This might well be the trickiest aspect to accomplish. The correct composition can lend magic to an otherwise normal photo, and may well make or break all your efforts. Getting the flying bird in the right part of your frame is not an easy task either. The only solution to this is to practice and practice some more. Check out well composed images and try to replicate the scene with the birds near you. Keep in mind that the rules for composition remain the same irrespective of whether it’s a bird or a human as the main subject. I’ll outline some key pointers on getting great photos of birds in flight here:
1. Try to get the bird flying into the frame, rather than exiting it. Leave some space in front of the bird, around half your frame would be great. It's also easier to pan while shooting this way.
(Image Credit: Johan Wessels)
2. Birds landing or taking off make for very appealing photos. Again, make sure to leave space in front of the bird in both cases. Birds usually take off and land into the wind, hence the bird turning its body towards the wind could be a pointer to its impending take-off. Other signs to look out for are defecation, a general examination of its surroundings and alarm calls.
(Image Credit: Glenn Seplak)
3. People usually shoot birds from a low angle, as they usually fly above us. But by changing the angle (for example, trying to capture it at eye-level or from a top angle) adds a whole new perspective to the photo. Including sufficient background to get the bird in context with its surroundings is also recommended to add drama to the photo. It's not always necessary to get the bird sharply in focus.
(Image Credit: Luc Viatour)
4. For some great photos of birds in flight, try silhouettes. These types of photos of birds in flight make for excellent compositions, especially when against the backdrop of a sunset.
(Image Credit: Tommy Hansen)
5. One of my personal favorites is the backlit shot. Position yourself facing the sun, and try to capture the entire opened wingspan of the bird.
(Image Credit: Forest & Kim Starr)
6. Wing Position: Now this is another very tricky aspect and comes with either tremendous practice or a very good burst mode in your camera! But remember that:
- If the bird is shot parallel to the plane of your lens, try to capture it with its wings fully up or fully down. I prefer the fully down position more as it lends a kind of ‘gliding’ smooth feel to the image.
(Image Credit: Keith)
- If the bird is flying directly towards you, almost any position is good enough, but the wings parallel to the bird’s body and the ground accentuates its size and gives a majestic feel.
(Image Credit: Duncan Wright)
Following these photography tips on capturing photos of birds in flight will surely put you on the path to getting those spectacular photos! Good luck and do share your results with us.