smile along with learning.

    Thank you. 🙂

  16. What lens is Chelsea using in this video also I’m looking at a DSLR aps-c/crop factor second hand which is best I’ve been looking at Nikon d500 and the canon 7D mark Ii also the tamron 150-600mm what’s your opinions on these products?

  17. Tony @ 4:12 : "Let's hold a $15,000 lens while balanced precariously on a log right over the water's edge! It'll make a great shot!"
    Me: "Are you trying to give us all heart attacks!?"

  18. No-one ever mentions metering modes in these video tutorials. For birds in flight for example do you use Evaluative, Centre-weighted Average or Spot?

  19. Their is a saying that I read many years ago. I am in my early 60s. For every 1000 photographers, 1 photographer will use a tripod. I am that photographer. Just saying.

  20. I am continually blessed by you two. Your information is always useful and intelligent. And, being a punster, I appreciate Chelsea. And speaking of puns:
    Chelsea, I see that you are always trying so shutter Tony up with your lens of humor. You seem to have a lot of pun with him in your videos. You can focus in on a large variety of subjects, as your keen depth of wit zooms in on virtually any topic while staying clean and not becoming too raw. You know when to stop and when to capture and freeze the moment. Your mind is quick as a flash, and can take the barest idea and develop it into a pun. Your jokes are witty and not just noise and are always well composed if you always properly frame them. If you just work a bit more on the framing, you can become a master punster like me! You certainly seem to have been exposed to other punsters without their having a negative impact. I note that Tony tries to dodge your puns, shuttering up his hearing when you try, but if you persist, you can burn them into his hearing through just the smallest aperture into his attention and make contact. Once you fix onto a subject, try enlarging on it, and then frame your puns around the idea. You can then mount quite the punishing humor attack on Tony that will most clearly display your awesome talents for humor. I can clearly picture your becoming an accomplished master punster! Best to you!! -Jeff M.

  21. I knew my shutter speed needed to be fast, but holy moly that's very fast. I'm afraid my OM-D E-M1 won't be able to deliver good image quality at the ISOs needed for 1/2000 and higher…even with 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens unless I'm in very bright light. sigh

  22. Love watching you both your video tips are great and you have fun while doing them, thats the best part it has to be FUN or no reason to do it.

  23. i have noticed that the nikon sport mode is a fantastic preset.. i know its a preset and not manual but can you change your settings in the blink of an eye to get the unexpected.. i shoot jpeg on wildlife and manual.. but sometimes this sport preset on my D7200 is much quicker.. only thing it does is it looses a little saturation. but we all edit anyway so its not a problem

  24. It’s kinda interesting that on the opening of the video Chelsea recommends shutter speeds starting at 1/2000 sec for larger more predictable birds. Then they show a perfectly sharp image of a duck in flight shot at 1/300 second. That’s a huge difference.

  25. I know this is an older video, but I hope you or somebody can help me with my focus issues on my Canon 5D mark 4. I'm using the canon 70-300 f/4.0 is usm 2. The shutter speed I use is about 1600 to 2000, ai servo. I've tried all focus points, and single focus point. Well yesterday I took over thirty shots of eagle's that were flying about 150 feet in the air, and not one was sharp. Could it be simply because the eagle's were to far away for that lens, or do I need to change some settings to get better results? I am not a fan of back button focus. Pls help.

  26. Without getting into the world of $16k 800mm lenses, is it basically impossible to get small birds like cardinals and finches in flight?

  27. The best camera is the one you have in your hand, as long as it has a $10,000 lens and you're 20 feet from the bird.

  28. Tony are you and Chelsea fighting you started off with a canon and stole the Nikon for a few shots just to let you know canon ex explorer of light dumped all his canon gear cuz he was pissed ide be pissed too but ide never never dump my canon just remember a canon can be bought and sold but your wife is for life lol you got him good Chelsea

  29. Off to a bad start Chelsea, higher resolution cameras DO NOT "introduce" more camera shake or motion blur, they simply make it more noticeable under higher magnifications.

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