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: Become an impressionist

When light levels are low, go with the flow and shoot with a very slow shutter speed for lots of blurring and a more impressionistic feel

How to photograph flocks of birds: Become an impressionist

Starling flock at dusk. Taken with: Canon 1D Mark III with 70-200mm lens at 190mm. Exposure: 1/10 sec at f5.6, ISO 400

How I got the shot
On one of my visits to a starling roost the weather was poor, with a heavily overcast sky and low light. There was little point in attempting to get sharp shots of the birds, and even if I had the results would have been rather dull.

Instead I decided to capture a more creative image of the flock by setting a very slow shutter speed.

I was also handholding the camera, so I knew that nothing in the picture would be sharp, with lots of blurring of the birds’ wings, and that this would create an impressionistic representation of the flock that had a real sense of movement.

SEE MORE: Slow shutter speed vs fast – how to maintain a consistent exposure

Key camera settings
I used Aperture Priority (Av) mode and set this to f5.6, which gave me a slow shutter of 1/10 sec at ISO400.

As the light levels dropped, so did the shutter speed, which resulted in varying degrees of blurring, but I found around 1/8 sec was about right for the effect I wanted.

Field notes
The important point for this shot is to remain flexible in your approach. If the light is not right for one type of shot then think how you can use it to your advantage to create something different.

How to photograph flocks of birds: Shoot a Silhouette
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How to photograph flocks of birds: Capture Motion Blur
How to photograph flocks of birds: Become an impressionist
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