How to Photograph Birds

Bird photography, especially wild bird photography can be quite challenging. There are many articles on the Internet that cover everything from “bird photography tips” to “the art of bird photography”, but I found that many of them are not detailed enough and do not contain as much information for an amateur bird photographer. After several years of photographing birds, I decided to write this “How to photograph birds” guide and include everything I know about taking good pictures of birds. Since most of the bird photography nowadays is done on digital, the instructions below would work great for digital cameras. If you are still shooting film, just skip the parts that do not apply to film (such as RAW format, etc). Parts of this article also apply to birding or bird watching, so if you like birds and just want to be able to approach and watch them closely, read the Locating Birds and Approaching Birds sections only.

Note: This guide will work for any DSLR camera, but since I am a Nikonian, I will only cover settings for Nikon DSLRs and provide detailed information on Nikon lenses that are best for bird photography. This guide could be used for any type of wildlife photography, but I will be concentrating on fast-moving birds and birds in flight, so if you are taking a picture of a fast-moving animal, feel free to use the same camera settings.

How to photograph birds or
A photographer’s step-by-step guide to bird photography

How to photograph birds - Great Horned Owl

NIKON D300 @ 200mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/5.0

1) First things first – Your camera equipment

Unfortunately, camera gear is the most important part of wild bird photography. Forget about taking pictures of birds with a point and shoot or a DSLR with a wide angle lens, unless you are standing close and photographing ducks and geese that are not afraid of people. If you want to shoot wild birds, prepare yourself to invest in a fast DSLR camera and one or more telephoto lenses.

So, what DSLR is good for fast-action photography? I would recommend a fast camera that can handle at least 1/2000 of a second shutter speed with 6 to 9 fps (frames per second), if you want to get the best results, plus a good autofocus system for quick focus acquisition. Any modern DSLR is capable of shooting at 1/2000 of a second and faster. Fast frames per second and good autofocus mean professional cameras such as the Nikon D300/D700/D3 or Canon 50D/1D/1Ds that are suited best for fast-action and wildlife photography. But if you already have an entry-level DSLR, it doesn’t mean that you cannot capture birds – it just means that you might miss a good shot, just because your camera is not fast enough. The most important thing to keep in mind – the speed of focus acquisition both on camera and on lenses are far more important than DSLR’s frames per second.

Clark's Nutcracker

NIKON D300 @ 370mm, ISO 450, 1/250, f/8.0

Which brings us to the next question: What lenses are good for bird photography?

It is tough to answer this question, because it all depends on how much money you are willing to put into a lens. The best bird photographers in the world will tell you that they cannot live without their 500mm and 600mm lenses, preferably with optical stabilization + teleconverters. The Nikon 500mm f/4 VR currently sells for approximately $8,500 USD, while the 600mm f/4 VR is about $10,300 USD. That’s very pricey and only professionals who make money by selling their images and people with large wallets can buy those lenses. If you are one of those, the best combination for bird photography would be Nikon D3s + 600mm f/4 VR + 1.4/1.7 TC (TeleConverter), which will altogether cost you about $15K and give you the best performance and reach. In addition, you will have to buy a good heavy duty tripod + accessories (batteries, memory cards, etc), which will cost another $2-$3K. The “not-so-bulky” and somewhat hand-holdable Nikon 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4x/1.7x TC or Nikon 200-400mm f/4.0 + 1.4x TC will also yield excellent results and run at about $5-6K USD, but at the cost of the extra reach. On the Canon professional side, the choice is similar to Nikon’s, except for the excellent Canon 800mm f/5.6L IS (Image Stabilization), which is actually lighter than the 600mm f/4.0L IS and gives more reach. On the flip side, Canon also does not have anything similar to the versatile Nikon 200-400mm f/4.0.

Rough-Legged Hawk

NIKON D300 @ 400mm, ISO 200, 1/1600, f/4.0

For everyone else on tight budgets, the choice is limited to shorter focal lengths, plus teleconverters. As of today, the best affordable Nikon lenses for bird photography are either the 300mm f/4.0 AF-S or the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR. I tried both the 300mm f/4.0 AF-S and the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D and ended up getting the 300mm f/4.0 AF-S with a teleconverter. Equipped with a fast AF-S autofocus system, the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 + 1.4x TC is essentially a 420mm f/5.6 lens that produces very sharp and crisp images with a pleasing background blur (bokeh). The only big negative on the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 is lack of VR, which I hope Nikon will add into the future versions of this excellent lens. I have tried the 300mm f/4.0 with a 1.7x teleconverter, but was not impressed with the results. Although autofocus still works, the camera starts to haunt, trying and failing to acquire accurate focus. At 510mm f/7.1, you would need good stabilization and plenty of light to have acceptable images. Just remember that whenever you go beyond f/5.6 on a lens with a teleconverter, Nikon will not guarantee autofocus to work. In fact, if you read the Nikon lens manuals, they state that autofocus does not function beyond f/5.6 period, although as I said earlier, it does work, but not very well. I have also tried the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II + 1.4x/1.7x TC and I can tell you that the 300mm f/4.0 beats this combo hands down in terms of IQ, focal length, sharpness and bokeh. If you are a Canon shooter, the best bird photography lenses are the Canon 300mm f/4.0 IS + 1.4x TC, the Canon 400mm f/5.6L (but no IS) or the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS. Some birders report good results with the Sigma “Bigma” (Sigma 50-500mm f/4.0-6.3), but I have not tried this lens and therefore cannot compare it with others.

Female Mountain Bluebird

NIKON D300 @ 400mm, ISO 280, 1/250, f/5.0

So far, everything that I have mentioned above in terms of focal length was for lenses alone. Once mounted on a DSLR body, the camera sensor type will also impact the field of view, meaning what you actually see in the frame and in the image. Compared to full-frame sensors, crop factor sensors will generally provide a better reach, due to the smaller size of the sensor. If this sounds confusing, see my DX and FX and Equivalent Focal Length and Field of View articles. All Nikon DX sensors have a crop factor of 1.5x, while Canons are 1.6x. So, the actual field of view, which some photographers call “equivalent focal length” (meaning equivalent compared to 35mm film/full-frame) can be approximately calculated by multiplying this crop factor by the total focal length of the lens + teleconverter. For example, the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter (420mm total) mounted on a DX camera would have an equivalent field of view as a 630mm (420mm x 1.5) lens on a full-frame (FX) sensor. Meaning, if you were photographing a bird from say 10 feet away and you could fill your frame with the bird using a Nikon 300mm f/4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on a DX camera, you would need a 630mm lens if you were shooting a 35mm film or FX camera to fill the frame the same way.

Being able to reach birds from a distance without distracting them is a major part of bird photography and this combination of a long telephoto lens with a DX sensor camera definitely provide more opportunities for successful birding. The downside of a crop-factor sensor, however, is the amount of noise on images at high ISO levels – so better reach does not necessarily mean better quality. As I have pointed out in my DX vs FX article, full-frame sensors control noise much better than crop-factor sensors, especially in challenging light. So both have advantages and disadvantages – DX gives you better reach, while FX gives you better quality. I prefer the latter, but I know many bird photographers prefer better reach instead. Keeping a fast shutter speed and retaining low ISO requires lots of light, especially on a lens combination with a maximum aperture of f/5.6. Therefore, in low-light situations, I would recommend to shoot on a tripod at slower shutter speeds rather than cranking up the ISO and having images with less detail. Birding is all about retaining the detail and having sharp images – nobody likes bird pictures that are soft or out of focus. The maximum ISO I typically use on my DX body is 800, while using 1600 and sometimes even 3200 on a full-frame FX body, which produce images with enough detail for my bird photography needs. Noise can be dealt with during post-processing, but lost detail cannot never be recovered.

Harris's Hawk after lunch

What about tripods? If you use heavy 500mm or 600mm lenses, a good tripod system (a tripod and a tripod head) is a must, simply because hand-holding these lenses is not practical. The best tripods are made by a company called “Gitzo” and they manufacture carbon-fiber tripods that are extremely stable and lightweight. The best and the most expensive heavy-duty tripod heads for bird photography are “Gimbal” type heads by Wimberley or Kirk Enterprises with Arca-swiss quick-release systems. They handle heavy lenses very well and provide enough flexibility to shoot birds in flight. If you are looking for something more affordable, check out some of the cheaper Gitzo or Bogen tripods and RRS or Kirk ballheads. I prefer the Arca-swiss quick-release systems because they provide the most stability and are very easy to use. I do not recommend mounting lighter lenses on a tripod for bird photography, unless, you are standing in one spot and shooting a particular area or, as I’ve said above, there is not enough light to shoot hand-held.

2) Camera settings

Maintaining fast shutter speeds, especially for birds in flight and small birds that move very quickly is extremely important – you cannot fix motion blur in post production. In some cases, photographers shoot at slightly slower shutter speeds just to get the bird’s wings slightly blurred, to create a feeling of motion. But in all other cases, you want to freeze the bird completely, to fully freeze the action. To achieve this, I typically set my shutter speed to a minimum of 1/800-1/1600. Most digital SLR cameras have the following camera modes: “Manual“, “Shutter Priority“, “Aperture Priority” and “Program“. The camera mode I use the most for my photography, including birding is “Aperture Priority”. Nikon users are blessed with an Auto-ISO feature that automatically adjusts the ISO based on light conditions. You can set a minimum shutter speed, which can be set to a high number for bird photography and maximum ISO to retain the detail. This feature is very useful and I use it all the time, setting the Auto-ISO to on, maximum ISO to 800 on DX sensor and 1600 on FX sensor and minimum shutter speed to 1/800 of a second. The latest generation of Canon DSLRs also have the Auto-ISO capability, but it is not as versatile as Nikon’s. When shooting in “Aperture Priority” mode, which I use the most, I set the Auto-ISO minimum shutter speed to 1/800 and shoot wide open, i.e. with a maximum aperture. The nice thing about shooting in “Aperture Priority” mode, is that if there is too much light, my shutter speed increases to a bigger number and if the light deteriorates, the camera’s Auto-ISO feature increases the ISO and tries to keep the shutter speed at whatever I set it to. If the highest ISO is already reached and there is still not enough light, it will obviously decrease the shutter speed, while still keeping the exposure consistent. Another reason for using “Aperture Priority”, is a quick ability to change the aperture of the lens to capture a bigger area and control bokeh. For example, if I’m shooting wide open at f/4.0 and standing close to a bird, my depth of field is very shallow and if I focus on the eye of the bird, I might not be able to capture its back or tail in full sharpness. By increasing the lens aperture to a higher value, I can increase the depth of field and capture the bird in full detail. I personally do not find “Shutter Priority” useful for bird photography, because I do not want my camera to set the aperture for me. Because I will be shooting at high shutter speeds, most likely the aperture will be always set to wide open, so I do not see the point of shooting in this mode. Worst of all, if the light conditions change instantly (let’s say the bird moved from an open area to a shadowy branch of a tree), since the camera is set to “Shutter Priority” and therefore will always shoot at the predefined shutter speed, the image might come out underexposed, even with the Auto-ISO turned on.

What about shooting hand-held? If you have a very high shutter speed, shooting hand-held should not be a problem. However, sometimes the lighting conditions are very poor and you cannot use fast shutter speeds. Once your shutter speed drops to a certain threshold, you will start getting blurry images. How do you avoid that? The general formula is to keep the shutter speed to at least the total focal length of the lens. So if you are shooting with a 300mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/300 of a second on a 35mm film/full-frame body. If the 300mm lens is mounted on a crop-factor sensor, the shutter speed should be at least lens focal length multiplied by the crop factor – 1/450 of a second in this case.

Juvenile Common Pheasant

NIKON D300 @ 380mm, ISO 800, 1/250, f/4.0

So here are my Nikon camera settings for bird photography:
Camera mode: Aperture Priority with aperture set to maximum aperture (wide open).
Metering: “Spot Metering” (a single dot).
Auto-focus: High Speed Continuous Mode (set to “C” in front of the camera and to “Ch” on the camera dial), AF Area Mode Selector set to the middle selection (cross-hair).

Shooting Menu:

  • Image Quality: RAW, 12-bit on Nikon D300 and 14-bit on Nikon D700
  • NEF (RAW) recording: Type: Lossless compressed, NEF (RAW) bit depth: 12-bit on D300, 14-bit on D700/D3
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Active D-Lighting: Off
  • Vignette Control: Normal
  • High ISO NR: Normal
  • ISO Sensitivity: 200, ISO sensitivity auto control: On, Maximum sensitivity: 800 (DX) or 1600 (FX), Minimum shutter speed: 1/800

Custom Setting Menu:

  • AF-C priority selection: Release + focus
  • AF-S priority selection: Focus
  • Dynamic AF area: 51 points
  • Focus tracking with lock-on: Short
  • AF activation: Shutter/AF-ON
  • AF point selection: 51 points
  • ISO sensitivity step value: 1/3
  • EV steps for exposure cntrl.: 1/3
  • Exp comp/fine tune: 1/3
  • Beep: Off
  • Viewfinder grid display: On
  • Multi selector center button: Shooting mode: Reset (Select center focus point), Playback mode: Zoom on/off, Medium magnification
  • Multi selector: Off
  • Assign preview button: Preview button press: Spot metering, Preview + command dials: Off
  • No memory card?: Lock

The items I highlighted in red are the ones that are important for me. I always shoot images in RAW, because it is nearly impossible to recover enough detail and colors from JPEG images. Plus, you do not have to worry about color balance, color space and many other things if you shoot in RAW. Some people might argue that shooting RAW is a waste of space and is too complicated, but space is not a problem nowadays as you can buy terabytes of hard drive space (which will last you a very long time) at several hundred dollars. The only issue with shooting RAW is that your camera buffer could quickly fill up, causing your frame rate to drop to only 1-2 frames per second or below. I recommend shooting with fast CompactFlash and SD cards, so that the memory does not become the bottleneck. By the way, some professional cameras like Nikon D3s can be upgraded to have more internal buffer memory. Once upgraded, it would be almost impossible to fill up the buffer, even while shooting RAW.

Pelican Landing

NIKON D300 @ 550mm, ISO 200, 1/1000, f/5.6

3) Locating birds

Now that you have your equipment set up, you need to find birds to photograph. I recommend starting with the most common birds such as finches, sparrows and robins that are used to people and do not mind cooperating with and posing for photographers. Try to develop some skills and techniques by photographing them sitting on benches, eating, sleeping and flying. The best time for photography is either during the early morning or late afternoons and the same thing applies for birds. Early morning is typically the best for bird photography, because birds actively look for food for themselves and their youngsters. So try to go out and shoot some local birds and see what you can do. Review your images after the photo shoot and see what you don’t like about your pictures. Whether you have a sharpness problem or focus issues, the best way to improve your bird photography is to practice more.

