Suppose you are walking through Canatara Park and suddenly you spot a beautiful warbler on a branch overhead. It’s the middle of the day with a bright, sunny sky. You excitedly snap several photos, but later when you look at the photos on a computer you are disappointed to see that the bird in the photo is darker than you anticipated.

backlit-bird-1-5The problem is that the bird was backlit and this situation is quite common, seeing as birds are often overhead and so is the sun. Even with binoculars, a bird against a bright sky often looks like a silhouette of a bird. Your camera’s sensor that controls exposure has the same problem, it “sees” a small bird and a bright sunny sky and interprets that as “hey, there is plenty of light here so I don’t need to let as much light into the camera to get a properly exposed image”, so it limits the amount of light (typically by reducing shutter speed or decreasing the aperture) thereby giving you the underexposed bird in your photo. (more…)


Here is a simple tip that will help improve your bird photos no matter what type of camera you are using.

Photography is essentially the capture of light. The way light strikes your subject makes a significant difference to the quality of your photo. How can you use this fact to get a better shot? Pay attention to where the sun is when you are shooting. Ideally the sun should be directly behind you when you photograph a bird. I know, this is the reverse from taking photos of people outdoors: if the sun is behind the photographer, every person in your photo is squinting because the sun is shining right into their eyes when they look towards you. But birds don’t typically squint, and by placing yourself with the sun behind you this will achieve the best possible lighting and minimize shadows. How can you judge quickly where the sun is? Look at your shadow, if your shadow is pointing towards the bird, this is ideal.


The sun was over my right shoulder when I took this shot. Note the catch light in the bird’s eye and the vivid plumage and the warm background tones.