How to shoot birds with a super-telephoto lens?

Most of the birds in the sky are very far away from the ground, and the birds near the ground are particularly easily disturbed and can not get close to it, so the long lens must be used when shooting. A 300mm telephoto lens is generally required for birds in the air, and a 600mm telephoto lens is the best choice for close-ups. But high-end telephoto lenses like these are usually expensive. Choose a cost-effective 2x close-up lens. Use a 300mm lens to get a 600mm focal length.

A telephoto lens is a must for shooting birds in flight, capturing the birds’ instant gestures and movements. Let’s take a look at shoot birds with a super-telephoto lens.

1. Lower the camera position to shoot the birds

Swimming birds generally move in the water, the body is in an oblate shape. People generally view birds from a top view, but their faces and eyes cannot be observed from this perspective, which tends to make photographic works mediocre. So the camera should be as low as possible, too close to the level of the angle of shooting.

The landscape with a telephoto lens

The near and far distribution of the birds and the low angle shooting of the moment of taking off with the splash, give the picture full of rhythmic movement. In addition, the extremely low position also makes the bird appear very tall in the picture, which is completely different from the height seen in daily life. This kind of expression method makes the picture have a shocking effect.

2. Different pictures show different birds.

Different kinds of birds have different forms and living habits, which are suitable for different paintings.

When photographing a bird, if its body is round and flat, it is more suitable to use a horizontal frame to show, and it can better show the ripples when it swims.

Horizontal composition is more suitable to show the body of the round and flat subject. The expression of the environment will be more comprehensive. The picture looks more relaxed and carefree. When photographing tall and slender birds such as herons and storks, it is best to highlight their stature in vertical frames.

Using a vertical frame to photograph a slender bird highlights the lines of the bird’s body while allowing the subject to take up a larger proportion of the frame for a more expressive effect.

When photographing birds, horizontal painting is generally chosen to reserve movement space in its movement direction, and it is also convenient to operate the tripod to follow the horizontal movement. After mastering the skills of “shooting birds”, they can be used flexibly.

The landscape with a telephoto lens

Horizontal is a very good choice when photographing birds, which can enhance the continuity of virtual space by leaving space in the direction of flight and improving the success rate of shooting.

3. Use the right composition method

Following from the basic composition rules, according to the characteristics of birds’ living habits and movement rules, briefly introduce several composition methods especially suitable for bird photography.

(1) Diagonal composition

When shooting the birds flying, the photographer can shoot on the side of the birds, so that the birds’ wings form a diagonal composition in the picture, which can better express the dynamic of its flight, so that the picture is very dynamic.

The diagonal composition makes the dynamic performance of the birds flapping wings very full, completely records the elegant flying posture of the birds, but also adds movement to the picture.

The diagonal composition can also be used to shoot static birds. For example, the birds’ posture, body shape, and branches are used to form a diagonal composition in the picture so as to show the beauty of the birds’ body lines and avoid rigid pictures.

The landscape with a telephoto lens

(2) Central composition

The central composition can highlight the bird’s movements so that the bird’s absolute dominant position is highlighted while ignoring the performance of the environment.

The central composition and simple background make the audience’s eyes focus on the birds with distinctive faces at the moment they touch the picture.

(3) Symmetrical composition

In bird photography, symmetrical composition usually has two forms of expression: first, it can be presented by water reflection, and the use of symmetry can add vitality to the picture. The second is to form symmetry through the bird’s own posture, which is difficult to capture and requires careful observation and patience. But the symmetry is also great fun and makes the photos more enjoyable to watch.

(4) Composition of thirds

The composition of thirds can also be used in bird photography. The different positions of the subject will bring a completely different feel to the picture, so you can try more.

Birds photographed using the rule of thirds will be more flexible and flexible.

4. Shoot whole and parts

When photographing birds, different views can be used to express the overall and local characteristics of the birds. That is, the closed and open compositions can be used at the same time.

Enclosed composition means that the picture contains the overall shape of the subject so that the content to be described can be fully expressed within the frame. Enclosed composition is the main form of photographic composition, which can be used to express the overall image of birds.

The landscape with a telephoto lens

Generally, the open composition does not fully express the subject in the picture but emphasizes the connection between the picture and the outside of the picture. It is a special composition method to make the picture feel from unbalanced to balanced and incomplete to complete through unbalanced composition. Using an open composition can capture the local characteristics of the bird for key expressions.

The use of telephoto to capture the morphological characteristics and movements of birds, and the performance of detailed features through partial photography, is also a photographic composition method often used by photographers.

5. Leave space in the direction of movement

When following the birds, it is generally not necessary to fill the frame with the subject. Leaving proper space in the direction of bird movement, on the one hand, can get the composition in accordance with the aesthetic concept, on the other hand, can leave room for a variety of composition methods to choose, improve the success rate of shooting.

6. Choose the right background

The importance of background selection to photographic composition is self-evident. When photographing birds, due to their different living habits, there are several backgrounds to choose from.

(1) Take the blue sky as the background

When photographing birds, the blue sky background is the most convenient and best choice. Sometimes the sky is not as colorful as it should be. Use a polarizer to saturate the color and make the sky look bluer if it lacks layers.

The landscape with a telephoto lens

(2) With water in the background

When shooting birds, the water in the background can highlight the subject and can explain the shooting environment. The ripples created by birds on the water make the picture very dynamic. If there is a strong reflection on the water surface, use a polarizer to eliminate the reflection.

(3) Take the habitat environment as the background

Choosing the place where birds live can fully show their living conditions and highlight their characteristics. The common technique is the background of grass, water, sky, snow, ice, beach, etc, which can not only explain the life scenes of birds but also simplify the background and highlight the subject.

When photographing birds in the forest, a large aperture can be used to blur the background in order to avoid the influence of the messy jungle on the subject’s performance.


Which mode is best for bird photography?

Shutter Priority is the best mode to choose here. Set it anywhere from 1/15th to 1/100th. But you can also choose Bulb Mode to capture the whole range of motions of a bird. When you are shooting at a long shutter speed, you can lower the ISO.

What is a good f stop for a telephoto lens?

To make a telephoto reasonably small enough to handhold, the aperture at the telephoto end is usually f/5.6 or f/6.3 for telephoto zooms of 400mm to 500mm length. The narrow aperture means longer exposure times, resulting in more vibration and movement while the shot is being exposed.

What can you shoot with a telephoto lens?

As a telephoto lens closes the distance between you and whatever you’re photographing, it’s an ideal lens for photographing wildlife. With a telephoto lens, you’ll be able to take shots that look like you were just a few steps away from your subject when really you were some distance away.

Is a zoom lens the same as a telephoto?

Some amateur photographers use the term “telephoto lens” as a synonym for “zoom lens.” In truth, these two lenses are not identical. A telephoto lens has a long reach, traditionally this means a focal length of 60mm or more, but it does not necessarily need to slide through a range of focal lengths.

Share this post