3 easy tips for better backyard bird photography

July 9, 2015, 12:24 p.m.

Bird photography is one of those niches of nature photography where you don't have to travel great distances or carry heavy gear up miles of hiking trails. You can, of course, or you can simply stay at home, watching the birds in your own backyard. Even with the comforts of home, bird photography can be a real challenge, especially if you want to create natural-looking portraits or capture interesting behavior. But with a few tips, you'll be well on your way to award-worthy photographs of your feathered neighbors.

1. Study up on your bird species. It's smart to know what species will be around at different times of the year, what plumage they'll be sporting and what their habits will be. Depending on where you live, some species will only show up for nesting season or for winter. Some will only hang around if there is a certain type of food available and some will hang out at the distant edges of the yard rather than right at the feeder. Knowing your species will help you be ready for the where, when and how for photographing birds. Try this backyard bird quiz to see how savvy you are already!

2. Build perches for a more scenic setting. Bird feeders make for rather unattractive backgrounds. But if you build a perch nearby with, say, a moss-covered stick set in front of a wall of ivy or the branches of a leafy tree, you create a great setting for more natural looking bird photographs. Birds waiting for their turn at the feeder will land on the perch, and there is your chance for a gorgeous photograph!

3. Build yourself a blind. Some birds are pretty easy going and will let you stand there with your camera, taking photos while they snack at the feeder. However, many birds are quite skittish and it's difficult to get close enough to them for a great shot. The solution is to create a blind. You can buy a pop-up blind, or make one out of a chair and a camouflage cloth draped over you and your tripod, with a hole cut out that you can stick your camera lens through. If you sit quietly in your blind, you may have a chance to witness some amazing up-close behavior that creates interesting and exciting nature photography.

You can learn more about backyard bird photography in How to take great bird photos in your backyard.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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