Cedar Waxwing

NIKON D300 @ 400mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/4.0

Once you are done with practicing, go for a real photo shoot. Some of the best opportunities for bird photography might be very close to you. Start off by just Googling for “best birding in your_state” or “top birding locations in your_state”. For example, if I Google for “best birding in Colorado”, plenty of different links come up that point to good birding locations, some only several miles away from where I live. Many of the links will also contain detailed information on different bird species, their habitat, migration patterns and a lot more. Another great source of information on birds is to contact your local bird-watching clubs and groups. Some might even have mailing lists for sharing information on rare sightings of birds. Thanks to the big number of bird watchers, there are plenty of other online resources, books, magazines, newspapers and much more, and locating birds is not hard at all. What is hard, is locating rare and exotic birds and photographing them, especially if they are very shy.

If you have a hard time locating birds or want to photograph birds from a close distance, a local zoo or a bird sanctuary might be excellent opportunities for bird close-ups. The National Audubon Society, for example, organizes various bird-watching activities and tours that you can sign up for. There are plenty of other organizations that look for all kinds of volunteers and sometimes even volunteer photographers.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher

NIKON D700 @ 420mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/5.6

4) Approaching birds

What do you do if the bird you are trying to approach gets scared and flies away? There are many different techniques to approach wild birds and I will go through what works for me. Pretty much all birds have superb vision, so it is very likely that the bird will see you first. Also, all birds have their own “comfort zones” and if you try to get any closer, they feel threatened and fly away. Different birds have different tolerance levels for human interaction. Some birds will let people pretty close, especially if they are used to them – those birds are the easiest to photograph. And then there are birds that are extremely shy, that will not let you come anywhere close. Those birds are extremely hard to photograph and you will have to understand the bird behavior to get closer. The key to successful bird photography, is to make the bird feel safe and natural. Some skilled birders can approach birds very closely, sometimes way beyond their comfort zones. How do they do it? Most of them will respond that it is all about patience. Birds feel threatened when you approach them too fast directly. They also feel threatened when you look directly at them, as any other animal would.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

NIKON D700 @ 300mm, ISO 1600, 1/1250, f/5.6

So, here is my technique to approach shy birds:

  1. Do NOT wear clothes with bright colors and try to blend in with the environment as much as possible. Although some photographers prefer wearing camouflage, I personally wear gray or light blue shirts with blue jeans, which work great.
  2. If you are hiking and have been walking fast and all of a sudden you spot a bird that you want to photograph, slow down. Don’t change your walking speed right away – slow down marginally, so that the bird does not detect sudden changes in your behavior.
  3. Do NOT make sudden moves. If you need to raise your camera and take a picture, do it very slowly.
  4. Turn off your cell phone or put it on silent mode. It really sucks when you are close to a bird and your phone starts ringing…
  5. Once you see a bird, do NOT walk straight towards the bird, but rather walk slowly in zigzags. Sometimes walking in zig-zags is not very practical, especially if you have already scared the bird by your presence. The key is to walk slowly (sometimes 1-2 feet per minute or slower), no matter how you are approaching the bird. Also, instead of walking from heel to toe, try the other way around, keeping your weight on your back foot as you walk.
  6. Try not to walk if the bird is looking at you. The best time to approach is when the bird is looking away or is busy doing something.
  7. Keep your noise to a minimum. Noise is hard to control if you are walking through bushes or if you have to step on fall leaves that create a cracking sound, so watch what you are stepping on and do it very slowly to diminish the noise.
  8. See if the bird is already scared – if it is staring at you and stopped doing whatever it was doing before, it means that the bird is on alert and might fly away any time. You can also tell if the bird is scared if the bird is raising its tail and pooping (especially raptors).
  9. Do NOT stare at the bird while approaching it. Animals in general perceive direct eye contact as a threat and they will flee at their first opportunity.
  10. Your camera shutter will most likely scare the bird you are approaching. Therefore, I recommend shooting the bird as you approach from the distance, so that the bird gets used to the shutter clicking noise.
  11. In some cases you might be lucky enough to meet a “YASJ” (young and stupid juvenile). Juvenile birds are typically very curious and will let you approach them very closely. Even if juvenile birds allow you to come very close, still try to keep your distance. If you are able to fill the viewfinder with the bird, you are already too close. Moreover, standing too close to a bird is also problematic, because only a part of the bird will be sharp, due to a shallow depth of field, so you will then have to close down your aperture, which also means losing shutter speed.
Caspian Tern with fish

NIKON D700 @ 420mm, ISO 250, 1/2000, f/5.6

5) Photographing birds

Photographing birds and making beautiful pictures requires good knowledge of your photography equipment. For birds in flight, high shutter speeds are required or the bird will look blurry. I find that a minimum shutter speed of 1/800-1/1600 for birds in flight works great for me, but in some cases slightly lower shutter speeds are also OK, depending on the size of the bird and how fast it is flapping its wings. For example, to freeze this hummingbird in flight, I used a shutter speed of 1/1600 and even then, the wings look slightly blurred, just because the bird flaps wings faster than my shutter speed.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird in flight

NIKON D700 @ 300mm, ISO 800, 1/1600, f/5.0

Bokeh is another key factor to successful bird photography. In most cases, it will be hard to control the bokeh simply because the bird will not let you walk around and plan your shot, but there are a few things you can do to achieve great bokeh. Make sure that there is a good distance between the bird and the objects behind it. The greater the distance, the better the background blur (although it is more complex than that, because the distance between you and the bird and your lens focal length/lens optics all play roles in the quality of bokeh). Some photographers set up clear benches near bird hot spots or at their houses, which works great because they can set up feeders and take clear pictures of birds with a controllable background. You can find similar opportunities with bird feeders at a nearby park. Also, shooting birds in winter (depending on your climate) generally yields better results simply because tree branches are clear and birds cannot hide behind leaves. For shorebirds and other water birds that do not sit on branches, the best way to achieve great bokeh is by laying on the ground/sand when the bird is out of the water.

White breasted Nuthatch

NIKON D300 @ 280mm, ISO 800, 1/250, f/6.3

Western Tenager with a catch

NIKON D300 @ 420mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/6.3

Here is how I recommend to photograph birds:

  1. Shoot at high shutter speeds of 1/800 and above to freeze the bird. For birds in flight and fast-action scenes, use shutter speeds above 1/1600. For birds that are just sitting on benches and not being active, you can use slower shutter speeds of 1/250-1/800 and lower ISO for better image quality (a tripod or a monopod for slower shutter speeds is highly recommended).
  2. Always focus on the nearest (to the viewer) eye of the bird. It is acceptable to have a blurred tail or other parts of the bird, but at least one eye always needs to be in focus and sharp. For birds in flight, focus on the bird’s head or chest – whichever provides better contrast for the camera autofocus system.
  3. Choose your background carefully to achieve a smooth bokeh. Pictures with objects behind the bird are not as pleasant as pictures with a smooth background.
  4. Be patient and wait for the bird to act naturally. Images with a bird sitting on a bench are boring, so try to capture interesting action instead.
  5. Use a blind whenever possible. One of the best blinds is your car and you could get pretty close to a bird without scaring it with your vehicle. Birds are generally not scared of cars and you could drive up fairly closely and take some amazing shots. I have taken many beautiful shots of birds directly from my car, without getting out of it. Hunting blinds also work very well if you find the right spot such as a pond or a feeder.
  6. Having a camera flash extender such as the “Better Beamer” is very helpful for fill flash, especially to photograph birds under tree leaves or in darker areas.
  7. Shoot lots of images. I typically shoot a single image first, then take a look and make sure that the images are sharp and in focus. If everything looks good, I will shoot the bird in bursts of 5-10 frames at a time. Having a fast camera that can handle 5-6 frames per second is very helpful. I then go through hundreds or sometimes even thousand of pictures at home and delete the images that I do not want.
  8. Try to position yourself with your back towards the sun. Sometimes having the sun to the far left or right is OK, but having it behind you will give you the best light.
  9. Shoot either early in the morning or closer to the evening. You will find that early morning or later afternoon provides the best opportunities, because the birds are hungry and are looking for food. I personally prefer to shoot early in the morning – that’s when the birds are most active.
  10. Try not to take pictures of birds in flight during a cloudy day. Photographs of birds with white or gray backgrounds don’t look as good and are hard to deal with during post-processing.

NIKON D700 @ 45mm, ISO 560, 1/250, f/4.0

6) Post-processing and cropping

I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to store and process all of my photographs. Lightroom is a great and easy tool to organize your images and catalog your bird collection, while Photoshop is great for fixing images that cannot be fixed within Lightroom. I probably spend 90-95% of my time in Lightroom and about 5-10% in Photoshop. I shoot everything in RAW (and I recommend you do, too), so I can achieve much better results while manipulating images in Lightroom or Photoshop, since I have a wide spectrum of colors that I can work with and maximum image quality.

Cropping is a big part of bird photography. Unlike people, birds do not sit and pose in front of the camera, so filling the frame with the bird is not always possible. If you photograph a bird from a distance and try to resize the image to a smaller resolution for the web, the bird will look too tiny. You wouldn’t be posting the high resolution image either, because at 10-15 megapixels, the image will not fit into any standard monitor screen. Cropping helps photographers bring birds closer to the viewers and highlight them, rather than distracting the view with unwanted objects. So, how much should you crop? It depends on how much space the bird takes in your photograph. If it is almost filling the frame and you just need to get rid of some unwanted objects, cropping works like a charm; you could also make large prints at that resolution. However, if the bird is only taking up 5-10% of the frame, cropping will work for the web, but not for large print, so keep that in mind.

Good luck and have a fun time photographing birds!

Burrowing Owl

NIKON D300 @ 650mm, ISO 200, 1/400, f/8.0


  1. 1) WebMonster
    August 4, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Wow! That was long but pretty informative. I really like the suggestions on how to photograph birds.

    As for the gears used for bird photography, well, there is not much I can say about it :) I am just an entry level DSLR user and I guess I need time to upgrade my gear to something more professional before I’ll manage to squeeze all till the last drop from my Canon 400D :)

    As for locating birds, I doubt that we can find these many source of information as you can find in US. I hardly believe that there are some birdwatchers in Turkey. This leads me to idea of finding a way to move to US as soon as possible :)

    I would like to see some more in depth post production tips. How much is it acceptable to edit what your camera splits out and etc.

    Overall, I like this tutorial and thanks for your effort in preparing this wonderful how-to. Keep it up :)

  2. 2) Morten Pedersen
    August 4, 2009 at 9:11 am

    This is excellent information!!
    I am just looking for a lens to take pictures of birds, so I will study this well.

    THANKYOU very much.

  3. August 4, 2009 at 10:30 am

    WebMonster: Yeah, I spent like 2 days writing this article, so it’s rather long :)

    As for your gear, the Canon 400D is a wonderful camera and one of my closest friends bought it as his first camera. He loved it and used it for a while until he upgraded to Canon 50D. As I said in my “DSLR Purchase Guide”, the best thing to do is to start with an entry-level camera and then upgrade when you max out. Instead of wasting money on new cameras, it is always much better to invest in quality lenses. By the way, you could also easily shoot birds with your 400D – you just need a longer lens. If you are not ready for bird photography at this time, why not get yourself a 50mm f/1.8 lens (or 50mm f/1.4 if you have some extra $) that will cost you $80-$100 brand new and will work much better than your current kit lens? There is a world of difference between what you have now and the 50mm lens.

    As for birding in Turkey, just Googling “birding in Turkey” brought up many results. Check out this website, for example:

    Turkey is a very diverse country and I bet birding opportunities there are limitless. Everything from shore birds to exotic land birds!

    As for post-production tips, I will start working on a couple of guides very soon that you could benefit from. I personally think that any post-processing and editing of images out of your camera is perfectly fine. Obviously you want to do everything you can in your camera to minimize post-processing, simply because it takes up a lot of time. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with using Photoshop or any other program to process your images.

    • January 12, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      as a very new into a photography and seeking for more detailed information on any other site.this the most clear and informative article i have found.keep up the good work mazim.hope for more of your ideas soon.just wanna ask a question what may you suggest the best lens may i use for the bird photography on my nikon d5200?and all of the settings.cuz,it’s a very new entry level dslr and never found ideas about that cam so far.hope you will help me to find answers.thanks a lot and more power

    • 3.2) Kevin
      November 9, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      Which is better for wildlife photography the cannon 400d or cannon 500d?

  4. August 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Morten Pedersen: You are most welcome! Although I tried to provide information on lenses as much as I could, if you still have any questions about lenses, please let me know.

  5. 5) Lavynnia
    August 4, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I found you via Morten Pedersen:) I liked your information a lot, specially about wearing the right clothes, and how to walk:)

    Thank you very much!

    I think I have to save a lot of money before I invest it in a big lens;)

    Have a good night sleep!

  6. August 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Lavynnia: Thank you for your feedback and I’m glad you liked the article! :)

  7. August 5, 2009 at 10:54 am

    Thank you for this informative post.I reached you from ivars birds.

  8. August 5, 2009 at 10:57 am

    vrajesh: You are welcome!

  9. 9) Keith M.
    December 24, 2009 at 7:44 am

    THank you for the great article; I found it very helpful and thoruoghly enjoyed it. I am actually a professional avian artist/sculptor/carver and have been taking my own photographs for my art reference files for over twenty-five years. Unfortunatly, I only view myself as a “snap shot” photographer and becaome a slave to the “auto mode” settings on all my cameras including my 20D. Since I relied on my images for the anatomical value from the subjects, the images the camera supplied me with were perfect for my needs, but not without the usual poor image results from everyday conditions.

    I just purchased a 50D and carried over my 100-400 IS lens, I now want to begin treating this equipment as it should be. I have become more creative with the camera, and it is something that I wish I had done years ago. The problem with the images that I have always had is lighting. I live in New England, and my favorite bird species is the eider, I don’t think I have photographed any bird more than this species (with the exception of the quetzal in Costa Rica). My problem is trying to photograph a bright white bird on reflective water on a bright sunny day as you know spells disater to a photographer without the knowledge or skills with a camera. Since I rely on the sharp feather details for recreation in my work, the bright sun on the white plumage becomes very washed out, and all the images are wasted (and some days that means several thousand images). I don’t as much of a problem in low light: such as cloudy days, early morning or late afternoon sun. I read your section 2: Camera Settings which is probably the area that I should work on the most. Any other advice you or anyone might have would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you once again for an excellent article.

    • December 24, 2009 at 10:49 pm


      You are welcome, I’m glad you liked the article :)
      The 50D is a wonderful camera and I have many friends that love and enjoy it. Coupled with your 100-400 IS, you have a superb setup for bird photography.

