Know These Seven Elements to Become a Better Bird Photographer

Outside of being physically out in the field and taking shots, we can step back and identify several key elements to what being a great bird photographer means.

In this video, professional bird photographer Jan Wegener talks about seven different elements that he believes makes a great bird photographer. These range from knowing your subjects through visual identification and bird calls, to knowing how to post-process images to get the full impact, to being on top of your networking game and using social media.

Possibly more than anything, the act of bird photography is a journey filled with eliminating dead ends and learning what not to do so that eventually all you’re left over with are the things that seem to work on occasion. It’s a mad practice, but for many, it’s also incredibly rewarding when everything comes together. By making note of these seven elements, we can at least bring focus to key elements that make great bird photographers and give us some structure in how we continue learning.

The elements in the video are only the views of one photographer, and you may have a different opinion or additional elements that make for a great bird photographer. Let us know in the comments what you think.

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Indy Thomas's picture

It's a lot like fishing. More time on the water (or field) and your chances multiply.
Knowing what your looking for and being in the right place makes all the difference.

Eric Grapher's picture

1. Do not bait your wildlife subjects. Animals are creatures of habit, and if you place food in a spot, they will return to that spot long after you've got your shot. It is one thing to add a perch (I'm not keen on that), it is another to add a perch and food source to get your image. imho, you stopped being a wildlife photographer. Why not get your shot at a zoo?

2. When editing, do not clone a twig that is in front of the bird. To do so, you are adding bird you couldn't see. Cloning out the twig behind the bird is somewhat acceptable in some circles. NEVER replace the sky. Even if you think no one can tell, someone will. In this video, he edits for highlights and shadows - basic exposure and contrast controls. That's ideal. If sharpening or USM, do so with care and knowledge. Someone with better eyes than yours will be looking at the image.

3. When taking a photo of a captive animal, make certain you do not even hint of it being wildlife.

4. Everyone loves closeups, but when you move too close, you cause the bird to take flight. That places stress on the bird, and causes the bird to deplete its energy. In winter, this can result in the bird dying. Better to crop than to kill. Learn to embrace the scene, the setting, the environment of the bird, too.