How to Photograph Hummingbirds

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hummingbird photo

Photo captured by Will Rountree (Click Image to See More From Will Rountree)

Hummingbirds are amazing little birds. They are the only birds that can fly backwards. They can also fly upside down and side ways. They have beautiful iridescent colors and are almost irresistible to photographers. However, they can be a challenge to photograph. This is article is meant as a guide for beginners when taking pictures of these speedy little birds.

• First of all, you need to know where to find the hummingbirds. If you don’t already have a hummingbird feeder, I would recommend that you buy one. Hummingbirds are very highly attracted to tubular type flowers but may do a “fly by” on different varieties. However, because there is not as much “food” in each flower, they will be darting quickly from flower to flower. If you have a hummingbird feeder, they will stay in one location much longer. They will get used to that feeder having food all the time and will be coming and going all day.

• Now you need to position yourself in the right location for the best pictures. Hummingbirds, like any other bird will frighten off easily, but I have found that if you will be very still and wait for a few minutes, they will return to the feeder. I prefer to take pictures of hummingbirds in bright sun. Their feathers have an iridescent color, which just glows in bright sun. Position yourself where you can take pictures while the sun is shinning directly on the bird. Depending on what type of lens you have as to how close you can get to the birds. Standing very still, I have had them come within inches of me while I was refilling the feeder.

• There are several pieces of equipment that you will need. I would recommend using a zoom or telephoto lens so you can get a good close-up shot without disturbing the hummingbirds too much. The farther away you are, the more comfortable they are going to be. I would also recommend using a tripod or monopod. If your lens has an image stabilizer on it, be sure it is turned on. You want your picture to be as sharp as possible in case you want to crop it. Using your built-in flash will help to freeze the motion of the wings, however, a hot shoe flash will usually do a better job as they tend to be faster. I personally like to see a little blur of the wings as is shows motion and to me is just a little more interesting.

• Use the auto-focus, AF, setting on your camera. This will allow the camera to refocus on the hummingbird as it is darting around. This is harder than it sounds, as they are so fast. Keep an eye on where the bird tends to hover while waiting for another drink. It is also going to be helpful to use the center AF point for focusing. Try to keep that center point on your subject as much as possible.

photographing hummingbirds

Photo captured by Will Rountree (Click Image to See More From Will Rountree)

• You will also need to use a fast shutter speed and if in shady light conditions a higher ISO setting. I would recommend an ISO of about 400 and a shutter speed of 1/800. If you go too high on either setting in a low light setting you are going to get too much “noise” and your picture will look grainy.

• One of the most important things you are going to do to be successful while photographing hummingbirds is to take a lot of pictures! These little speed demons are so fast, you are going to have to take a lot of pictures to get a few good ones. I have taken as many as 100 pictures, to get 2 or 3 really good shots. Set your camera up so it will take pictures in “bursts”. You can hold down the shutter button and it will take 4-5 pictures one right after the other.

Hummingbirds are beautiful and amazing creatures. Hummingbird photography is definitely going to be a bit of a challenge, but well worth the effort when you get those one or two great shots.

About the Author:
Sheila Brown is an experienced photographer who enjoys writing articles to share her experiences and her passion for nature photography. You can view her nature photos at http://www.shopbeautifulnaturepictures.com.

For further training on photographing hummingbirds, here is a helpful video tutorial:

You may not be successful on your first attempt, but don’t give up, with a little time and patience you will succeed!

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3 Comments

  1. Nevada Chuck says:

    In the fourth paragraph the article recommends the use of a tripod, and in the next sentence advises that if the lens or camera has built-in stabilization, to turn it on. This is contrary to most experts and manufacturers’ advice, which is to not use stabilizxation if the camera is on a tripod.

    Any response?

  2. tj says:

    hahaha in the video, not the person I would have expected to be a humming bird photographer! :)

  3. Larry says:

    Nevada Chuck. You are correct. Do not use the stabilizer on a tripod.

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