Tips On Properly & Safely Photographing Captive Birds

Eagle Owl Photo by Scott Bourne

Tips On Properly & Safely Photographing Captive Birds

Why photograph captive birds?

  • Great way to practice
  • Can save on travel to exotic lands to find the same creatures
  • Gives you access you wouldn’t typically get in the wild
  • Helps capture close up detail
  • Helps build sample/portfolio

Where can you photograph captive birds?

Mouse bird photo by Scott Bourne

While zoos are a popular place to find and photograph birds, there are other choices…

  • Wildlife sanctuaries
  • Bird rehab/rescues
  • Game farms
  • Safari parks
  • Game ranches
Falcon Photograph Copyright Scott Bourne
Falcon Photograph Copyright Scott Bourne

Basic Rules/Suggestions

  1. Research the facility/bird handler to make sure they put the bird’s safety first.
  2. Remember that our shots are never more important than the bird’s health, safety and well-being.
  3. Always trust the bird handler to let you know when you’re too close or the bird has had enough. If the handler says the bird has had enough, don’t argue.
  4. Even though the birds are captives and relatively tame, restrict sudden movement and/or loud voices/sounds.
  5. Try to maintain your camera at the bird’s eye level for the most intimate shots.
  6. Try different head poses to give yourself maximum coverage of the bird.
  7. Use a long enough lens to shoot a tightly cropped full face portrait of the bird.
  8. When making bird photographs under controlled conditions, don’t pretend you shot in the wild. If people see your shots made of captives and think that you went to the field to get them, they might be tempted to do something that would stress the bird or the bird’s habitat.
  9. Always offer the handler free copies of pictures to support their efforts.
  10. Have fun. It’s a great and fantastic honor to spend time close to birds. Enjoy it.


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