Light blue birds silhouetted against a darker blue background

How to take better bird photos

Watch the birdie!


This Big Garden Birdwatch, do more than count the birds – take photos or even video of them too. You don’t need to be a wildlife photography expert either. The RSPB's Ben Andrew is on hand to give you some top tips to taking great shots at home.

The right camera kit

Most people use their mobile phones to take photos these days and many now come with very good cameras and zooms.

Set your bird feeder up close to a window and rest your phone on something to get a steady shot. If you have a DSLR use a telephoto lens on a decent focal length, like a 300mm-500mm. When using a long lens make sure it's on a tripod or if shooting through an open window rest it on a beanbag. For feeder or mid-air antics you’ll need a fast shutter speed to capture the birds in flight, around 1/2000. Checking your camera settings, such as ISO and aperture, will allow for this.

Set up perches

Give your garden birds some natural-looking perches to sit on close to your feeders, so you can photograph them in a more natural way. Make sure you choose a perch that’s the right size for the birds you’d like to attract and also think about the background. An uncluttered and natural-coloured background works well. You can always move the perches around or change them for more variety.

Provide a drinking pool

Rather than using a standard bird bath, why not build a reflection pool instead? It’s quite easy to set up a pool that birds will happily drink from and bathe in and that will provide you with beautiful reflections for your photographs. You could try placing a large, shallow plant tray on a table so that it’s at eye level (when seated!) and make it look natural by using pebbles, sticks, mosses, ferns and other natural foliage around the edge of the pool.

Capture bird behaviour

Birds will often squabble over prime feeding perches on the bird feeders, which provides the perfect opportunity to capture birds in flight and birds fighting. The key is to be prepared for these sorts of squabbles: make sure you use a fast shutter speed to capture the action sharply but don’t be afraid to be creative. A slow shutter speed can also show the dramatic movement of the birds.

The man behind the camera

Ben Andrew is an award-winning photographer and a columnist for Nature’s Home, the RSPB’s member magazine. He’s won several competitions, including the Countryfile Calendar competition with his “Happy Hedgehog” image, and the Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust Photo of the Year competition with a picture of a grey heron. Ben’s work led him to become the RSPB’s picture researcher, managing RSPB Images.

Share your shots

Remember to share your shots with other Big Garden Birdwatchers on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and use the hashtag #BigGardenBirdwatch