We Simplify The Technical!

Composition plays a huge part in artistic bird photography but it’s really

tough to think about when you are trying to capture a bird in flight.

Judy Malloch and Peggy Farren discuss different techniques and composition

guidelines to help us improve our bird photography images.

*Please scroll to the bottom of the post for more images from our guest.*

Tips for Better Bird Photography
with Judy Malloch

Judy’s Top Tips

  • Make room for the bird to leave the frame.
  • Don’t clip anything from the bird -wingtips, tail, etc. – but you CAN crop for a close-up of the head.
  • Use proper depth of field to keep the whole bird in focus, but most especially the eye. (Artistically Subjective)
  • Have a plan in mind when setting up. 
  • Get as close to eye level as possible.
  • Move back for a better angle when shooting upwards with a long lens.  
  • Use teleconverters to get the most length from your lenses.
  • Don’t do anything to stress the birds, especially if they are nesting with babies.  Watch their body language and be respectful.
  • Keep your subject as clear as possible.  Don’t allow background/horizon objects to cut through the head or beak of the bird.
  • You are in control of where you’re standing.  Move to get the best background elements.
  • The golden hour is always the best light, no matter what environment you’re in.
  • Try to get even lighting on your subject – avoid the mottled light under a tree canopy.  Bright and dark spots can take your eye away from the subject.
  • Keep your horizon level.

“Birds tell us a lot.  There’s so much to learn in wildlife, the love 

and interactions are incredible.”

Judy’s Gear

  • Nikon 300 f/2.8 – fast, sharp, able to handhold
  • Nikon D850 Full Frame 45 Megapixel – “The best camera I’ve ever had.”
  • Gimbal Head – you need something that will move.
  • Recommended lenses:

Canon 100-400:  a great overall wildlife lens

Nikon 200-500:  a good telephoto

Sigma 150-600:  a light long lens, able to handhold

* a 500-600 is recommended for hummingbirds*


Birds in Flight

  • PRACTICE.  Practice with the slowest birds you can find.
  • Stay at a distance so you can follow them and keep them in focus.  If you’re standing right in front of the bird as it takes off, all you get are butt-shots.
  • Learn to anticipate take-offs.  Watch the birds’ body language and learn their behaviors.
  • Think about the shot you want to get and be prepared for it.


  • Learn to shoot in manual.
  • Set a fast shutter speed – especially if shooting for action.
  • Then set f-stop or ISO.
  • When shooting birds in flight – if the bird moves into a lighter or darker area, roll the dial to change the f-stop.  (ISO takes too long to change.)
  • Keep your focus point on the eye.
  • Use automatic, center square focus and continuous focus mode (AFC on Nikon).

Now or Later?

  • Do the best you can in-camera with lighting, exposure, and composition.
  • If entering the image in a contest, all they will allow are cropping and adjustments in levels, curves, and sharpening.

Finding Judy





Understand Photography

General Notes

What you need to learn for a solid photography education.  Watch our free video:


Upcoming Trips:
St. Augustine – April 11-14, 2019
Women’s Photography Weekend, Naples – June 7 – 9, 2019
Tuscany Ladies Photo Workshop and Tour – 
Sept 28 – Oct 5, 2019

New Book!  Peggy Farren and Joe Fitzpatrick have published a book highlighting Florida’s Best Photo Spots!

Florida Photo Spots: Naples and Collier County by [Farren, Peggy, Fitzpatrick, Joe]

Understand Photography is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Judy Malloch Kell-billed-toucan--Just-a-Little-Sassy-!!!
Judy Malloch Grt-Bl.-nest-building-2-2006
Judy Malloch Red-Headed-wooopecker--In-The-Spotlight
Judy Malloch Spoonbill--In-Flight-

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