      As far as taking pictures of white birds, I shot many great egrets, white pelicans and other birds. Taking their pictures in bright sunlight is definitely not an easy task. However, there are some things I can recommend:
      1) Set your camera to “spot” metering, so that the camera meters the light based on the brightness of the bird.
      2) Shoot in aperture priority mode.
      3) Set your focus to dynamic tracking, concentrating on the middle of the frame.
      4) Shoot in RAW, so that you can fix overexposed/underexposed areas in post-production.

      I personally prefer taking pictures of birds early in the morning and in late afternoon, so that the sun does not cast hard shadows. I highly recommend that you do the same.

      I hope the above tips will help! Please let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck with your photography and Merry Christmas!

    • 9.2) George
      January 19, 2010 at 3:40 am

      In order to lose the reflection of the sun on the water surface, you could use a circular polarizing filter.

      • January 20, 2010 at 1:52 pm

        George, that’s a great suggestion, thank you! While putting a polarizer on the lens, a couple of things to note though:
        1) The polarizer will decrease the amount of light entering the lens, essentially lowering the shutter speed.
        2) For birds in flight, moving the lens with a polarizer might create unwanted effects, especially when the degree of polarization towards the sun is changed dramatically.

        For the above two reasons, personally, I would not use a polarizer for birding :)

  10. 10) Keith M.
    December 29, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Thank you Nasim,

    I appreciate your taking the time to answer my question! I tried your suggestions with flying gannets against a bright sky, and already have seen a big improvement in the quality of the images.

    I very much appreciate your help!

    Thank you again,


    • December 29, 2009 at 1:24 pm


      You are most welcome! I’m glad that my suggestions are helping :)

      Good luck with your photography and please let me know if you have any other questions!

  11. 11) Reza
    January 16, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Salaam Mr.Nasim =)
    Please allow me to thankyou with all my heart..
    I love animals and am a birder..I started birding with my newly bought D3000+70-300mm Nikkor lenses (I had to be within the budget for a starter)..All I knew about DSLRs were scattered and hard earned knowledge..I suddenly stumbled upon your site tonight and Alhamdulillah! Such a beatiful site you have and what I’ve learned from your articles so nice written – I’ll be ever grateful..You are a gifted person =)
    Thankyou so Much..
    I’ll stick to you haha..
    Please pray for me..

    With Love from Dhaka, Bangladesh

    • January 17, 2010 at 11:36 am

      Assalamu Alaykum Reza,

      Thank you for visiting us and leaving your feedback!

      You have a great setup for birding, the 70-300mm lens is superb. In fact, I will be writing a review of that lens next week :)

      Keep in touch!

  12. 12) Prem
    February 19, 2010 at 9:04 pm


    An excellently written article! All your tips will come in very handy when the weather warms up here. I have already learned so much from your various articles. Looking forward to more soon especially one on raw post-processing technique. I’ve been shooting in jpeg so far and recently tried raw to see what kind of results I could get but was not all that satisfied with the outcome (was able to do a comparison of raw vs jpeg on the same image). I’m sure your knowledge will be of great help to the readers. Thanks as always.

    • February 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm

      Prem, thank you for your feedback!

      I am definitely planning on writing a lot more on post-processing, so you will see some articles on RAW processing techniques very soon.

  13. 13) Massy
    April 14, 2010 at 3:16 am


    When shooting against a bright sky I have to overexpose in order to get all the details in a dark bird, but as a result my sky turns from blue to ugly white. Is there a way to correct this or am I simply shooting in the wrong light? Decreasing the highlights didn’t seem to do enough.

    • April 17, 2010 at 3:11 am

      Massy, if you are taking picture of a very dark bird like turkey vulture and want to see all the details, then there is not much you can do besides shooting in RAW and bringing out the details through fill light in post-processing. If you meter off the bird, your sky will be blown out and if you meter off the sky, your bird will be completely black. Try to shoot early in the morning and in late afternoons and try to find a “sweet middle” so that your sky is not too blue and your bird is not too dark. You can then fix these problems in Lightroom/Photoshop.

      Hope this helps.

  14. 14) steve
    April 22, 2010 at 6:40 am

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. You seem to have condensed everything I have ever read on the subject of bird photography into one easy to read post. A huge help!

    • April 22, 2010 at 5:36 pm

      Steve, you are most welcome! Thank you for your feedback!

  15. 15) Richard Anderson
    April 29, 2010 at 4:05 am

    Excellent article. I find myself shooting more birds in flight with each bird search trip. I guess I find your comments so well advised, because many of your suggestions fall right in line with what I’ve found to work well.

    I particularly agree with your emphasis on the importance of aperture priority. With my D300 I seem to be able to get away with 800-1600 ISO settings with no noise problems. Because I am only a medium big spender I use a Nikkor AF 300mm f4 with extenders or my standby, the non “OS” 50-500mm “Bigma.” The Nikon lens yields very sharp focus, and with a little help from CS4, the Bigma is very nearly as good, as long as there is sufficient light. Anyway, thanks so much for taking the time to share your obviously valueable insights.

    • April 30, 2010 at 10:16 am

      Thank you for your feedback Richard, I really appreciate it! :)

      Yes, the Nikon 300mm f/4 lens is my favorite lens for birding. It is lightweight, has super sharp optics and works extremely well with the Nikon 1.4x TC. I just hope Nikon releases a VR version soon, because that’s the only negative side of the lens. I would love to be able to hand-hold it with slower shutter speeds…

  16. 16) michael sillett
    July 13, 2010 at 2:21 am

    hi nasim
    really good article with lots of detail.
    i have bought a sony a230 with a 75-300 telephoto lens,i want to use it primarily
    for birds with some long range shots of circling raptors,this lens is limited in range for the results i want,
    i am completely confused as to what lens will give me the best results.
    would a converter be a worth while investment?
    or could you suggest a suitable lens?

    • July 17, 2010 at 1:42 am

      Michael, I’m afraid you will not be able to use a teleconverter with that lens, since teleconverters only work with professional-grade lenses.

      Long range shots require long expensive lenses and you would need something like Sigma 150-500mm or Sigma 50-500mm to get closer to birds. Those are probably the cheapest options for your camera available today…

  17. 17) Tim Layton
    July 28, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Nasim, after reading your Raptor article earlier today and subsequently this one I have to tell you that you have inspired me to explore birding. It is something that I have wanted to do for a long time and have done some local research on, but your articles pushed me over the hump. I located my local Audubon Society and ultimately located the top bird watching locations in my area. In turns out that I live in a very bird rich environment so that is a huge plus. I scouted three locations today after reading your article this morning and plan on starting the journey first thing tomorrow morning.

    I will be using the Nikon D3s, 300mm f/2.8 VRII and possibly the TC14 or TC17. I will bring my 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII in case the prime lens doesn’t work out from a focal length perspective. After several outings and learning my way around a little I plan to rent the 200-400mm f/4 VRII and the 500mm f/4 VRII to see if they may work for my needs. My plan would be to leverage them for all my sports work mainly and use for birding on my personal and free time.

    I know you said you were getting the 300mm f/2.8 VRII and I am hoping you plan on doing a lens review. I would also be very interested in your analysis on the 500mm and 200-400mm.

    Thank you and assuming I capture some meaningful photos I will send you a note.



    • July 29, 2010 at 3:10 am

      Tim, I have to warn you – bird photography is addictive, especially if so many birds live in your area :)

      The Nikon D3s + 300mm f/2.8 + TC17 is a killer combo. Posted some image samples today. No need for your 70-200mm, unless you are shooting in an alligator farm in Florida, it is too close.

      Definitely try out bird photography, I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I do. You will find yourself getting up early too often though, so get some sleep now while you can :)

      • 17.1.1) Tim Layton
        July 29, 2010 at 7:13 am

        Nasim, thanks for the reply. I am headed to a Busch Wildlife Reserve this evening hoping to capture some good shots. I went out last night on a test run and found out very quickly that my 70-200mm f/2.8 + TC17 just wasn’t going to cut it….not even close. The birds looked like small ants in the frame! I have the 300mm f/2.8 + 17TC mounted for this evening so I am hoping the 510mm focal range will be a little better. Clearly I need more focal length or a softer step to get closer!

        I have two questions for you as a fellow Nikonian.

        1.) I can’t afford the 500mm f/4 VRII right now so I was looking for an alternate way to get some more focal length with my current lenses for birding and sports. The best combo that I have for birding at the moment is the 300mm f/2.8 with the TC17 until I can get my hands on the 20TC III. I was strongly considering getting a DX camera, the D300s as a way to leverage the 1.5 crop sensor. My logic is that it is $1500 compared to $8000 and it can serve two purposes. My concern is image quality with the DX sensor on the D300s vs the FX sensor on the D3s.

        First with my current equipment I could get an effective focal length of 765mm with a 1 1/2 stop loss from f/2.8 using the 17TC putting me at f/4.8 vs 510mm with the same light loss on my FX D3s. What do you think? I have no experience with the D300s or DX sensors. The resolution on the D300s at 4,288×2,848 seems more than adequate for birding and sports and the pixel size of 5.5 microns appears to be best in class for a crop sensor as compared to others (Canon 7D 4.3 microns, etc). From a theoretical perspective it seems logical, but in reality it may be a different story? I would really appreciate your input and insights. Bottom line, if I use the D300s for birding and sports for the purpose of extending my focal length will I be happy as a professional?

        And, secondly, I wouldn’t mind having a second camera body in addition to my D3s so that I could mount a different lens enabling myself to capture shots that I have been otherwise missing. I have been using my 5D Mark II for that purpose currently, but it would be easier to carry one set of lenses if it all works out. My theory is that I have the D3s for all the heavy lifting, difficult lighting environments, super fast frame rate, etc and the D300s would be used mostly for outdoor birding, wildlife, sports, etc where I suspect it should preform very well. Your thoughts?

        Thanks in advance for your time and comments.


        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          July 30, 2010 at 2:23 am

          Tim, yeah, the 70-200mm is only good for close up shots in places like Bosque Del Apache, California & Florida bird refuges, etc. You need to be at least at 400mm+ focal length for serious bird photography.

          1) Don’t buy a DX camera to get more reach. Don’t remember if I have written about it earlier on the blog or not, but you don’t actually get more reach with a DX camera – you just get more cropped resolution, which is not going to look good compared to your D3s images. You will be frustrated with the image quality and will get yourself limited to ISO 400-800, which is not good for early morning/late afternoon shots when the birds are most active. In terms of DX vs FX for reach, think of it this way: if you had a Nikon D3x camera and cropped 12 megapixels out of it from the center, you would get a similar image as the Nikon D300s would produce. The DX “extra reach”, especially in focal length is a myth – all you are getting is a cropped center frame with more resolution. I started out my bird photography with a Nikon D300 and trust me, you do not want to go that route. I’m selling my D300 because it has been gathering dust on my shelf for quite a while now. So yes, while in theory it might sound like a good plan, in real life it is a completely different story.

          2) In terms of a backup body, why don’t you consider the Nikon D700 instead or wait for the updated version of it? Again, since you are shooting FX on the D3s, anything less than D700 might disappoint you. Also, you have to keep in mind the larger field of view on DX, not very good for ultra-wide angle lenses. Another option is to find a used Nikon D3 to be used as a backup. If weight is an issue and you don’t mind the larger field of view, check out D90 instead.

          Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions.

          • Tim Layton
            July 30, 2010 at 6:20 am

            Nasim, excellent advice. Thank you. What you are saying makes a lot of sense. Last night I was playing around in my menu on the D3s and remembered it has different image modes (FX, 1.2 crop, DX and I think a 5×4 option). I ran a couple tests with each mode and realized as you said that it is simply cropping from the center of the sensor giving me less and less resolution with each mode. My problem of not being able to fill the frame up enough to get photos that I can print vs. just go to the web with still exists and short of getting closer to the birds or getting a 500mm f/4 seem to be the only viable options, so I thought.

            I am very fortunate to have a ton of wildlife and nature reserves near me literally packed with hundred of types of birds, but I am not able to get off the walking or hiking paths in many cases limiting my options. With the D3s and 300mm f/2.8 VRII + 1.7TC I am able to capture very sharp and beautiful images, but when I get back to post production in Lightroom and Photoshop I have to crop the original image a great deal to properly present the bird.

            For example, if you go to one of my bird shots from yesterday on my flickr stream at you will see the original image size is 1882 x 1252. As you can see in the photo I am not cropped nearly tight enough on the bird to make this a very interesting composition. This shot really typifies the types of images I think I can expect at 510mm focal length (300mm + 1.7TC).

            According to “pixel math” if I want to see how large of print I can do with an image I need to divide each value by 300 for magazine quality work or I have found 240 is very acceptable for personal quality. The 300 and 240 representing pixel per inch (PPI) values. In the example photo above if I divide 1882 and 1252 by 300 I end up with a print size of 6.27 x 4.17 or effectively a 4×6 photo. My goal is 8×10 and I am way short of it and not to mention the crop to get to this resolution is not nearly enough to really focus on the bird. So, this lead me to the solution that not only won’t cost me any more money but produce professional stunning results. Now I won’t be forced to purchase the 500mm f/4 to produce the quality of bird shots that I want and I can save my back from having to carry that lens around.

            I could in theory try and leverage Photoshop to increase the image size effectively doubling the pixels in the photo, however as you know the interpolation process will magnify imperfections and lead to an undesirable larger print. There are some third party plugin solutions that I use with onOne Software being the best. They have a tool called Genuine Fractals 6 that is simply amazing. I suspect you may already know about this or own it. I actually own the full plugin suite and it is amazing.

            I was so focused on filling up the frame in my view finder that I totally forgot about this tool and its amazing ability to produce magazine quality prints from cropped images. For example you can expect to produce a high quality 14″ print from a tac sharp 12 megapixel photo captured with the D3s (that assumes no cropping). With Genuine Fractals 6 I have printed poster size and even larger prints from my images that are tac sharp.

            So I will go back now and redo all my images from yesterday and crop in as tight as I want on the birds via Genuine Fractals 6. I will send them to my printer and once I receive them back I will send you a note letting you know the final result. On a side not for web-based work at 72 ppi I will redo the photos as well and republish to my portfolio, blog and flickr stream.

            Thanks for listening and your valuable insights and help.


            • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
              August 2, 2010 at 9:44 am

              Tim, sorry for a late response :)

              As far as cropping, it quite is normal to crop a lot with wild birds. Most giant photographs that you see in stores are of captured birds that you can get very close to, or shot from blinds close to ponds, feeders, etc. Wildlife is hard to get close to and often requires a lot of patience, technique and many trials and errors. Also, some birds will let you get closer, while others won’t, even if they are the same species, so you have to keep on trying.

              The Nikon 500/600mm lenses are great glass, but they are heavy as hell. My 200-400mm is hand-holdable, but still heavy. So far, the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 seems to be lighter and easier to handle than the 200-400mm. The longer the lens, the more stabilization it requires, so get prepared to put the lenses on a good tripod system. Now add up all the weight including the tripod and see how far you can walk with those. Again, if you have bird spots that you can drive to and just sit there and watch for action, then a 500/600mm lens with TCs would be great. If you need to get to birds or find them first, then your 300mm would be a lot more practical, just because of the weight.

