One of my favorite types of wildlife photography is birds and adding black and white to the mix is a sure fire way to increase the interest of your avian images. In this article I’ll explain how to take great black and white bird photographs.
What you’ll need
Bird Photography Camera
A great wildlife camera is a must if you want the best image quality possible. For photographing birds you can use any DSLR or mirrorless camera but it should offer the ability to shoot in RAW. If using a digital camera that offers both black and white options then be sure to shoot in RAW mode. The camera should also be equipped with slow-motion movie capability for recording action sequences if video is a priority.
A Lens Ideal For Birds
Good wildlife photography lenses are always expensive but if you’re serious about your photography then it’s worth investing in a lens that works well for your needs.
A Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens is a great choice – it’s an affordable lens that offers good value. That focal length range is perfect for most bird photography and the optical stabilizer ensures you’ll get steady images even when shooting handheld. You can read my guides for great wildlife and nature photography lenses.
A good tripod will help stabilise your images and save you from blur caused by camera shake when the birds are moving. In my experience a good value tripod is the Really Right Stuff TVC-35X series which can support up to 10,000 gram loads. It’s also lightweight and comes in a variety of sizes so you’ll be able to find one that fits in your bag.
Photo Bag or Case
A lightweight padded travel photography bag that protects your camera and lenses is necessary as well. There are a number of great options, read my guide on travel camera bags for the best performing models.
How To Edit Black and White Bird Photographs
Editing black and white bird photographs is fairly easy. There are a number of free and paid editing applications that offer the ability to convert your bird images to black and white.
Corel AfterShot Pro 3 is a great option for beginners – it’s a lightweight program that’s user friendly while also offering advanced options for experienced users. If you’re an Adobe Creative Cloud subscriber then it’s worth experimenting with some of the paid options. They are compatible with other Adobe products and The Lightroom Classic CC is a great choice for beginners. Adobe Photoshop CC is another popular option that’s especially suited for advanced users.
Black and White Bird Photography Tips
Whether photographing a flock of birds or an individual it is important to understand how to photograph a bird to get the best results.
Use a lower ISO
Shooting at high ISOs can result in images that have more noise and are unusable in black and white. It’s best to set your camera to a low ISO like 200 or 125 where you’ll have more control over the image. You can read my guide on the best wildlife and nature photography tips for more information.
Use a fast shutter speed
Bird photography is almost always done outdoors and when shooting in the wild you’ll always have to contend with moving subjects. If the bird is moving then it’s important to use a higher shutter speed to freeze the motion. A shutter speed of at least 1/1000sec will help ensure your bird photographs come out crisp. You can read my guide on beginner wildlife photography tips for more information on shooting high-speed action shots.
Find a bird with personality
Shooting birds in the wild is a challenge – they move quickly and if you’re not careful you’ll end up with an image of just a blur flying through the air. If possible it’s best to find a bird that’s relaxed and ignore any that are obviously stressed. A relaxed bird will offer better results because it will be more likely to hold still long enough for you to get the shot.
During my years of wildlife photography I’ve learned that there are a number of techniques along with a number of tricks that help me get the best results. This article is intended to guide you through some of the best techniques for getting great black and white bird photographs. What’s important to remember is that if you’re serious about wildlife photography it’s important to learn new techniques and experiment with different camera settings – you are capable of taking great black and white photos already, just remember that there is always something new to learn. So keep practicing and share your results in the comments.