Don’t Wing it

Morkel Erasmus Morkel 1 Comment

I’ve said it many times here on the blog – but bird photography should be on every wildlife photographer’s priority list to improve on.


It’s GREAT practice.

It’s GREAT fun.

It’s PORTABLE (you can do it anywhere as birds occur nearly everywhere).

In case you missed my previous series on tips for improving your avian photography, check them out HERE.

Birds in flight are particularly hard to nail – so here are four quickfire tips to ensure you don’t have to “wing it” when it comes to capturing great photos of birds in flight, specifically when you have birds that are going to take off from a perch imminently.

1. Know what you want to achieve, and dial in your settings with confidence

Whether you are after blurry or sharp-as-a-tack flight images, make a call on settings, dial them in and shoot your frames. You can always check/revise your settings upon first review before the next flyby or piece of action happens. Pondering on settings too long will make you miss the shot entirely. I explained detail technical settings for various types of in-flight photos in the series linked to above.


2. Get better at predicting flight direction

Some birds are highly erratic in flight direction, but in general you can gauge in which direction a bird will be taking off by observing the wind direction (they’ll likely fly into the wind to get lift under their wings) and observing their general posture or direction of gaze.


3. Take the size of the wings into account.

Sounds obvious huh? Well it’s an easy mistake to make – especially with larger birds. If you have too much lens for the bird in your viewfinder, you need to be really good at tracking/panning and you need to select a main focus point further away from the middle towards the direction of the frame the bird will be flying from…otherwise you could end up with a sequence like this:




4. The light has to be right

Unlike with wildlife photography where overcast weather can aid your shot in many cases, with birds in flight it’s the opposite (particularly if you are shooting with the sky as your backdrop. Birds in flight in dull light just don’t work that well as photos – the bird’s plumage and eye needs some soft light to make it pop and jump out from the background. Learn to read the light conditions so you know when to head out for a shoot and when to stay home and binge on Netflix.



Good luck, and have fun!

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About the Author

Morkel Erasmus

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Just a regular guy, camera in hand, overcome by the beauty of the African continent, and passionate about sharing this beauty with others!

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