How To Ease Your Way Into Birds In Flight Photography

Harris's Hawk Photo by Scott Bourne

How To Ease Your Way Into Birds In Flight Photography

Harris's Hawk Photo by Scott Bourne

This is a short little post aimed at giving guidance to those who want to try their hand at birds in flight (BIF) photography.

I know from experience how hard it is and how frustrating it can be. Believe me. I post lots of sharp, well-composed, BIF shots but for every one I post, I have 100 that fell short – somehow.

I just spent some time in Colorado teaching the Picture Methods Raptor Photography Tour. There were lots of beginners there and I gave them the same advice I will give in this post.

Don’t start with the hardest thing. Start with something that will help you achieve the desired result more quickly. That way, you won’t get so frustrated that you just give up.

Case in point…

1. Start with bigger birds (tiny sparrows and warblers are not the way to go here – think raptors…)

Harris's Hawk photo by Scott Bourne

2. Concentrate on getting birds leaping off the perch. This is a behavior that they repeat, so it gives you lots of chances to practice.

3. Pre-focus on the area where you want to capture the bird and allow yourself a little extra depth-of-field, to increase your chances. (This is a tip only for those who have trouble with autofocus on BIF shots.)

I had no problem with autofocus for this picture, because my OM-D E-M1 X has great tracking AF. But if I needed help, I could have just pre-focused on the bush in front of the tree/perch and then when the bird left the perch, I could press the shutter button.

Not trying to get the whole flight from start to finish, left me with immediate and successful results.

So give that a try. Or, just come with me to Colorado next year when I repeat the raptor workshop and I’ll teach you first-hand how to do it.

P.S. If you use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 MK II or X, you might benefit from setting up your camera the way I do, optimized, for BIF. Instructions for setting Olympus AF for BIF can be found here.

Picture Methods has partnered with Hunt’s Photo & Video to bring you the best gear at a competitive price and backed by personal service. Call Alan Samiljan at 781-462-2383 if you need photo/video gear. If you prefer, you can also email Alan at: or just visit the Hunt’s Photo & Video Website deals page.

7 Responses

  1. Do you have settings for the ME5 II? I am using the 150-300 Pro w/1.4 teleconverter and have a lot of eagles to photograph Maryland. The Auto Focus Tracking seems horrible in the sky. It bounces all over the place. I had read elsewhere to use the continuous auto-focus instead. Is 1/2000th shutter good? My pics don’t seem as sharp as they should be. Thank you!

    1. I am sorry but I do not have settings for that camera and that lens with a 1.4 TC is pushing the technology way past its limits. If you want reliable tracking AF your choices are the OM-D E-M1 MK II, the OM-D E-M1 X or the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. Best wishes.

Leave a Reply




Related Post

Moments of Nature

This is a video production I made during the pandemic to share with folks...

PictureMethods Holiday Gift Guide For Photographers

As the holiday season approaches, the excitement of gift-giving fills the air. And for...

The 10-Question Photo Challenge

As you get further down the road in your photography journey, you eventually learn...
%d bloggers like this: