Hummingbird Photography Checklist

Hummingbird Photo by Scott Bourne

Hummingbird Photography Checklist

I’m getting excited about the upcoming spring migration because it means more hummingbirds passing through.

To get ready for hummingbird photo season, I have prepared a checklist. It’s somewhat exhaustive although I would never claim that you can think of EVERYTHING you might need to do to get ready, but these are the basics.

This is one of my older setups – 10 years ago, but you get the point.

1. Recharge all batteries and format all memory cards the night before the shoot.
2. Clean all humming bird feeders the night before and make sure to have lots of nectar ready to go in the fridge.
3. Make sure all flash units (I usually use four) have freshly charged batteries inserted and make sure to have spares located near each flash so you can do a quick dump and refresh once the batteries expire.
4. Set up background stand and flash stands.
5. Affix background to background stand and have plenty of spare C-Clamps to secure it and anything else you might want to hold in place.
6. Fill and hang feeder at eye level to the camera while it is positioned on a tripod.
7. Angle the feeder. 25 degrees toward the background seems to work best for me. This forces the birds to approach facing forward, i.e., looking at the camera.
8. Place the feeder between three and six feet from the background. Six feet is optimal.
9. Place natural flowers and/or other vegetation so it conceals the feeding port on the feeder.
10. Make sure the background cheats to the high position. Hummingbirds tend to fly up after feeding and usually hover above (not below) the feeder so leave more headroom on your background.
11. Set up flashes – one on background – one below (or sometimes above depending on ambient light in the scene) camera straight on – one on each side of the feeder about 45 degree angles, making one of those six to eight inches higher than the other.
12. Set flashes to between 18 and 24 inches away from the feeder.
13. Install fresh battery and memory card in the camera.
14. Install cable release.
15. Use a picnic or other large umbrella, or whatever you can to shade off the hummingbird setup. This keeps the light constant on the feeder, regardless of weather conditions.

This is also an older setup - before I got the Olympus flash heads, but again, you get the point
This is also an older setup – before I got the Olympus flash heads, but again, you get the point


There you have it. Basic, quick and dirty but it has all the main points covered. I’ll be posting a series of hummingbird how-tos that go into more detail about why this all matters and how to use such a setup. Keep this list handy if you plan to do hummingbird setups.


P/S I will have some updated pictures of my current setup using my Olympus gear, very soon. Stay tuned.

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 or Noah Buchanan at 781.462.2356. If you cannot reach either one try Gary Farber at 781-462-2332. You will ALWAYS get the best prices if you call the store v. Using the web site. You can also email Noah at: or Alan at or Gary at: Hunt’s has been around a long time and you can trust them. Make sure to mention that Scott Bourne sent you. That will get you the best deal.

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