              And don’t think that just because of the focal length of the lens, you cannot capture good bird shots. Take a look at my bird gallery – most pictures were taken with my 300mm f/4.0 + 1.4x TC, which is 420mm total. Others are taken with the 200-400mm at 400mm or 560mm (again, with 1.4x TC). Are the pictures cropped? Yes, most of them are.

              In terms of increasing image size using Genuine Fractals, which I am aware of and have used in the past, it might work great for increasing the print size from 4×6 to 8×10, but might not look that great larger than that. It is one thing to double image size, and another to triple or quadruple. If you are increasing the image size from 1600 pixels to 3200, Photoshop’s image size function simply doubles the amount of pixels, applying an image sampler filter that increases the smoothness of pixel transitions. Genuine Fractals has a better algorithm than Photoshop and can do a much better job in keeping the transitions smooth and pixels smaller, but it is still not good enough for too much enlargement. Now that you brought it up, I will write an article comparing the image sampler from Photoshop and Genuine Fractals 6 :)

              Let me know how the prints turn out, would be interesting to see the results :)

  18. 18) PAG
    September 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Excellent article, and one that will be printed for re-reading. I would like to politely second the request that somebody made for PDF versions of your “how to” articles.

    Looking at your Waxwing photo brought a question to my mind. I find it very difficult to get good clean shots of yellowish birds, especially with green backgrounds. My Golden-winged Warbler photos came out cleaner than my Blue-winged shots taken less than an hour later, and the Golden-winged was at twice the distance. I assume that the auto-focus has a tougher time with the lower contrast, but is there anything I can do to help overcome that? I’m shooting a D90 with either a 70-300mm or 80-400mm (both VR). Of course, the answer may simply be that I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve only been at this for about a year.

    Also, you might want to check the ID of the tern above. The descriptor calls it a Caspian, but the bird appears to me to be an Elegant Tern. Note that the underwing is clean white, not dusky like Caspian. The bill is pale orange, thin, very pointed, and slightly decurved, not reddish orange, thick, and blocky as in Caspian. The shaggy black plumage laying on the neck also indicates that the bird is more crested than Caspian. I assume the photo was taken in southern California or someplace south of that on the Pacific Coast. If not, I’d love to know where it was shot since that leaves me having to rethink the ID, though I’m still sure it’s not a Caspian.

    • December 7, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      PAG, not sure how I missed your comment, but I apologize for not being able to respond right away!

      The PDF version of some articles will be coming soon, announcement will be made at the end of the year :)

      AF can get certainly tricky with low-contrast situations. Depending on your subject distance, I would focus on the tree branch right underneath the bird to get accurate focus. I use this trick all the time and it works great!

      As far as the Caspian Tern, a fellow bird photographer told me when I was taking the picture…but he could have been wrong :) It might as well be an Elegant Tern! And yes, the image was taken in southern California, Bolsa Chica to be exact…

  19. 19) Pradipta
    December 2, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Dear Nasim, the more I read your article …the more I fall in love with your excellent deliberation of photography. Almost all of your script shows the art of elaborating details of subject very simply. Even for those who are not a serious photographer.

    I am interested for birds’ photography…my question is should I go for Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR. or 300mm f/4.0 AF-S. As somebody told me buying 300 mm will not help me if the subject is close. What is the minimum distance or focal point for these lenses? Also pls do let me know why should not I go for all purpose wildlife photography lenses like 80-400mm.

    My next question is should I go for for Nikon D700 or I should wait for few more days for new entry level Nikon FX DSLR.

    Also pl. let me know my budget is very limited. Pls advise.

    For your kind info I have Nikon D5000+ 18-55mm + 55-200mm presently with me.
    I have old film camera Nikon F-80+ 50mm1.4 + 70-300 1:4-5.6G type. Should I discard all these.
    Best Regards,
    New Delhi..India

    • December 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm

      Pradipta, go for the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S instead of the 80-400mm for bird photography. The main reason is AF performance – the 300mm is much faster than the 80-400mm.

      In terms of camera body, the new Nikon D7000 seems to be a good choice for bird photography.

      • 19.1.1) Pradipta
        December 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm

        thank u so much for your reply….

  20. 20) jon lavoie
    December 5, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Excellent article on birding.
    Also good information on settings for the d300s for photographing birds

    Have you tried the the nikon 70-200mm vr11 with the afs teleconverter tc-20e111??

    I have the 70-300mm and I find that it does not compare with the 20-200mm and the tc-203111.

    • December 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm

      Thank you Jon!

      Absolutely! The Nikon 70-200mm VR II works wonderfully with the new TC-20E III. The only thing is, you would have to stop down a little to get sharp results, since images wide open (f/5.6) are not very sharp. Stop the lens down to f/8.0 and the sharpness improves greatly.

  21. 21) Hussain Nalwala
    December 17, 2010 at 9:07 am

    Dear Bro Nasim,

    I use a Canon Rebel XSi and I have a 55-250mm lens. Can I use a Canon 1.4x EF Extender II Teleconvertor to take birds pictures ?? How would be the reuslts? Can I get fine sharpness ? Pleaser advice…Thanks

    • January 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Hussain, no, unfortunately, your 55-250mm lens cannot take teleconverters. Only the expensive pro-level lenses can be used with teleconverters…

  22. 22) Dr Amar-Singh HSS
    January 2, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Dear Nasim

    Enjoyed your site, excellent write up.
    I have been watching bird for more than 35 years and recently (past 4 years) taken up photography of birds to enable better recording of data & for the sheer pleasure/beauty birds give. I want to respond to your comment “Some birders report good results with the Sigma “Bigma” (Sigma 50-500mm f/4.0-6.3), but I have not tried this lens and therefore cannot compare it with others.” As well as make some comments about “cheaper” Nikon bodies as a means to do handheld work & for those with budget concerns.
    I use the Nikon D90 body, initially with a Nikon AF 70-300mm VR lens but the reach was insufficient. Good lens though & not too heavy. I recognized that I had to reach 500mm for decent pictures & the 200-500 or 150-500mm allows for range & tracking. Birds can get quite close some times or you want a wider view to document behavior.
    I then used the Tamron 200-500mm initially for 3 years (picked up 2nd hand) and when it was getting old & “soft” I got the new Sigma 150-500mm OS/VR recently (reasonable price, but a bit heavier).
    I always ask myself “what am I trying to achieve and why”. If you want sharp/clear images – buy the best your pocket will allow with good tripod as you have clearly outlined. But for me these make the equipment heavy and hard to use hand held (my preferred choice to watch birds). For me I am not worried if do not get pictures – birds first, pictures last. My primary objective is to try and make “friends’. I want to watch behaviour. A static shot has limited value – there will always be someone else who can take a better shot that me. So I avoid tripod or monopods as birds dislike them. Of course handheld at 500 mm continue to remain a challenge and I lie down, lean against trees, etc to reduce shake. Hence I have stayed with a Nikon D90 with Sigma 150-500mm VR. I salivate at some of the beautiful pictures produced by the Nikon 600mm lenses (& better Nikon cameras) and also the digiscopers but am pleasantly addicted to meeting nature and birds up close.

    Some examples of my pictures with the equipment I use here:

    Thinking of moving to a Nikon D7000 (no weight change) or holding out for the heavier D400.

    blessings for the great support you provide

    • January 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      Dr Amar, you have a very nice collection of photos on your website and I like many of them, good job!

      Thank you for your feedback and I’m glad that the Sigma 150-500mm is working out great for you. I’m sure others will find your information useful!

      • 22.1.1) Dr Amar-Singh HSS
        January 8, 2011 at 5:57 am

        Dear Nasim

        Just call me “Amar”.
        Your site is great – simple and clear, one of the best I have visited on photography.

        I picked up the Nikon D7000 and was delighted with it (great in low light) until I tried it out on birds. The image at automatic/factory settings was “soft” and not very sharp, as I am used to with the D90. Adjustments to sharpness and contrast did not bring much improvement.

        I looked around and there were many discussion on this issue, especially this one:

        However many of us “just want to take pictures” and not fiddle with the camera too much. For me I am not keen to use a tripod to get better shots, for reasons I explained earlier. And automatic settings are vital for moving birds.

        So my opinion/options now are:
        1. my skills need to improve (what the sites seem to be saying about D7000 use) – move away from pre-set and work on suggestions you gave in this article
        2. need to change to a higher end glass.lens – i.e. a Nikon lens (problem of weight) – perhaps what you recommended “the somewhat hand-holdable Nikon 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4x/1.7x TC or Nikon 200-400mm f/4.0 + 1.4x TC ”
        3. return the camera and see if it is defective (some people seem to have no problems with it, others the same as me).

        Value opinions

        • Profile photo of Nasim Mansurov Nasim Mansurov
          January 10, 2011 at 11:33 am

          Amar, I will certainly do some birding with the D7000 and let you know what I think. It is strange that images from D7000 were blurry compared to D90. A lens in this case does play a role, because if your lens cannot resolve past 12 Mp, the rest of the extra pixels would look soft when viewing at 100%. Another common issue with the Nikon D7000, is autofocus – seems like some people are not getting 100% accurate focus and they have to adjust their lenses through the camera.

          • Dr Amar-Singh HSS
            January 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm

            Dear Nasim, I tested the D7000 extensively over the weekend and tried my own controlled test with a fixed object (newspaper). Was convinced it was either a problem with this unit of the camera or a problem with my sigma lens (compatibility). Took it back to the shop (great guy here) and he felt it was possibly a “back focus” issue. We decided to try a new unit of the D7000. So much better focus now with new unit but have yet to do a field test with birds. Possibly that some units shipped have issues with some lenses? Hoping for the best when I go out to the field soon. Some more discussions here:

  23. 23) Charlie
    January 7, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Wow, I was wondering how this bird photography works! no more wonder now, I started working on it already!

    • January 7, 2011 at 12:41 am

      Charlie, glad you found the article useful! Thanks for stopping by!

  24. 24) Vaibhav
    February 11, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Most useful article for wild life and bird photographers Nasim !
    Thank you for your effort and more thank you for making it available on net.The tips herein, you have given – are priceless. You can buy lens and camera,gears with money, but what about the perfect knowledge ?
    No one will get it in any book ! Quiet practical and useful for amateurs like me.
    Recently I bought Sigma 150-500 for my D90. ( My first telephoto lens ) Tried many photos of birds and those are good, but I’m not satisfied with it. I’ll try your tips right from now and will get back here too.
    Especially setting ISO – Auto and Setting minimum shutter speed….. is quiet interesting. I’ll try it soon.
    I think your article will improve my birding very well…
    Once again thousand thanks !

  25. March 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Invaluable information which has made a major difference to my bird photography and better yet, I use the exact same set up as you Nasim, so having the settings for my D300 is awesome. Your images by the way are simply exquisite!

  26. 26) JP
    March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm


    Great guide, straight to the point, practical and you don’t beat around the bush – even about the advantages bestowed by the painfully expensive lenses. At the moment I’m working near a large rural garden full of visiting wildlife and so decided to bring in my camera, a Canon 7d with 70-200mm lens. Had some great fun in my lunch breaks trying to get some pics but quickly found out I need much more focal length. Still, it’s got me interested and I’m definitely going to get more into this. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge. By the way, your bird photos in the article are superb. I won’t be happy until I get at least one pic like these.

  27. 27) Cindy Bryant
    April 10, 2011 at 1:43 am


    I thoroughly enjoyed your “Nikon Bird Settings” post. Incredibly informative, especially for pre amateurs photographers like myself. I found your post through a google, reading through several pages before I found your post. Both my husband andvI recently purchased our own Nikon D7000, which we love! He uses the Nikon 28-300mm f3.5-5.6 VR, and I use the Sigma 18-250mm f3.5-6.3 OS HSM. He’s more of the bird shooter, where I’m more of the candid portrait shooter. And it would be awesome if I was lucky enough to find a post similar to your description of bird shooting, but for beachside portraiture.

    Since, I tend to go on photo outings withbmy husband I’ve found myself taking more and more photos of birds. It can be fun! That said, yesterday we went in search of bird shooting to Canaveral National Seashore, FL, and I was so upset because we got this incredible shot of a Blue Heron Bird catching a snake with it wrapped it’s peek yet the focus was not quite there. What a huge dissapointment that was for me. Which is why I started googling best settings for bird photography and found you.

    Thank you for the time you spent detailing your experience and expertise, I’m very grateful for it. I have one question and that’s relating to the use of the “Better Beamer”. When you use the Better Beamer are you keeping the same settings? If not, can you share the differences. Thank you again.

    I have photos posted on Flickr, you can find me under Cindy loves photography.
    Best regards,
    Cindy Bryant
    Orlando, FL

  28. 28) Jon
    June 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm


    First of all, thank you for putting this article together. It is the best one I’ve found so far on photographing birds.

    As I am a relative newbie to shooting birds I have a couple questions.

    I feel like even with a 400ish mm lens length that I will not be able to get close enough to shoot wild birds. I can see shooting a bird that is maybe 50 feet away but I feel like I will still be forced to crop the image a fair amount. Have you found this to be the case? How close do you feel like you have to be to a bird to get a good close-up picture like the majority of the ones in your article? Do you have to do a lot of cropping to get these images?

    Thanks again for the fantastic article!

  29. 29) phil edwards
    June 26, 2011 at 10:34 am

    found you article very interesting,could you please help which camera should i get d300s,d7000 or wait until the d400 is only problem could be the cost of the d400.

  30. 30) Hussain Nalwala
    June 26, 2011 at 8:41 pm


    i have read in detail your article on Bird Photography and thank you for giving us so much of information. I am going next month to Tanzania to see the Migration and will have an opertunity to photograph birds and animals.

    Just one question. I have been using Canon 60D which a reasonably fast. I have Canon lens 70-200mm f2.8L USM IS and Canon 500mmL f/4.5 USM (NON IS) . You have stated in your articale that we use Aperture prority and lock the shutter speed and keep ISO to Auto. Now I need to know from you how do I set or lock the shutter speed ? Setting the camera on aperture is OK I understand, setting the ISO is ok I understand now do I set or lock the shutter speed between 1/800 – 1/1600 sec ? Please explain this to me. What I understand is that if aperture is set the shutter spped is decided by the camera based on the light available now I need to know from you how do I set both the apeature and shutter speed so that the ISO works on AUTO. Please explain. Thank you very much for giving us this detail. It will help me a lot during my visit to Tanzania.

  31. September 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    What a great article. I just got a D-300 and am learning the settings. I also have the 70-200Vrll and Nikon 2x converter.
    Can you suggest settings I can get my camera to that will give me the sharpest images?

    Also, I take many landscape shots. Is there a feature on this camera to preset lanscape settings and birding settings?

