How to photograph flocks of birds: 5 ideas for creative images

How to photograph flocks of birds: 5 ideas for creative images

How to photograph flocks of birds: Capture Motion Blur

Rather than freeze the action, set a slow shutter speed and pan the camera for a more creative image that conveys movement within a flock

How to photograph flocks of birds: Capture Motion Blur

Flock of Oystercatchers. Taken with: Canon 1D Mark II with 300mm f/4. Exposure: 1/30 sec at f/8, ISO100

How I got the shot
Along the coast at high tide there is usually quite a lot of movement of birds, as groups fly from their feeding grounds to gather at a nearby roost site.

By positioning myself on one of the main flight paths I was able to photograph a succession of small flocks of waders as they flew.

It was a mostly cloudy day and so rather than crank up the ISO (with the resultant noise problems) to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion, I deliberately chose a much slower shutter speed to capture some blur in the oystercatchers’ wings.

SEE MORE: How to reduce noise at high ISO settings

The camera was set up on a tripod, which allowed me to make a smooth pan as the birds flew by, with the aim of keeping some of the birds’ heads tolerably sharp.

Key settings
I set a shutter speed of 1/30 sec in Shutter Priority (Tv) mode to give the right amount of blurring.

To focus, I selected multi-AF point selection (i.e. all to the focus points) and used AI Servo mode (also known as continuous focus or focus tracking) to track the birds.

Field notes
For this type of shot to work it was important that I was positioned roughly parallel to the birds’ flight path.

This allowed me to focus on the birds as they approached from the left, and then take a series of shots as they came square on to the camera.

How to photograph flocks of birds: Shoot a Silhouette
How to photograph flocks of birds: Photograph Wading Birds
How to photograph flocks of birds: Capture Motion Blur
How to photograph flocks of birds: Become an impressionist
How to photograph flocks of birds: Go back for more

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