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How to Photograph Birds in Flight


Shooting photos of birds in flight can be a difficult challenge in wildlife photography. Here’s a 6-minute tutorial by Nature TTL that offers tips on this sub-genre. Considered by some to be one of the hardest forms of wildlife photography, freezing the high-speed action of a bird whizzing past you is rewarding when you succeed.

Presented by photographer Sam Rowley, this video looks at some of the most important things to be aware of when shooting motion like this.

First, arming yourself with a gimbal tripod head is extremely helpful. It allows free movement in almost any direction, with the advantage of eliminating camera shake from the equation.

The camera and lens combination will make a difference, as faster focusing systems will perform better. However, that’s not to mean you can’t take a great bird in flight shot with entry-level equipment. Even so, Rowley says that you shouldn’t make matters worse by introducing a teleconverter as that will soften shots and slow up the autofocus system’s efforts.

A lot of it is down to technique, too. Rowley shares simple tricks like keeping both eyes open when looking through the viewfinder, as well as limiting the focus range of your lens. If you are using a zoom lens, you can ensure that it only focuses within a certain distance and infinity. This reduces the amount of “ground” the lens has to cover when focusing, speeding up the whole process.

Check out the full video above for more tips for photographing birds in flight, and subscribe to the Nature TTL channel for weekly nature photography tutorials.

Full disclosure: I own and operate the Nature TTL channel.