Steve Parish bird photography tips

Craig Allen
Published 03 May 2019 
by Steve Parish 
about   
Royal Spoonbill, DSLR, 500 mm, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/1600s;<br/> Royal Spoonbill, DSLR, 500 mm, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/1600s;
Hunting Egret, DSLR, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/1000s<br/> Hunting Egret, DSLR, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/1000s
Musk Lorikeet, DSLR, 340 mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/500s, flash fill<br/> Musk Lorikeet, DSLR, 340 mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/500s, flash fill
Comb-crested Jacana, DSLR, 1000 mm, f/16, ISO 800, 1/800s<br/> Comb-crested Jacana, DSLR, 1000 mm, f/16, ISO 800, 1/800s

Birds are usually wary creatures, quickly responding to even the slightest hint of danger. To photograph them, you need to be constantly in a high state of preparedness. All species, but particularly solitary individuals, will have their ‘comfort zone’.

Whatever the species, you will need to immerse yourself in the bird’s natural environment. Whether that environment is mudflats, mangroves, freshwater paperback swamps, or arid scrubland, it is best to be alone, as still as possible and in a calm state; this, of course, is relevant with all work with wild animals. Apart from owls and some birds of prey, birds are mostly day-active.

Tips

  • A DSLR is the best camera for bird photography, preferably with a motor drive and automatic metering system, although neither is essential.
  • Lenses from 300 to 600 mm are ideal. I use 300 mm and a 70–400 mm zoom for close work with small bush birds in and among shrubs, with an automatic flash for fill-in if necessary. Water and sea birds are better tackled with a 500–600 mm lens, and you may even choose to use a teleconverter.
  • A tripod or monopod will be essential, especially in low light when a slow shutter speed is required.
  • You will need to be patient and calm. Any anxiety or noise will cause your highly sensitive and acutely aware quarry to take flight.
  • As with all subjects, the foreground and background are almost as important as the primary subject. A little computer editing might prove necessary at a later date to remove ugly and intrusive elements.

Steve Parish OAM is an award-winning Australian photographer with more than 57 years’ experience photographing Australian people, places and wildlife. Visit the Steve Parish website to view more of his work, and to see event dates for his 2019 workshops.

Royal Spoonbill, DSLR, 500 mm, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/1600s;<br/> Royal Spoonbill, DSLR, 500 mm, f/8, ISO 1600, 1/1600s;
Hunting Egret, DSLR, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/1000s<br/> Hunting Egret, DSLR, 400 mm, f/5.6, ISO 3200, 1/1000s
Musk Lorikeet, DSLR, 340 mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/500s, flash fill<br/> Musk Lorikeet, DSLR, 340 mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/500s, flash fill
Comb-crested Jacana, DSLR, 1000 mm, f/16, ISO 800, 1/800s<br/> Comb-crested Jacana, DSLR, 1000 mm, f/16, ISO 800, 1/800s