    Sorry, waiting for manual…it didn’t come with one.

    Thanks so much,

    • September 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      Mike, when using the 70-200mm+2x TC, shoot at f/8 to get the sharpest images. Anything below that is not very sharp. As for camera settings, I would set it to Auto ISO as I pointed out in the article and try to keep up with fast shutter speeds. As for landscape settings, see my landscape photography guide where I talk about different camera settings. There is no magic pill, so you will have to learn how to change camera settings depending on lighting conditions.

  32. 32) vinod
    September 5, 2011 at 8:12 am

    This is an excellent site for learning all about photography.. i need your help in some regards.. if u can mention “camera settings”like aperture, metering etc for clicking small and large group of people, it will be helpful for learners like me. expecting ur reply at the earliest. thanks:)

  33. 33) Protik Das
    September 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I am a big big fan of our website as well as your fotos. I am a dslr newbie. I use a nikon d5100 and now I have 2 lenses, 18-55mm VR and the 70-300mm VR. Can I use the telephoto lens for bird photography, using the above mentioned ISO and shutter speed settings fr0m the Auto ISO sensitivity control menu???……

    I have also one query for you. While shooting with the 70-300mm VR, I generally use f/8 for getting max depth of field at focal lengths from 70-200mm…..What about focal lengths beyond 200mm……Shall I go for f/11 or f/16????… get sharp images….

    I love shooting landscapes as well and I have also got a flair for low light fotography. So do I need the 50mm f1/.8g lens to complete my fotography needs!!!!…Please advise…

    I use just UV filters for both the lenses that I have with me right now. Is my approach correct???…..

    Any suggestions are eagerly awaited….



  34. 34) Mikko
    September 23, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Hi Nasim!

    An interesting article about bird photography and lenses. In this discussion Sigma 150-500 was mentioned several times. It would be interesting to read your review about this lens – if it’s possible. I think that this section of lenses is maybe the most interesting because positive surprises usually occur there. Or is it surprise that Nikkor lenses like 300 2.8 VR, 400 2.8 VR, 500 4 VR etc. are excellent?

    Sigma 150-500 reception has been very confusing. MTF-charts aren’t very impressive at the long end. On the other hand I’ve seen some sites where pictures taken with this lens are pretty decent (technically). Sigma pro photographer Robert O Toole has posted some exceptionally goog pictures taken with the lens here: But…would Sigma Pro tell us if the lens wasn’t that good?

    To sum up, it would be nice to read your objective review about this lens – it reaches all the way up to 500mm, has HSM and OS and costs something like 1000$. Sounds a bit too good overall, even if the expectations were relatively realistic.


  35. 35) rs125
    October 4, 2011 at 4:56 am

    Hi, for birding what camera settings you prefer? M, A, or S? Thanks..

    • 35.1) Dennis
      October 31, 2011 at 6:00 am

      There is a small section in this article which Nasim indicate his Camera mode and setting. You may want to reference back again. As stated, Aperture Priority with aperture set to maximum aperture (wide open).


  36. 36) deepa
    October 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

    Waiting for your reply.I am new to dslr can spend up to 2000 nee you in put to buy right gear .

  37. 37) tripti
    October 13, 2011 at 5:53 am

    with limited budget have nikon d 80 with 18to 200 lense whats my option for the lense for wild life photography

  38. 38) rhonda
    November 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Just the article I was looking for on how to shoot birds. The only thing I don’t understand is when shooting in Aperture Priority, how do you set the minimum shutter speed? Your reply would be appreciated. Thanks.

  39. 39) Prasant
    November 14, 2011 at 10:21 am

    hii nasim sir…

    This is a very beautiful description given here. i love birds and i love to watch them. now a days i am planning to buy a dslr and a telephoto lens… and i am a little bit confused about the perfect kit… as i am a beginner in this field, i can’t spend lots of money in this field… so i am planning to buy a nikon d5100 and nikon 55 300mm lens… and i need your view and suggestion about this….if u have any better combination for this then i will be happy if you will assist me in this case.

  40. 40) Victor
    November 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    NASIM, what do you think about de 400mm 2.8 afs2 for bird photography, and how do you setur your flash with and without a better beamer to shoot birds, very nice website from Peru.

  41. 41) Anshuman Atre
    November 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Great article! I’ve a Nikon D5100 with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. Can’t upgrade at the moment, due to obvious reasons!

    I’ve been trying to shoot seagulls in my area, and interested in capturing them in flight. However they fly too fast, and I end up just trying to get at least one steady shot.

    So my question is, does one select the bird and hope it gives you the pose you like (which depends on its moods) or try to shoot the bird (out of a flock) that’s nearest to the pose you want? I’ve tried both, and ended up frustrated!

  42. 42) khalid
    December 10, 2011 at 1:41 am

    AOA, It is wonderful and very useful review. I am having D7000 with 17-35mm f2.8 lens. Now I want buy a long distance lens. I am not a professional photographer . Just take photography as fun and still learning. I read lots of reviews about 80-400mm lens . People says it is slow focus lens and not sharp . Then I search and read about Sigma 50 – 500 (Bigma) and found reviews about nikon 80-400 is better then bigma. I just wonder 80 – 400mm lens is slow focus to those fast moving objects which near you or even some are far is the same ? Is it good to captures birds ? what you suggest ? I want budget lens. Don’t over 1500 USD . Your kind advise will be highly appreciated.

    Khalid (Guangzhou – China)

  43. 43) khalid
    December 10, 2011 at 1:43 am

    AOA, It is wonderful and very useful review. I am having D7000 with 17-35mm f2.8 lens. Now I want buy a long distance lens. I am not a professional photographer . Just take photography as fun and still learning. I read lots of reviews about 80-400mm lens . People says it is slow focus lens and not sharp . Then I search and read about Sigma 50 – 500 (Bigma) and found reviews about nikon 80-400 is better then bigma. I just wonder 80 – 400mm lens is slow focus to those fast moving objects which near you or even some are far is the same ? Is it good to captures birds ? what you suggest ? I want budget lens. Don’t over 1500 USD . Your kind advise will be highly appreciated.

    Khalid (Guangzhou – China)

    Sorry my first post had mistake in e-mail address.

    • 43.1) Adnan Khan
      April 5, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      WS Khalid ,

      I’m not an expert but I’d like to share my experience with you.

      I have a D7000 and the first tele zoom I put on it was 70-300 VRII so ,I tried that lens with the D7K for birding ,not a bad glass at all but tends to be a little softer at 300 (which is 450mm on DX due to crop factor) no TC can be used on it ,but still at about $500 is a great lens,I mostly shoot mountains and landscapes with it at F8.It’s very nice for portraits too :)

      The 300mm F4 AF-S prime is a fantastic super sharp lens ,it’s non VR but if used on a tripod or mono-pod one can keep up with flying birds and lens’s weight ,I bought it at about $1300 USD from Hong Kong.
      As Nasim explained in his wonderful article you can use all TCs on it but the best is TC1.4 which will make it a 420 5.6 (40% per 100mm) and picture quality is superb!

      I also bought and then returned the Sigma 150-500 ,it’s got great sharp glass but the sample I had was not focusing well ,one of my friend uses it on his Canon 40D and he was lucky enough to get a very good sample and he has this only lens for birding.Costs about $950 to $1000.( Try it before buying it),the 500mm will give 750mm on DX.

      The 80-400 is also very good but I haven’t tried it,people who have used it say good things about it
      the 400mm will give 600mm on DX,this is a major plus to this lens.

      I use spot metering , continuous high mode shooting and AFC Auto or 5 points and S or A mode (depends on situation) for flying birds,butterflies and bees.
      The D7000’s excellent ISO performance allows one to shoot at F8 with high ISO like 1600 to 2000 with very less loss of IQ as at F8 I get more of the bird in focus than at F5.6.

      Hope this helps :)



  44. 44) Steven Poulton
    December 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Dear Nasim.
    I have just found this, your wonderfully honest and very informative site.
    I own a d700 – 20mm 2.8 afd – 70-300 4.5-5.6 vr2 – 50mm 1.4g – and a 200mm f4d micro.
    I would like to thank you for your time spent on this site helping people like me gain peace of mind, as we go about learning the wonderful craft of photography.
    If you get the chance to have a look at my website, I would very much appreciate any comments you may have about my photography and what you feel I could improve on.
    Kind Regards and best wishes.
    Thanks again.
    Steve :-)

  45. 45) Victor
    January 11, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Hi there

    My name is Victor Sarabo and I live in Georgetown, Guyana. That is in South America. I love bird photography also but I am trying to find and affordable lens that takes sharp images and not too slow. I am an owner of a Nikon D700 paired with Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II. You mentioned you compare the Nikon 300mm f/4.0 AF-S with 1.4x TC and the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II with the 1.4x TC and 1.7x TC. Would you be able to tell me about the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II with the 2.0E III?

    Thank you

  46. 46) Vnyx Sng
    January 19, 2012 at 2:50 am

    great articles! cheers

  47. 47) Jorge Balarin
    January 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    Your article is excellent and very didactic. I have a question. One friend just invited me to Namibia, and for that reason I was reading about “photo safaris”, and I became aware of the necessity of a tele with extra long reach. Do you think that a camera like the Nikon D7000, that is not wheather proof, and the 300mm f/4 -that also is not wheather proof- plus a tele-converter, could survive the ultra dusty conditions of the african fields ?

    I understand that in terms of noise the D7000 has a very good performance. Do you think that the combination D7000 + 300mm F/4 + teleconverter is going to be too much far away, in terms of noise, of the combination of the same tele with the D700 ?

    A last question; need a fix lens to be wheather sealed, or is that necessary only for zooms ? Greetings and thank you very much for your wonderful web page.

    Postdate. I had already bought the 24-70 f/2.8 zoom and I’m very happy with it.

  48. 48) Sorin
    February 7, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Good article, thanks. I didn’t see any mention of using VR or not. There are different opinions out there regarding the use of VR with shutter speeds faster than 1/500. What is your experience: VR ON or OFF? Similar question when shooting on a tripod: do you keep VR on or do you switch it off?

    • 48.1) Jim
      April 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Experience teaches that leaving VR ON with the camera on a tripod leads to less sharp images, supporting the usual claim that it should be shut off while using the camera on a tripod. (Minimal comparative data also suggests that f8 is sharper than f11 again on tripod. (Nikon 16-85mm lens.)) Again without too much data, using VR ON either handheld or with a monopod, it appears that photos taken at short exposures are quite sharp (Nikon 70-200 f4 with 1.4TC used at 280mm.) In my case, the usual suspect for a less than optimally sharp image appears to be poor technique.

  49. February 9, 2012 at 5:37 am

    Hello Nasim.
    Congratulations on your beautiful photography site. I’m learning a lot from your posts. It is the best site I’ve ever visited.
    I am a beginner in bird photography and I have a Nikon D90 + Nikor Nikor 18-55 mm + 55-300mm lens and plan to buy in future the Sigma 150-500 mm. It would be a good buyconsidering the cost-benefit ratio? I posted some photos of birds here ( The WikiAves is a beautiful site of Brazilian birds. Cordially.

  50. 50) Tim
    February 14, 2012 at 3:16 am

    Nasim, it’s such a pleasure to find a site where, inspired by you, people are nice to each other. I have a D300 and the Sigmonster — the 300-800mm f5.6. This is a fabulous lens for those of us who cannot afford a 600 + 1.4x or 1.7x converter. Even the Sigmonster does not get me close enough for some subjects, however, and I still crop heavily.

    (For what the lens can do even with a 1.4x or 2x converter, see the work of Romy Ocon in the Philippines.)

    I have decent tripod technique and a very solid tripod. For some images, subject movement calls for a shutter speed of 1/800 or more, and in poorer light, this calls for an ISO speed >800. I also need high frame rates: with the grip, the D300 gives 8fps, and I’m not sure I want to go back to 6fps or slower (i.e. the D800).

    The D300 was an astounding camera in its day, but it starts to get noisy above ISO 800. If you crop, as I do, you notice.

    So, I’m considering a bizarre range of choices, including one that has not been mentioned on this page so far:

    1) Wait for the D400. This is the obvious thing to do.

    2) D4 or used D3S, and change the lens for a 600 non-VR plus 1.7x converter to restore some of the reach. The D4 would still have autofocus with a 600+1.7TC (1020mm; at the moment, the Sigmonster has an effective reach of 1200mm on the D300), and 14-bit NEFs from either camera will have useful dynamic range.

    3) D800, and just live with the slower frame rate…

    4) …or the interesting one: Nikon V1 plus FT-1.

    I suspect the V1 — so cheap compared with a D4! — will be about as noisy at ISO 800 as the D300. (The advances in sensor technology since 2007 should balance out the V1’s smaller pixel size.) But with a crop factor of 2.7x, it would mean a welcome end to heavy cropping. And it has a silent shutter with minimal vibration (electronic, 10fps). There are big focussing compromises, but I might be able to live with those.

    Apologies for the length of the post — I thought your users might find this interesting. My opinion is that the eventual D400 is the obvious choice. I’d have gone for the D4 if it had 24m pixels, as this is roughly equivalent to 10.6m pixels when cropped to DX and uses most of the resolving power of a good lens. But I fear that 16m pixels (equivalent to 7.1m DX) is too few. For me, 36m (D800) is too many. There’s a big gap in the size/speed tradeoff between the D800 and D4, and I fall into it.

    Roll on the D400! And watch the Nikon 1 as it evolves … for birders, a second generation of this camera might be very interesting.

  51. 51) Rohit Joshi
    February 19, 2012 at 1:29 am

    That was superb info and I liked the technique.
    I use a Canon EOS 550D with a Canon EF-S 55-250 mm lens.
    I will follow your tecniques.
    Thnk !!!

  52. 52) Vipul Kapadia
    February 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    This is a wonderful article on bird photography. In fact, this is the best article on bird photography I have ever read! I am getting hooked to your web site and after reading ~30+ articles in a week, I must say none of the photography web sites even come close to your’s in terms of quality of detail and topics you cover. The best part is how easily you convey your learning/teaching to us. Your style is simply superb. Your writing is very interactive and makes one feel the journey (as if we are photographing something). I love hummingbirds and so far I have not been able to take a single good picture after so many dozens of tries! After reading this, I feel confident that the next time it comes in my backyard, I shall be able to snap it sharp – thanks to you. Thank you for the wonderful service you are doing to the community.

  53. 53) Pramod Kumar
    March 16, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Excellent Article Mr.Nasim, I was a wee bit apprehensive about auto ISO in D3s when shooting Birds In Flight in Indian Jungles with volatile variation of Light, however am planning to use this techniques in my trail for tigers tomorrow.
    However one little question lingers in my mind have you ever regretted using auto ISO as you would not be controlling ISO and having missed an opportunity framing a split second shot in flight.
    Warm Regards

  54. 54) Tenzin Jamchen
    March 18, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Wow, this is a great article Nasim. Helped me a great deal.
    I am just a beginner in photographing birds. thank you very much!!

