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3 Excuses About Bird Photography That Are Irrelevant Today

Not before long, just a few years ago, all three excuses mentioned below were applicable.

Not to mention, most bird photographers would fall prey for these three excuses whenever they couldn’t succeed in getting better at bird photography.

It’s a story of almost every bird photographer in the world—professional or otherwise—when they started off.

However, all these excuses are irrelevant today….

But, the irony is, bird photographers are still struggling. The question is why?

Let me discuss the 3 excuses first and you might want to share your thoughts in your comments. 

Excuse #1: If only I had higher fps in my camera

It used to be the Number one excuse that the fps (frames per second) is not good enough in the camera.

Most of the cameras, just 2 or 3 years ago, would have around 5 fps.

However, today most cameras support at least 6 fps and above. If you spend a little bit extra, you’d get up to 10 fps!

You know 10 fps was just a dream for the majority when I started out ten years ago. That was reserved for professionals who could afford. I am not sure, if everyone could.

Now the question is, does your bird photos look any better now with higher fps camera?

Probably not. Isn’t it?

You’ll surely get 5-10 more photos than before. 

But they are not necessarily good ones.

You know why?

Because, having higher fps doesn’t translate to better photos. It only means you get more photos.

If you haven’t yet learned to get better images, you’ll only get higher number of bad images directly proportional to the higher fps.

While it’s good to have a higher fps, it only becomes useful when you have the required skills to make the best use of it.

Do this instead

Focus on improving your skills first before upgrading to a new camera. 

Once you are good at your skills, getting a better camera will just open up a whole new world. The other way around is just a waste of $1000-$3000 more.

Image Copyright © Prathap Photography
Nikon D7100, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8, 1/320, ISO 200, Aperture Priority Mode, Spot Metering.
A family of Sandhill Cranes in flight.
Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area, Indiana, USA.

Excuse #2: If only I had the (telephoto focal length) reach

Not enough reach (or focal length). This was probably the biggest of the excuses I’ve heard from a bird photographers.

However, with the new line of third-party lenses like Tamron/Sigma 150-600mm, are quite affordable and now everyone has similar focal length—professionals and amateurs.

Now the question is are you able to get better results?

It’s not just about getting closer shots, composition does matter. Isn’t it?

Here’s what you can do

Work with birds that are cooperative like the ducks, goose, gulls, etc so that you can work with many different composition.

See what really matters. Challenge yourself to get better photos of the common birds.

Image Copyright © Prathap Photography
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ f/5.3, 195mm, 1/640, ISO 200, Manual Mode, Matrix Metering.
A River Tern in flight.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore, India.

Once you are good at composing, you’ll eventually get better results.

After building the confidence in yourself, you can then move on to faster birds. Once you internalise certain skills it goes out of the way helping you to master more skills.

So, again, invest more in developing your skills than investing in which latest camera or the lens in the market will give you good results. They cannot. And, that’s the fact.

You already have everything a novice or an amateur bird photographer requires. If you don’t embrace them and learn to use them properly by improving your field skills, then you’ll be disappointed with your next equipment.

Excuse #3: If only I had a better ISO performance 

Just a few years ago, ISO performance of almost all the DSLRs except the professional ones, were really awful. Most often, you couldn’t go beyond ISO 400, if you really cared about the quality of the image at print resolutions.

However, today it’s all changed. Now, almost all DSLRs have amazing ISO performances. At least, most of them are good till ISO 400 and does fairly well till ISO 800. 

Image Copyright © Prathap Photography
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ f/5, 110mm, 1/1250, ISO 200, Manual Mode, Matrix Metering.
A Spot-billed Pelican Scooping water mid-flight.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore, India.

A word of advise here: Don’t fall into the huge ISO range that manufactures tout these days. It’s kind of eye-washing technique. If you look closely at the field results of most DSLRs, they fail to give great quality images beyond ISO 800. 

Anyway, the point is, you have a DSLR that’ll at least give you good to great results till ISO 800. That’s more than enough under proper lighting conditions.

The question now is, how much of an improvement do you see in your results? Did higher ISO actually gave you better results?

Perhaps not, it just allowed you to use higher shutter speeds. And that doesn’t translate to better images. Isn’t it? It might translate to sharper images, but not better images.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line:

It doesn’t really matter what equipment you have if your skills are not good enough.

Just like an artist doesn’t become a master of his/her craft because of the tool he/she uses, the photographer doesn’t become a master because of the equipment he/she uses.

Image Copyright © Prathap Photography
Nikon D300S, Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ f/5.6, 300mm, 1/1600, ISO 200, Manual Mode, Matrix Metering.
A Painted Stork Landing.
Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary near Mysore, India.

How much ever you want to convince yourself that the next camera or the next lens will make you better, It won’t. Trust me on this.

Spend enough time, effort, and money into improving your bird photography skills, you’ll never regret it. I am assuming that you already have at least a zoom lens that reaches 500-600mm and a fair enough camera that has a 5fps or above.

