Photographing Birds in Flight

A Wedge-tailed Eagle flying over some houses
A Wedge-tailed Eagle in Flight

Capturing images of birds and other fast moving animals is very difficult, but capturing birds in flight (or BIFs, as they are often referred to as) is extremely challenging indeed. While today’s digital SLR cameras make things a little easier, the biggest advantage of the digital cameras is the large number of pictures you can take when practicing your photography hobby.

Before digital SLR cameras were available, the only way we could practice photographic techniques was with film (in our case slide film), which you had to get developed before you could see your results. This was both a slow process and an expensive one, especially if you were practicing the tricky art of photographing birds in flight.

We recently posted an image on our social media profiles that showed a captive Barn owl in flight. This image was at a photographic workshop which Chris Farrell attended, that discussed the techniques used to take pictures of birds in flight. The workshop was ” On the Wing Photography” and was run by Steve Parish Nature connect.

Barn Owls are very fast moving birds, and workshops like the one mentioned above are one of the easier ways that you can learn and practice flight photography techniques on birds that are trained to respond to their carer. There is nothing worse than finding birds or other fast moving animals in the wild and not capturing that shot. Practice does not always make perfect, but it definitely helps!

Birds in Flight Photography Techniques

When you are out in the field, being prepared is very important and it is extremely important to have your camera set ready for any action you may see on your travels. Nature does not normally wait for you to make adjustments.

Some of our key recommendations are:

  • Have your camera set to at least 1/1000 of a second shutter speed, and 1/2000 may be needed in some situations, to get the desired image sharpness that you are wanting
  • Have your lens aperture on at least F6
  • Set your camera shutter to single shot and get a few well-timed clicks.
  • Set your camera to “Dynamic Area” or “Predictive” focusing and “Continuous” Auto-Focus
  • Panning is very important. Keep your camera well supported and track your subject in the direction it is travelling, and at the same speed.
  • Position yourself properly. Try and get level with your subject when possible, which might mean getting to higher ground, and try to position yourself so that the subject is nicely lit by the sun
A male Gang-gang Cockatoo iflying in the early morning light
A male Gang-gang Cockatoo

Recent images we have taken, like the intro picture of a soaring eagle and this Gang-gang Cockatoo in flight, were captured by being ready and prepared. At Australia’s Wildlife we are always looking for the ultimate encounter with wildlife, which is in the animal’s natural setting, but we understand that we all have different photography capabilities. If you are just starting out, and are looking to improve your flight photography before you take your wildlife photography vacation to the wild areas of Australia, then attending a professionally run photography course, that uses birds that are handled and cared for by accredited trainers, is a great way to hone your skills; but nothing can compare to the feeling of getting that perfect shot of a fast-moving bird in flight in the wild.

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Here are a few more of our birds in flight images: