Bird photography is no doubt one of the most popular genres amongst nature photographers. There are so many options when choosing the right camera gear for bird photography.

Any DLSR camera, a low-end or high-end camera will allow you to capture birds.
All cameras can take great photos. It’s just the technique or skill required that will change depending on your camera model.

Photographers usually crop the image so the bird fills the frame. Any lens shorter than a 400mm will mean you’ll need to do quite a lot of cropping to fill the frame with the actual bird. It’s also important to note that the price of longer lenses are on the way down, with some awesome photographs being seen from cheaper brands like the Sigma 150-500mm f/5 -6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens.

Post Processing Software

The three necessities of any great bird photographer are skill, gear, and software. The software is, after all, the modern darkroom of yesteryear. I won’t go into software too much on this page as I already have a Photo Editing Software article where I list several choices for free, low cost and professional options.

What are the Best Digital SLR Camera Settings For Bird Photography?

When shooting with a DSLR camera, there are 4 basic settings to think about. First, choose your Exposure Mode, then set (or take note of) the Aperture, Shutter Speed (most important for birds) and ISO. The secret to great bird photography (especially those in flight) is to set a low Aperture F number, coupled with the lowest ISO possible that still enables your camera to shoot at 1/1000th of a second minimum.

Exposure Modes
There are 3 popular Exposure Modes for bird photography, Aperture Priority (beginners), Shutter Priority (mid– experienced) and Manual Mode (experienced photographers).
Change your ISO to 600, set a low Aperture F number (f/4.0– f/5.6). On a sunny day, these settings should result in your camera automatically shooting with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second minimum, fast enough to capture a bird in flight. If you find your camera is shooting faster than 1/1000th of a second, then you can set a lower ISO number (for example ISO 200) which will result in better image quality.
2. Shutter Priority — Shutter Priority is a priority for bird photography. When using Shutter Priority the following settings are recommended. Change your ISO to 600 (for starters), set your shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second. After you’ve taken a few shots, have a look at what Aperture F number your camera is automatically shooting with. If it is a higher F number than say 6.3, then it’s ok to lower your ISO number for better image quality.
3. Manual Mode — For those choosing Manual Mode, I’ll presume you know your camera well and repeat what I said in the introduction of this section: Set a low Aperture F number, coupled with the lowest ISO possible that still enables your camera to shoot at 1/1000th of a second minimum.

Shutter Speed
When it comes to photographing birds in flight or on the move, Shutter speed is your best friend. Birds move fast! Memorable nature shots are often photographs of birds flying or hovering. To capture a bird in motion, you will need to set a camera speed of at least 1/1000th of a second. That is usually my starting point, then I’ll view the cameras rear LCD screen and adjust to a faster speed if needed.

Aperture Settings
The best Aperture setting for photographing birds in flight is f/5.6. Setting a low Aperture F number also results in a bird that stands out from the background (highly recommended).
If on the other hand, you want a nature photo of a bird and its surroundings, then I recommend using a higher Aperture F number. Remember the higher you go, the more natural light you need to keep that shutter speed nice and fast.

ISO Settings
As for ISO, again the secret is to choose the lowest ISO F number possible that will still allow you to shoot at 1/1000th of a second. I recommend no higher than 800 if you own a low end/ beginner camera model. You should still see good results from an ISO of 1600 if you own a middle– high-end range camera.
Why no higher than ISO 800 and ISO 1600? The higher you go, the more grain you will see in your images when you look at them on the computer.

Choose your Exposure Mode, then set (or take note of) the Aperture, Shutter Speed (most important for birds) and ISO. The secret to great bird photography (especially those in flight) is to set a low Aperture F number, coupled with the lowest ISO possible that still enables your camera to shoot at 1/1000th of a second minimum.

On a sunny day, these settings should result in your camera automatically shooting with a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second minimum, fast enough to capture a bird in flight. To capture a bird in motion, you will need to set a camera speed of at least 1/1000th of a second. If on the other hand, you want a nature photo of a bird and its surroundings, then I recommend using a higher Aperture F number.