  55. 55) David Baird
    March 25, 2012 at 7:49 am


    Super article, your site really stands out among the other photo web sites. This article has really helped improve my bird photography. One thing I really liked was the camera settings, this was extremely valuable to me. Have you or could you include this with other articles that camera setting pertain to. Keep up the good work.

    Thank you,


  56. 56) Pam Jones
    April 1, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Nasim, thank you so much for your article. I set my camera (Nikon d90) as you suggested and have been delighted with the results. I am new to bird photography but am amazed at what I can achieve with your settings. Thanks again. Best wishes, Pam

  57. 57) Adnan Khan
    April 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Really great info ,now that the D3s’s price has dropped a bit I might look into it, it’s my all time fav. digi cam :) and the 200-400 is a dream lens :)

    Thank you for a wonderful article Nasim :)

    best regards

  58. 58) Norm St. Landau
    April 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Thanks so much for writing this article, Nasim. This a wonderful summary and I’ll be putting it all to use.

    best regards, norm

  59. 59) Gustavo Camarena
    April 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Thanks for the info. And today… D4 or D800…any setting changes?

  60. 60) Venki
    April 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Wonderful! A big help to all aspiring bird photographers like me, loved every bit of info shared and shall surely put to use. Feeling more confident and all set to click with a different approach. Thanks!

  61. 61) julie
    May 3, 2012 at 5:27 am

    many thanks for a great artical, i am from england and i use a sony a55 , just got a job with sussexfalconry , doing photography workshops.
    will use your tips.
    for close up pics of birds that are tethered to the handler or on perches what settings and lens would you recomened in good light and low light,
    many thanks.

  62. 62) c m reza
    May 4, 2012 at 4:21 am

    thanks for a great artical, i am from Bangladesh and i use a Nikon D90. how can i take better picture in a big shady three? there is totally no sunlight.

  63. May 5, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Good article, thanks a lot for sharing..

  64. 64) Gopinath Kollur
    May 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

    Nasim, thank you so much for your article. I set my camera as per your settings,and happy with the results.

  65. 65) Arvind
    May 25, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    Great Information, Great shots,
    Me and my friend have recently started photographing wildlife, We are from Pune – Maharashtra- INDIA.
    Pune is well know for a lot of water bodies around it and also hills with lots of bird activity.
    I am using a Canon 550D and have aCanon 100 – 400 IS lens and also a 100 mm macro for close up.
    In Autofocus mode its difficult to focus on the subject in thick bushes, the camera focus on the branch or leaves and many a shots are lost. Also at times the lense takes a lot of time to focus. This happens only when the light is poor (early morning). Please suggest some method of solving this problem.
    I don’t have any regrets as I have some good picture using my equipment,
    I would like you to help me as to which settings I should use so that I am not caught unaware, as you see taking wildlife photographs you only get 3 -5 sec at time before the subject disappears in the thickset.
    I tried your recommedation of auto ISO 800 and last week, and was happy to get all my pictures exposed correctly (I didn’t have to fumble with the knobs and button before clicking) I thank you for that.
    As you suggested for Nikon Can you suggest some setting for Canon 550D,
    The only short fall of this camera is the time it takes for capturing and transfering of data, and there are times I have lost some good composition because the camera was busy and I could not click the pictures. How do I avoid this, I have a high spped card (ten number) installed still this problem persisit. Can you suggest me a way out of this problem. Or do I go for a Canon 7D.
    Also suggest me if I should invest in Canon 800 mm – 5.6 lense. Its expensive but than the pleasure you will get in return should justify the costs..
    I love to do Bird Photography hence this craze for the 800 mm.
    Arvind PAtole

  66. 66) Charlie Ward
    May 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this GREAT article and for sharing your treasure trove of hard earned expertise . Its one of the most enjoyable and informative ” Hints and Tips” pieces I have ever read :-)

    I feel so inspired right now that my National Monster Flash is on charge and I am about to head out and try to catch some pre dawn shots.

    Keep up the amaizing work my friend and I look forward to learning more from you soon .All the very best to you from The Flinders Ranges South Australia.

    Kindest Regards


  67. 67) Vinayak
    June 5, 2012 at 4:58 am

    Good Read Nasim! Very short and concise stuff here.

    Presenting some bird photography picture from Canon 7D, 300 mm F4 + 1.4xTC pics
    Being doing birding and photograpy for 3 yrs + now. :)
    So have some 100+ species.

    I believe learning from others is also a faster way to learn things, so please do follow up
    INWians @, check out the gears they have so that you know what you are buying, behaviour shots taken and lots more. Happy Learning and nice to hear/meet the photographer around the world :) cheers.


  68. 68) Prof. G.
    June 7, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Dear Mr. Mansurov:
    Excellent articles.
    I am still confused about one thing which is, of course, DX vs FX in bird photography — and crop factor. I read your superb article comparing and explaining both formats.
    I am a retired computer science professor living on a “broken” income but love nature photography. I currently have a Nikon D200 — lenses: Nikon 105 macro VR, Nikon 300 mm f/4, Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR, Nikon 28-300 mm VR, also TC-1.7 II.
    I have been trying to shoot “smarter” and stalk my birds– getting closer and using what I have.
    Low light can be a problem, though.
    So, let’s compare the Nikon D700 (12.1 MP) and the Nikon D7000 (16.2 MP) — same bird subject taken with the Nikon 300 mm f/4 — the D7000 will have the “greater reach” — supposing we crop the D700 image to get the same view as the d7000 — same final picture — which camera will have the better IQ?? I would imagine that the Nikon D800 with 36.3 MP would yield the best IQ, though out of my budget.

  69. 69) reto
    June 11, 2012 at 5:41 am


    i would be very thankful if you could give me some advice with the following:
    I need a new lens for bird shooting (mostly birds in motion). I am using the 70-200 / tc2 / Nikon D7000 combo without a tripod.

    I would like to buy a 500mm f/4 but am scared of its weight… Is it hand holdable for flying birds / birds in action? Or shall i go for a 300mm 2.8 with tc2?

    I really would appreciate your thoughts on this as this is a serious investment.

    Thanks and have a great day,

    • 69.1) Ruth Drews
      February 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Reto – I know this is an old post and I’m not sure if Nasim has answered your concern, but I have a 500mm, but no TC. I have a very good Manfrotto tripod. But, when it comes to birds in flight I have a hard time steadying the 500mm lens without a tripod. I always seem to revert back to my 300mm because it is easier to “hand” hold my camera and move with the bird. I do use the 500mm when I know I can take pics from the tripod. I have also used my tripod as a monopod but it is extremely difficult using the 500mm that way. It comes down to whether you are very good at focusing and hand holding your camera very still. I see people using a long lens all the time without a tripod, but I don’t know how good their shots are in their post-processing…..everything is trial and error, but you have to keep in mind that once in the field, is this the only opportunity you will have to get that one unexpected great shot…….

      Best of luck – Ruth

  70. 70) Wasanths P Dissanayake
    July 6, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Dear Nasim
    Why dont use adobe RGB instead s RGB ,in bird photography .I have seen some of nikon authors advise to change sRGB to Adobe in camara setting.
    Your advise is greatly appriciated.

  71. 71) Johar
    July 27, 2012 at 9:17 am

    How to setting on my D7000 on bird photog?

  72. 72) S Gopal
    July 30, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Lovely photographs. Thanks for writing in detail the techniques to be used for bird photography. I am passionate about wildlife photography and specially bird photography. I am also a member of IndiaWilds online forum for learning wildlife photography, which helped me a lot to learn. Your post has been very helpful to get tips and learn. I have bookmarked it and will keep checking. Thanks for sharing.

  73. 73) Kieran
    August 10, 2012 at 12:47 am

    I re-read this after I bought my camera and lens, and it is still a great article. Thanks for being so straightforwardly informative!

  74. 74) Vicki Smith
    August 11, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Love this article!
    I just got a Nikon D3100 and a 70-300mm lens…
    I’m new to photography and want to get the bird pictures…
    I’m going out this weekend with your article to see if I can get some pictures.
    I’m not sure I understand all the technical stuff, but I’ll practice and see what happens.
    Thank you for the great start on learning about the camera and photographing birds!
    This is a great start for me!

  75. August 22, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    What a well researched and beautifully written article ! Many thanks for penning down your years of experience and sharing with us. I am going to take a print out of this and hope this will help me improve my shooting skills. I am a beginner with Nikon D3100 and three lens ( 18-55 kit, 50mm 1.8G, 55-300mm VR ED ). One challenge I often face is that during early mornings when light is not enough ( 6:30 AM to 7:30 AM ), I am not able to set higher shutter speeds due to the F/4.5 limit of my lens. Often increasing the ISO to beyond 1600 effects the sharpness of my bird images. I am wondering what will help more; upgrading to a Nikon D7000 or a lower F stop prime telephoto lens ? I do realize that the latter is a much more expensive option.

  76. 76) Malcolm J Rajapandian
    August 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Hi, i love bird Photography. recently bought a D7000 and 70-300mm and no converter,i know its not enough but after reading your settings and techniques, i got a better idea and where ever i go i shoot birds.last week i took about 300 pics of birds and ducks flying, and playing i cant believe almost 200 pics came out well and i never seen any beautiful pics before like that..all i wanted to say here is:if i can shoot Crystal clear images with my 70-300mm lens with your setting in a beging stage of 2 months how much more others can do…. thank you somuch for your information..

  77. 77) chethan
    August 27, 2012 at 5:58 am

    hi that photos are unbelievable …..

    hands-off to you sir……

    i dont have that type of camera …. i have cannon 1100D…..

    give some tips.. to try…

    thanks & regards

  78. 78) Peter Hall
    September 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    This info is very good. I have changed the settings on my camera although I do have a Canon and all the terminology is in Nikon language. I have just upgraded from a kit 70-250mm lens which gave me sharp pictures on my 60D. Now I have upgraded to a Sigma 80-400mm lens which is very pro but now I am struggling to get anywhere near the sharpness I have although I can zoom a lot further now. Any tips to whether it is me or the lens will be very useful. Until then I will use all of this great info.

  79. 79) Peter Hall
    September 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm


    As my last post I would like to know what f stop you think I should use for my 80-400mm Sigma lens. I have been setting it at the lowest at full length which is f5.6 although I now think this might be to low. Interested on your thoughts

  80. 80) MJohn
    October 13, 2012 at 8:01 am

    No where could i find such a detailed description!!!

  81. 81) Prof. G.
    October 13, 2012 at 8:15 am

    I have been reading your great articles on Bird Photography — now waiting for the final comparison of D600 versus D800.
    Currently own D200 and Nikon 300mm f/4 and Nikon TC17E — I can not afford the 600mm lens — I am retired.
    When photographing Hummingbirds, I have gotten within 15 feet but even with this equipment, the Hummer only takes up a makes up a maximum of 1/6 of the frame. My goal is to enlarge the photo to more than 16×20 — suitable for framing.
    Therefore, with my equipment, which camera, D600 or D800 would yield the best, highest detail in the feathers, etc. — your Hummingbird photo is superb .

  82. 82) Joe
    November 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I like all of the info. I live in Florida. I spend a lot of time taking pictures of Warblers and the like. These birds are in and out of trees and very difficult to focus. I am trying. I really would like to know how I should have my Nikon D300 set up for these guys. I normally shoot with a 300mm 2.8 and a 2.0 teleconverter. I can’t seem to get a really clear picture. I would like some suggestions as to how i should have my autofocus working. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  83. 83) Chris Reiss
    November 11, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Good article, but for well under $1,000, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 with built in Leica 35-420 Zoom lens is an excellent, affordable alternative to Nikon and Canon. I volunteer in Everglades National Park one day a week and need a ready-for-action-any-time, hand-held workhorse that can take distance shots of birds or alligators. My Panasonic Lumix works for me!

  84. 84) Vikas.B.Chavan
    December 15, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Hello Nasim,
    First of all, I wish to thank you for the wonderful site that you have created. It’s simply superb.Any information, regarding photography, required by a budding photographer like me is readily available here.Great work ! Hats off to you and your team.
    At present, I have a Nikon D3100+Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR+Nikkor35mm f/1.8G+Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens kit combination. I am interested in nature and bird photography. After going through your review of Nikon D700, I think,I have fallen in love with it. So, I am seriously thinking of changing over to FX in the near future. With a medium budget, what body and lens combination would be ideal for me,given my interests.
    Also, I am very eager to know if new versions of Nikon D700 and AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 IF-ED are likely to be released shortly.

  85. December 18, 2012 at 5:05 am

    Thanks for a very informative article. I live in Maun, Botswana, and here I am surrounded by some of the most magnificent wildlife and birdlife areas in the world – the amazing Okavango Delta, the Moremi, Chobe, Nxai Pan, Central Kalahari and Magadigadi Game Reserves. I have always been keen on photography, but only this year have I started taking it more seriously. I have acquired Canon 60D and 5D Mk III cameras, and Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 and EF 600mm f/4.0 lenses, and have done many trips into our Reserves photographing mainly birds. Maybe you could have a look at my website ( and let me know if you think there is potential. One observation: I notice most of the birds in your photographs (above) are centralised in the image. Do you ever apply the “Rule of Thirds”? Would you say it is important?

  86. December 24, 2012 at 12:24 am

    very informative review… got lots of ideas.
    i am using Nikon D7000 and sigma 70-200 f2.8 thinking to get 2x converter. can you suggest me the best settings and tips for good birding??.. please.. thanks in advance..

  87. 87) John Taylor
    December 28, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    This is by far the most informative article I have read relating bird photographyto equipment needs and technique. I use a nikon D200 & D700 with either a 70-200 f2.8 lens or my new 300 f4. I tend to use a 1.7 tele-converter, but it’s often difficult to acquire focus. Both lenses are great, but the 300 f4 seems to be sharper and acquire focus better, this may be because I use it without the 1.7 teleconverter. I am purchasing a 1.4 converter which i hear is a better option than 1.7 (bigger f stop). Another option I am seriously considering( which means I have made up my mind) is the Nikon D800 and then crop the image to get frome filling shots. Thanks again for the great article.

  88. 88) Kulbhushan Kanwar
    January 4, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    Nasim Mansurov,
    I read your article on birds photography it was lengthy but very informative. I am working on Butterflies for the last 5 years. I have D80 and D300s with 18-70 and 70-300 ED VR lenses plus 90 mm macro lens. For butterflies it was comfortable. But suddenly I switch over to birds photography and this equipment is not comfortable. Kindly suggest me as to what lens I should get within financial reach as I am an retired. Thanks in advance.
    Kulbhushan Kanwar,

  89. 89) Vikas.B.Chavan
    January 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Do you think the combination of Nikon D3100 + AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED + Nikkor AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E II is suitable for Bird Photography ? I understand that the Nikon D3100 has only one AF cross type sensor.So, I wanted to know whether the AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4D IF-ED lens would work to its full potential with the Nikon D3100.

