Heading back outdoors to shoot? Check out this crash course guide to photographing birds in flight

Tips & Techniques

With lockdown restrictions starting to be eased in various parts of the world, many will want to get back into shooting photography outside of their home again. One excellent worthwhile genre you can cover that still lets you follow the social distancing guidelines which are still in place for most of us is bird photography, particularly when they’re in flight.

In this video, Steve Perry teaches us just about everything we could ever want to know to get started photographing birds in flight. As you’ll see, it presents a lot of great challenges. And learning how to overcome those challenges can also be useful in many other types of photography, too.

Photographing birds in flight really teaches you how to “see” the light. You get to understand the direction of the light, the quality of the light, how it’s going to fall on your subject and how to expose for it. You’re forced to learn it, because you only get one chance at some images. You also learn how to anticipate what’s about to happen based on observation before it does actually happen.

Both of these things can be valuable techniques and principles to understand for things like street photography or even weddings and other events where you might have no control over the lighting or what might happen in front of your camera. You need to learn how to anticipate the shot and prepare for it by being in the right spot to not only capture it but for the light around you and your subject to present the scene in the most visually pleasing way possible.

You also very quickly learn how to use your gear and find exactly where its limitations are. Still not sure how your different autofocus modes work, or how to successfully track a subject? How about your metering modes? If you want to get decent photos of birds in flight, you’ll be forcing yourself to try all of them until you understand them.

There’s a lot more to it than this, too, and it’s not just about the gear, as Steve explains in his 18-minute video. But if you’re feeling a bit of cabin fever and it’s safe (and legal) to go explore and shoot some photos where you live, then this can be a great way to get back into practice, even if you still can’t photograph your usual subjects just yet.

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