It Ain’t Always the Equipment

There was this workshop student who had 4 or 5 camera bodies and every lens that you can imagine. Every one of them.

And, was he getting great results. Perhaps not. Perhaps, he was more confused than all other students.

You know why?

He wasn’t sure which camera and lens combination should he use, which will happen to anyone for that matter.

The more you have, the more confused you become. Unless, you know exactly why you need so many equipment and what’s the purpose of each of them.

So, having the world’s greatest equipment cannot help you if you aren’t yet that great in your game. 

We never question the football, do we? Will a particular football from a particular manufacturer make a footballer great? Nope.

Do we ever question the paint used by an artist? Will a particular paint or a canvas make an artist great? Nope.

Do we ever question a computer used by a great engineer? Will a powerful computer, make an engineer the best? Nope. It helps to make it more efficient, but it can’t make him a better engineer.

The examples are endless.

So, here’s what I suggest.

Stop Making Excuses

From today onwards, stop making excuses and start improving your bird photography skills. Don’t wait for some magic to happen with some latest gear. It’ll never happen.

Just start taking action today. Go ahead and practice as much as you can with what you have.

Image Copyright © Prathap Photography
Nikon D7100, Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 lens @ f/2.8, 1/2000, ISO 100, Manual Mode, Matrix Metering.
Grey Heron closeup.
In my apartment complex in Grayslake, IL, USA.

Invest in yourself then anything else.

And, I feel you might be able to make your first investment the best one today. 

If you would like to “download” the world’s best knowledge about the Settings, directly into your brain… only when you need it the most… and without ever having to remember or recall even a single setting whatsoever… then this is going to be the most important message you ever read.

Bird Photography Settings Field Pack. Bird Photography field tips and techniques by Prathap D K
We are living in an Information Age & are constantly overloaded and overwhelmed with information, right? It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. If you are serious about getting results, don’t read (or watch) anymore about photography sitting at your desk or on your couch. You’ve done that enough and you’ve seen their (in)effectiveness. Isn’t it? In most cases, you’ve read more than enough. It’s time to stop reading and get some results, in the field. The printable Bird Photography Settings FIELD PACK will show you exactly how.

Talk Soon.

Best Regards,

Prathap

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Prathap

Prathap is a professional nature photographer and founder of Nature Photography Simplified blog. He aims to simplify every photography concept to help beginners and amateur photographers.

Download his highly recommended FREE eBook "Bird Photography – 10 Mistakes and Solutions" which has been instrumental in helping thousands of bird photographers.

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This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. Hi,

    the critical objections at Excuse #1 are not generally valid!

    There are motif situations in which it is crucial that the camera has the highest possible continuous shooting rate.

    ad)
    “Because, having higher fps doesn’t translate to better photos. It only means you get more photos.”

    No, it is also possible that one simply wants to increase the probability of i. e. photographically “freezing” a bird jumping from one branch to the next exactly between the two branches.

    ad)
    “If you haven’t yet learned to get better images, you’ll only get higher number of bad images directly proportional to the higher fps.”

    This statement is just as reversible! You also COULD get proportional good photos! 😉

    ad)
    “While it’s good to have a higher fps, it only becomes useful when you have the required skills to make the best use of it.”

    That´s right – even in combination with ad 1) and ad 2).

    Greetings
    Sidney

    1. Hi Sidney,

      What a wonderful comment and thoughtful explanation. I love them.

      See, with a skilled photographer, having a 10fps camera instead of a 5 fps one, has a great advantage as you pointed out. But, if your skills are not yet there, in terms of light and composition, placement of the subject, right settings, the right focus, etc. then having more fps, longer reach, better camera, better lens, can’t help. Nope.

      I am not saying that having a great camera or a lens is bad, of course not, all that I am saying is, don’t make the excuses to stop you from getting the results. Never. That’s a sign of weakness.

      So, your arguments, though are solid and valid, aren’t valid from the point of view of the “excuse-making.”

      Keep sharing your thoughts.

      Best Regards,
      Prathap

      1. Hi,

        I have not claimed that a bird photographer does not need certain skills if only his camera is fast enough. But the best skills of the photographer are of no use in those cases where very fast action scenes take place in fractions of a second and in addition to a good composition, good light, etc., a no high continuous shooting rates are also supported.

        In fact, it is conceivable that the decisive moment can only be seen on picture # 6 of 10 and not at all at a continuous shooting rate of 5. By the way, I was able to practically understand this even when taking pictures of the hoopoe feeding young ones in the air.

        By the way, I also didn’t have “only” 10 photos per second in my head when I was talking about higher burst rates. 😉

        Greetings
        Sidney

  2. Beautifully said that not the machine but man behind the machine is the main thing.
    I think you are not only photographer philosopher also.
    Thank you
    Sukhendu Chatterjee

    1. Hi Sukhendu,

      Thank you for a wonderful comment.

      I’d like to reiterate my favorite saying that my photographer friend Carl Benson and I use to joke most often…

      “It’s not the camera, man, but the man behind the camera, man.”

      So, that sums it all up.

      Best Regards,
      Prathap

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