  90. 90) m2
    January 16, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Man About Town

  91. January 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Red Tail Hawk photos taken with lousy Canon SX40HS Bridge Camera with small sensor. Poor man’s telephoto lens & camera $400.00:

  92. 92) Ruth Drews
    February 2, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Nasim – I was doing some internet research and ran across this article. I have a Nikon D7000 and I love it. It has a U1 and U2 custom setup. My question to you as an experienced Nikon user, if I set my camera to your recommended settings for bird photography, am I able then to assign the custom settings to one of the user define (U1 or U2) options. If so, how is that done and once it is set, does the “before the bird settings” settings go back to where I had them or do I have to “reset” the settings for all other “photography” options (landscape, portrait….etc.). I hope I was able to explain by concern….

    • 92.1) Jim
      April 21, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      You can definitely save the “bird photo” setting. To get to Nasim’s settings, start with the A (aperture preferred) position on the shooting mode dial and then create the recommended settings given in the article. After that use the menu button and the Multi Selector/OK button go to the Setup Menu. Save User Settings is the second option and you can save the settings you have just created as either U1 or U2. When you return to that user setting, your “bird photo” settings will return, while not affecting what you have saved or were using for your other photo needs. One caveat, IF you change a setting while using the user defined settings, say for example you change the f-stop, the changed setting will be held when you turn the camera off then back on. BUT IF you turn on the camera at another shooting mode dial position, THEN when you go back to your “bird” U1/U2 setting it will restore the settings you have initially saved. U1/U2 is a fantastic time saver and will help you not “forget” specific settings. (Another option I use routinely is to have a dedicated setting for doing bracketed photos, another specific group of settings different from what might normally be used.) “Mastering the Nikon D7000” (Darrell Young) is a very useful resource book well worth the price, which will help you better use a great camera.

  93. 93) Alina Dorta
    March 13, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Hi Nasim……I’m just starting out in photography. My end result is to use my photos as reference for drawings and paintings. Problem is that my photos lack detail…..and I need detail to feel inspired to create a drawing or painting. My equipment is very rudimentary but I’m still hoping I can shoot beautiful pictures. I have a Canon EOS Rebel T1i with an EF-S 55-250mm 1:4-5.6 IS zoom lens and an EF-S 18-55mm 0.25m/0.8ft lens. That’s it. Nothing else. It all came as a bundled deal. I’ve been shooting lots of nature pictures but with just average (if not less) results. I’ve been gathering as much information as I can through books and wonderful websites as yours. I want to be able to get closer to animals/birds in order to campure more detail. Can I purchase a teleconverter lens or similar in order to add to the zooming capability of my zoom lens mentioned previously? Also capturing the detail of a bird flying or flapping its wings would be wonderful. I’m learning as I go. Any thoughts you could send my way would be very much appreciated. Thanks for all that you do.

    Miami, Florida

  94. 94) Heiki
    April 14, 2013 at 1:52 am

    i dont understand why in ff camera focus and shutter speed shud be like 400mm and 1/400s AND IN crop sensor 400mm shud use1/600s?
    in ff camera 400mm makes in center of frame same conditions as cropsensor, so ff shud be also 1/600 shutter speed to avoid sensor center from blurring like u advise to do with crop sensor cameras
    where is the logiq?
    as u stated in your dc vs ff article, there in no difference in bodies for lenses
    400mm is 400mm for dc and for ff, one cancapture only center of lens
    so why crop sensor shud use 1/600 sec and ff 1/400?

  95. 95) Mike
    April 16, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Thanks Nasim, really usefull info, especially the camera set up section, slightly adapted it for my D600, next thing is to practise.

  96. 96) Gladys
    April 22, 2013 at 6:42 am

    This is a fantastic post. I have read it numerous times. Just purchased a d7100 after owning a D90 for many years. Are there any d7100 specific settings that should be changed compared to what you have posted? Thanks again for this great post.

  97. April 22, 2013 at 8:43 am


    Thank you for the great article and the great reviews. Not only are they thorough and practical, but your beautiful photography really gives credibility to your insights. They really are much better than another famous person here on the Internet who tries to so the same. Based on your recommendations I recently acquired a 300mm Nikon f/4 lens with a TC 1.4x. This lens (and combo) is serving me well and allowed me to take the best bird picture of my entire life (so far) the other evening. Here it is for your hopeful enjoyment:

    I only started bird photograph in January this year and now I’m starting to get some professional results. Again, thank you so much and the best to you and your lovely family!

  98. 98) Pete Tintle
    May 2, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Great article!
    Are you aware of any motion sensor trigger attachment for Nikon?

  99. 99) Joe
    May 9, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I have a Nikon D5100. is this camera compatible with AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4D IF-ED + AF-S Teleconverter TC-20E III combination?
    Please let me know.
    Thanks in advance,

    • 99.1) Brian
      May 9, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I think if you read Nasim’s review of the 300mm f4 you’ll find he says that it works great with the 1.4 TC (I have this combo as well and agree), that he wasn’t impressed with the 1.7 TC combo. My understanding is that the 300mm F4 won’t autofocus with the 2.0 TC. You are already getting a 1.5x crop factor with your dx format D5100. Adding a 2x TC to a 300mm f4 lens you’d be trying to get 840mm at f8 and I doubt you would like the results. The 300mm f4 + 1.4 TC combo would get your dx camera to a 630mm equivalent at f5.6 with adequate performance. Good luck!

      • 99.1.1) Joe
        May 10, 2013 at 9:43 am

        Thanks a lot for the reply. Right now, I want to invest in lenses and TC (I know my Camera is entry level but want to move up in Camera as well later). hence, I just wanted to make sure that 300 mm F4+TC combo would even work with entry level D5100. As per your reply, I am concluding that it WILL.

        Also, the 2X TC was cheaper than 1.4 TC and hence I was misguided and though that may be I will get more closer for lesser price (same though as most novices); but your reply has clarified that for me as well. I will go with 1.4 TC.

        Thanks a lot. Please reply if you have any additional comments.

  100. 100) Sunder
    May 14, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I loved reading your piece on bird photography, and have printed it out for ready reference. I’ve just upgraded from old point and shoot to a Nikon D7100 + AF-S Nikkor 300 f/4 IF-ED + i.4 TCEII. Did a round of shooting with the settings you recommend for Nikon, but somehow, the images I get do not seem tack sharp as this body + lens combo should be giving and also rather grainy. What could be the problem? I find that if I set ISO higher at say 640, and aperture at f/8 rather than wide open at f/5.6 (given the TC), I get much sharper results. Will be great if you let me know what I ought to be doing; or what I could be possibly doing wrong!! Will also try again of course with your suggested settings using a tripod and head set up soon to see if stability was an issue.



    • 100.1) Brian
      May 19, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      Post a link to a pic and perhaps we can tell you the issue. Two possible culprits in the meantime are your focus and your shutter speed. 1/1000 sec or faster is generally what I consider optimal for birds, especially if you’re shooting at the equivalent of 420mm + a 1.5 DX crop factor! The 1.4 TC affects the focus as well. Make sure you are in single AF mode unless the birds are moving across the frame and your shutter speed is high, even if you have to cranked up the ISO a bit more. Finally, lose the TC until you are getting good quality without it. One less thing in the equation… Good luck!

      • 100.1.1) Sunder
        May 19, 2013 at 8:38 pm

        Hi Nasim,

        Thanks – I think the issue is beginning to resolve itself :) Here are some test images (with the TC on):

        Now that things are getting somewhere and that I’m learning more and more about the camera and using it with each frame, I’m optimistic that things can only get better and better. Will also go out later today and print out the Focus Tune target chart to run a check for calibration issues (it does not appear to be an issue, but just in case…..) as advised by you in response to my (same) question in your D7100 review thread.



  101. 101) Ted
    May 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    Great article? I came here looking for answers to setting my D300 up for bird photography and I leave this page very satisfied.

    The only question I have left is: How do you get your camera’s auto-focus to focus on the subject’s eye(s) most if not all the time? I am new to bird photography and getting the eyes in focus has been my biggest problem. I have many nicely composed shots but they were un-usable because the focus was a little off. Quite often, the focus was on the chest instead of on the eyes. What was in focus was very sharp taken with my 80-200mm f2.8 lens. How do you get a good focus on the eyes given the movement of the subject?

    Thank you.



    • 101.1) Brian
      May 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      A couple of suggestions, Ted: Focus in single AF mode on the eye and then re-frame and also check your depth of field. If you’re zoomed out to 200mm at f2.8 your depth of field is razor thin. Try shooting at f4 or f5.6 in aperture priority mode to get more of the bird in focus. Crank your ISO up a little to get faster shutter speeds instead of shooting wide open. Good luck!

  102. 102) Brian
    May 19, 2013 at 6:42 pm

    I just got back from a birding trip to South Florida, where I used a D600 with the 300mm F4 + TC 1.4 and the 70-200 F4. Thanks Nasim for the excellent reviews of both lenses and the D600 as well as the article here. Here are the pics:

  103. 103) Vivek
    May 20, 2013 at 5:17 am

    What would be ideal setup for wildlife and bird photography?

    Nikon D700+Nikkor 80-400 (old model)

    Nikon D700+Sigma 150-500 IS

    Or any other setup you could suggest, i am bit on a tight budget.

  104. 104) Sunder
    June 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Hi Nasim, Brian,

    Did some experimenting with settings, and got some reasonably good results – yet not as great as I should be getting. Finally got myself Focus Tune V 2.0 (Micheal Tapes) – and ran calibration checks (as this one of the possible issues mentioned by you) – voila – the lens was front focusing at + 4. With the D7100 now set at AFA +4, the sharpness issues have been all resolved. I wonder if Nikon here in India has the ability to re-calibrate lenses and if so, if I ought to carry it in and get them to do this. BTW, how often do such calibration errors turn up in new lenses?

    Thanks a lot for pointing me in the right direction :)


  105. 105) Namgay
    June 16, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Fantastic photo of birds.. I really did enjoy….!!!!

  106. 106) Amir M
    June 18, 2013 at 4:05 am

    Hello Nasim,

    Do you know if there are any flash extenders that will fit on Metz 52 Flash?

    A fantastic and practical guide to bird photography.
    Now I “just” need to go out and begin….
    Enjoyed it a lot. Thank you

  107. 107) Bev W
    July 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    Wow , i followed your steps and took great shots straight away! I am so thank you to you, cant stop taken photos of all birds and eagles :-)

  108. 108) bala
    August 27, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Who to make blow the background

  109. 109) Russell Leger
    August 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I currently use the D7100 with the new 18-300, very helpful lens as I spend allot of time in the wildlife management areas and there have been countess times we have been face to face with deer, hogs , bobcats and the next photo is a Eagle taking off 1/8 mile away. Of course the downside is the weight, it is a extremely heavy Nikon lens but has come in very handy encountering wildlife at all distances.

  110. 110) Puneet
    August 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Nasim,Brian

    Thanks a lot for sharing such a detailed information on camera settings for Bird Photography. Its been really wonderful reading the whole tutorial and followups. I use Canon 7D and finding it difficult to set my camera’s creative settings to similar to the ones marked in your tutorial. Could you please help canon amateurs users like me to setup their cameras with such settings.

    Please guide. regards, Puneet

  111. 111) Dion
    September 9, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Firstly, thanks for all the articles & photos it’s what made go out an buy a camera the other day.

    I bought a Fujifilm S4800, I know it’s only a budget bridge but I’m only testing the water before getting serious. My question is – close by our home in QLD, Australia we have a large Bat (Flying Fox) colony and I tried to take some shots which look ok for an absolute beginner I guess but there is barely any colour. When taking the photos, the bats were hanging in the trees, with the clouds behind. Is there a way around this, to make them appear more in the natural colours?
    If you or anyone can give me any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.
    Photos at

    Best Regards,

  112. 112) Asha Ram
    September 17, 2013 at 12:36 am

    What a great website! Thanks for your articles.

  113. 113) Yogesh P. Deshpande
    October 2, 2013 at 1:03 am

    excellent information and classic photographs as well!!!
    I am just looking for a DSLR camera nad lens to take pictures of birds, while exploring I got this very much informative site. It’s really informative for all biginners.


    Yogesh Deshpande

  114. 114) pratik walawalkar
    October 8, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    sir how much get money on one birds photo

  115. 115) Goker
    November 6, 2013 at 1:35 am

    I think that for birds, AF-A or AF-S does much better job than AF-C which is the mode suggested in this article. The reason is that although AF-C is supposed to be the tracking mode for fast moving objects such as birds in flight, in practice it tends to keep focusing background and seems to be very hard to grasp focus especially on a full background.
    High shutter speeds and other settings are important, but af selection is critical, set af to af-a and use only the central point. When bird crosses the center, click the shutter to focus and immediately after press it all the way down to take the picture. If you wait too long you may have to re-focus the bird. This is important for birds in flight shots.

  116. 116) Sanjay Barar
    November 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Great Great informative material ..Thank you so much …!!!

  117. 117) Prashu
    November 17, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Dear Nasim Mansurov,
    I am a learning photographer in Bird photography and your article is very informative and it was very usefull to me. I was always suffering with blur images especially in cloudy days. Your article is great for beginners and some learned photographers also.
    By the way I own a Nikon D5100 with 55-300mm Nikkor VR II lens. What’s your opinion on this setup. please suggest me. Even email is also welcomed.

  118. 118) John Taylor
    November 17, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Great article.. I am using a Nikon D800 and Sigma 500mm f4.5 lens (upgraded version) and am very happy with this setup. Used the Nikon 300mm f4 with 1.4TC also with very good results, just wanted a bit more reach and the wonderful bokeh produced by those big 500mm lens. I have to use a carbon monopod to keep things steady and recommend Nasim (post above) get himself a good monopod..I feel that gives you at least one extra stop maybe two.
    I warn you Nasim, this bird photography is very addictive, but it’s great fun.

  119. 119) VGVS Sharma
    December 17, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Brilliant article for novices and beginners. I use Nikon D90 and have achived excellent results applying your tips. Not sure if you have a similar post for wildlife photography. I am a vivid photographer with a passion for nature and wildlife photography. One question I have is can you use remote to shoot pictues in burst mode in D90? Any tips will be much appreciated. I once again acknowledge your detailed post and some wonder tips and guidance.



  120. 120) YYP
    January 8, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Very nice article Nazim!

    Was curious to hear your thoughts on the, yet to be released, Tamron 150-600 f/5.6. Do you think it will be an effective / capable BIF lens? I know the lens is not out yet (Jan. 17th, 2014 is the release date in the U.S.), but do you have any initial (sight unseen) thoughts on it? Will you be reviewing this lens in the great detail that we are so accustomed to (hope s0)?

