How To Ease Your Way Into Birds In Flight Photography

Harris's Hawk Photo by Scott Bourne

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.

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