  121. 121) David Brain
    January 12, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I tried setting my D-700 to min 1/800 shutter speed and max 800 ISO for shooting in aperture priority but it still shoots at slower speeds. Why?

  122. 122) John Taylor
    January 12, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Hi David, Once the light drops below your aperture setting/combination min 1/800 shutter and ISO 800 your D700 starts winding back the shutter speed to enable a correct exposure. Yes, even your min shutter speed will get wound back. I own a D700 & D800 and the solution I use is to set Max iso at 3200, that way the shutter speed will stay at 1/800 as the camera will go up to the max ISO before it opts to drop shutter speed. 3200ISO still produces good results on a D700 which is know for it’s ability to handle high ISO speeds.

  123. 123) David Brain
    January 12, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    thanks John, I’ll try that :)

  124. 124) Mukul Varma
    January 15, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Dear Nasim,
    I am a 53 year old neurologist based in New Delhi, India and want to develop bird photography as a hobby. I have been visiting your web site often ( as much as my time allows) and I want to congratulate you for doing a great job! The web site is very helpful for people like me and easy to understand. I really like your reviews which are very practical.
    I have ordered a Nikon D7100 with Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4 and a teleconverter TC14II which I will get in a couple of days. I wanted to ask you which settings to use for bird photography? I have no experience with RAW and have never used a RAW software, and maybe you can help me with some advice there as well.
    Warm regards,
    Dr. Mukul Varma

  125. 125) Anna
    January 18, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Nazim,

    Great article and great photos. I have a Nikon D5100 with 18-55 lens and a 55-300 lens. I can’t afford an expensive lens for close-ups of birds. I would like to know what would be the best teleconverter to extend the 55-300 for bird photography that would be compatible that would yield the most sharpness.


    • 125.1) Pierre
      February 11, 2014 at 6:05 am

      Anna, you cannot use teleconverters with entry-level zooms. You might be able to attach a third-party teleconverter to your 55-300mm, but you’ll loose sharpness, contrast, etc., and the end result is going to be less good than the same picture taken without teleconverter. 40% more reach is useless if the pictures you get are 80% less sharp.

  126. 126) John Taylor
    February 11, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Pierre is right Anna..I suggest you save up and invest in the Nikon 300 f4 lens (About $A1400) and a 1.4 Tele converter if you can stretch the budget that far. That’s the outfit I started with and it produces excellent results. Very sharp. Also recommend you get a monopod; it gives about 1 or 2 stops extra light. Good luck with your birding. oh, forget to mention, it’s addictive. John

  127. 127) Monica Pileggi
    February 21, 2014 at 6:06 am

    Great article, thanks for takting the time for writing this.

    I’ve started to do bird photography with my D7000 and Nikon 70-300mm VR lens. I’ve gotten some very good shots and of course, some not so good shots.

    Having used the 70-300mm VR, I know I would like to have a longer focal length. I was considering the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR lens. Two friends of mine has this lens and are happy with it. However, I know the 300mm f/4 is a better lens but doesn’t have the reach unless using a TC. Not having VR is fine with me, so that’s not an issue.

    Will I be limiting myself using the 300mm lens, versus having the various focal lengths of the 80-400 lens? Will the 300mm be sufficient or will I have to do a lot of moving forward/backwards to get the shot? I would be using this lens not only for birds but wild life and maybe butterflies.

    If I were to buy the 300mm f/4 lens, what would would you recommend for a second lens that has a variable focal length in the $1,000 price range? Or will my 70-300 suffice for the 70-200 range?

    Image quality, sharpness, and fine bokeh is very important to me.

    Many thanks,


  128. 128) Monica Pileggi
    February 21, 2014 at 6:13 am

    PS: I read some very good reviews of the new Tamron 150-500mm lens. It’s not available for Nikon yet. This lens might be an option.

  129. February 26, 2014 at 4:37 am

    Thanks, great tips. lot of important information. i have Nikon d7000, nikon 70-300m VR, for wildlife.

  130. 130) Marcy
    March 2, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    What is a recommended tripod head for birding? I’ve heard the Markins ball with the birding attachment BV-10 or 20. But I’ve also heard for birding go with a Gimbal head.

    I’m wondering about a Jobu Jr, or perhaps the Markins q20i. I have the 300 f/4 and will be getting the Tamron 150-600 but nothing bigger for the near future.

  131. 131) Charles
    March 16, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Hi I have the Canon 7D with a 70-200mm F4 and 1.4x ii teleconverter. Most of the time the birds are far away so I put the teleconverter on and it becomes a 448mm 5.6 with slightly less detail. The problem I am having is with higher shutter speeds with the bird being detailed. For example an adult Bald Eagle flies by me and I am in manual mode at 1/1250s at F 7.1 and the bird comes in grainy and a distinct lack of detail. I have been using manual mode and not aperture priority. Per your article I have just swapped some settings around and plan to give it a try.

    Also, how do you mean focus the eye, how would that be possible with a bird in flight? Are you moving the focus point while tracking the bird? I am basically point the camera at the bird and having it focus then taking the picture right now.

    I really want to improve on image quality my main birds are Eagles, Hawks, and Falcons so any suggestions and tips would be greatly appreciated!

  132. March 25, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    This has to be the best guide to learning the basic tricks for shooting birds. I wish I would have found sooner. I have a Nikon D7000 with a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 and I just got a Nikon TC-1.7. I think the next purchase is a Nikon 300mm f/4. The only thing I would add is the importance of learning to shoot off of automatic mode since cannot control anything. Once a shooter gets comfortable with manual settings, the quality will improve 100 fold.

  133. 133) Jyotipad Talukdar
    March 26, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Hope you are doing great !

    I have just started photography and won the very basic D3100 + 55-300mm VR lens, as I was in a very tight budget. I went through a few of your articles and it was really helpful. I have a doubt regarding the camera settings for bird photography that you have mentioned above. I tried photographing birds a number of times using my cam system, but was not happy with the sharpness. So, I started looking for better settings for the same over the internet and I got that continuous AF will make the focusing slow, which I believe is one of the most important factor to consider for birds photography. Is that a fact ?? If yes, what should I set in my camera. Do I need to use the dynamic AF area settings ? In-fact and overall I will be thankful if you can suggest me the best setting for the D3100 for birds.

    – Jyotipad

  134. 134) Nanjbar Bean
    May 11, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Hi Nasim!

    I am a beginner photographer and I recently bought the Canon Powershot SX50 HS. Do you think this camera is capable of photographing birds at high definition? It has a 1200mm lens built in, too.
    As a beginner, do you have any tips for me to improve in this hobby?


  135. 135) Win Paler
    May 20, 2014 at 1:14 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Congratulations on this awesome article on bird photography and I just would like to know that I have been voraciously reading almost all of your article that appeared in the internet.

    I owned a Nikon D800 which I bought last year together with Nikkor 400,F/ 2.8 plus TC 17EII and I’m so happy with its performance especially when I applied your bird settings on it. Now, I went a step higher and bought Nikon D4S coupled with Nikkor lens 600 F/4. My problem now is there’s not much information on the D4S especially settings on Bird photography. I would appreciate it very much if you can help me on this. Just for info, I’m an avid amateur bird photographer and I’m a member of a local bird club and I shoot birds mainly as a hobby.

    Thank you for your help!


  136. 136) Soumya Roy
    May 25, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Your tutorial about setting of camera was extremely helpful to me, I am right now using nikon D 7100 alongwith 300 mm f/4 lens +1.4 x teleconverter as per your guidance for photographing birds.
    I will be highly obliged if you can give me some other tips so that I can increase the quality of the picture under the current gadgets that I have. Now I am also willing to buy Tamron 150_ 600 mm lens whether it will be a worthwhile purchase or you recommend some other lens.
    I am eagerly waiting for your response.
    Thanking you,
    Yours faithfully,
    Soumya Roy

  137. 137) David Marshall
    May 26, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Dear Soumya.
    Your Nikon 300mm f4 is a superb lens and optically far superior to the Tamron.
    You might want to consider a good tripod and head, coupled with a cable release. This is what I use for my phot’s of birds on my feeding station. Use the BBF or ‘back button focus’ technique. You can pre-focus (using live view) to one of the feeders (make sure you turn VR to off, but your 300mm f4 doesn’t have VR so that’s not a problem) then use the cable release to shoot away. The advantage here is that you are not touching the camera at all. The birds will move around a bit, so not every shot will be a ‘keeper’, but you should find that your images are tack sharp (any blur is likely due to subject movement).
    Hope that helps.

  138. 138) Mike
    May 29, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I wish I read your article few years ago. Learning from scratch is a little challenging. I still got some good tips from your article and I appreciate you sharing them.

  139. 139) dr hani
    May 31, 2014 at 6:05 am

    hi nasim I use nikon d7100 and nikor 300mm afs f4 can u suggest to shift me to canon 7d with canon 400mm5.6 for better result or to buy tele converter 14e2 for better results because I think cacanon user take great photos with canon combo please reply me soon

  140. 140) divya
    June 14, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Hi, your article is very informative &much appreciated. I have a Canon 600d camera with 55-250mm lens.Would like a good lens for birding which I can use handheld & within a budget…should I go for 400mm/5.6 lens or 100-400mm lens or what do you suggest? Thanks…

    • 140.1) steven Marshall
      June 15, 2014 at 11:56 am

      I have the 100-400mm and love it. Its more versatile than a straight 400 fixed.

  141. 141) steven Marshall
    June 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Very good article. You covered it all with easy to understand how toos and great photos. Gotta go find some birds now……

  142. 142) Kathy
    June 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    First of all, I love your photographs..just beautiful..and I love the way you explained all above…very informational….

    I have a D90 Nikon and use a 70-300 4.5-5.6 zoom lens….and however I do get some good shots..but not as sharp and in focus like I would love..always looking for better equipment to help me along…I love shooting birds in flight..and yes hand held, is what I am used to…I have some of my photo’s on Kathy-Castrataro..take a look and let me know how I can improve…should I upgrade my camera? my lens? yes I know I will use a tripod more..but I was wondering if the 300mm f4 would work fast enough with the D90?

    Thanks so much for reading…and have a blessed day…KC

  143. 143) Pascal
    July 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

    I realize this is an old article but would the 300 mm / f4 + teleconverter still be what you recommend for people on tight budgets (using a D800)?

  144. 144) Jeff
    August 6, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Re: 183,184
    I use the 300 f4 and 1.4 TC on a D7000 and I am happy with the image quality. The TC will slow things down a little. gives you 30 days to return a lens. It would only cost you return shipping if you do not like the lens for whatever reason.

  145. 145) suman
    August 8, 2014 at 12:17 am

    I am unable to zoom maximum (55mm) with nikkor 18-55 mm lens in auto mode ..when I am trying to take a picture of object from 10 feet distance with my dslr D5200.

  146. 146) Jacob
    August 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I was wondering what settings and lens you used for your Pacific-slope Flycatcher photo in this article. I really love that species, but have yet to get a good photo of one.


  147. 147) cleh
    September 12, 2014 at 2:22 am

    For entry level cam as beginner using NIkon 5300, what is the suited lens for the birds moving or non moving. far and near distance, and what is the right setting of a camera.

    Thank YOu

  148. 148) Rhonda
    October 13, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    When you say that you shoot with the aperture wide open do you mean a low number or a higher number? What is the highest number aperature you would use?

  149. 149) hannes
    October 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Hi Nasim. I only discovered you webpage yesterday and that is all I could do since then to my wifes frustration. Your settings for bird photography I seem to disagree or apply my settings incorrect. As mentioned I do agree to have shutter speed at at least 1/800 or I find higher but with this setting on A and Iso max 800 which I like, you do not controll the minimum shutter speed. I have the D7100 with 80 – 400 G ED and is great but I hate my pics taken in low light situations. I most of the time take it on S and iso auto and play with the shutter speed depending on what the bird does. You must also use other settings? Like to hear from you. Hannes

  150. 150) Sunil Chitre
    October 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    While shooting Bird photo on “Appeture Mode” how to control control shutter speed.?

  151. 151) Sunildutt Madav
    October 26, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Its really a great information , i am from Mumbai,India , since from last two months following bird photography and studying different aspects of DSLR cameras, lenses , and how to take birds photography . This is very helpful article for any beginners to understand the birds behavior and buying proper camera body and lens to get the sharp image of birds.

    Looking for more article and videos on actual framing birds from distance and cropping .


    Sunildutt Madav
    Mumbai , India

  152. 152) Santosh Dalvi
    November 10, 2014 at 7:13 am

    I bought Canon 70 D a few days back.While photographing the birds I was confused.Your writing helped me a lot to resolve the problems.Thank you so much for your guiding .

  153. 153) Vikram Reddy
    November 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

    I’m from India-South of Goa (middle of Western Ghats-The Biodiversity hotspot) into birding for the past 2 years. I bought Canon 600D exclusively for birding (as it is entry level) and got kit of 18-55mm and 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6. After experimented successfully with the kit for 2 years. Today, I got Canon 400mm F/5.6L USM and fortunately happened to see your article..very informative and interesting.. Please advise me on the combination of Canon 600D and 400 mm lens. Please sugggest further upgradations for wide andgle (close-ups) and birds in flight with settings.

    Thanks n regards

  154. 154) Celso
    November 25, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Excellent suggestions. Thank you.

  155. January 30, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you

  156. 156) birdlover
    April 14, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Thank you!

  157. 157) joseph
    May 2, 2015 at 9:08 am

    I have a Cannon EOS Rebel T3i 600D with two lenses 1. EFS 55-250mm IS Macro 1.1/3.6ft. on the front of lens says EF-S 55-250MM 1:4-5.6 IS 2. with a SUNPAK 58mm Circular Polarized attachment. The second one lense is a EFS 18-55mm IS Macro 0.25m/0.8ft. and on the front of this lense reads Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS 2 with a Sunpak 58mm Ultraviolet.
    Will this be good for bird shooting too!

  158. 158) Jenny
    May 6, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Wow this is such great information. Thank you for sharing something that obviously took you days, weeks, months to learn. Fascinating article.

  159. 159) Ian Llewellyn
    May 30, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Nasim, I am an avid Bird photographer & believe that my photographs are of an exceptable standard, but nowhere near the quality portrayed in your article :How to photograph birds”.
    Currently I use a Nikon D7100 coupled with a Nikkor 80-400 Zoom lens but do not achieve the image crispness that I am striving to achieve.

    I am seriously considering updating to a Nikon D810 camera body but due to finances retaining my current lens.
    I would be most grateful to receive your comments as to the suitability of this combination.
    Thanks & regards
    Ian Llewellyn

  160. 160) Suraj P. Singh
    June 18, 2015 at 10:23 am

    A very useful article for the beginner bird photographers! Many-many thanks Nasim!!

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