How To Photograph Bats

bat in flight

The first time I went out to photograph bats I was a little unsure what I was doing. I’d already gone all over the country with my wildlife camera photographing all types of animals but the bat left me feeling a little uneasy.

But once I had the right equipment and settings I was off and taking great photographs. In this article I will give you the info needed so you can start taking great bat photography.

What Camera Do You Need?

A lot of people ask me this question and it is a good question. Do you really need a camera that is made specifically for wildlife photography? The simple answer is no, you certainly don’t need a Wildlife or Action Camera to take great bat photos. But it does help, and there are some things you need to keep in mind.

If you are going to be taking any type of wildlife photography, including bats, I would recommend using the fastest shutter speed possible. For most situations this will be 1/500th of a second or faster. Any slower than that and you’ll not get the type of photos you want.

If you have a SLR camera with an adjustable flash sync speed, set it to 1/500th of a second to capture the bat flying through the air. If not, I would recommend getting yourself one of those.

What Type of Lens Do You Need?

Bats are small and their wings move very fast, so you’ll need a fast lens. Most standard lenses aren’t long enough to capture the movement of the wings.

If you have an SLR camera and can change your lens, I would recommend either a 300mm or 400mm zoom lens. You can also use a 70 to 200 mm zoom if that is what you use for other types of photography.

I would also recommend using a lens that has autofocus. Bats can move really fast and if you are using a manual focus lens, you may not catch the shot in time.

Bats love to hang upside down, so if you are going to photograph them when not in flight, it is best to have a macro lens. Having a wide aperture is also very important.

Do You Need A Flash?

None of my bat photos have been taken with flash. They are all with natural light. So obviously if its dark where you are photographing the bats.

What Camera Setting Do You Use?

I have most of my camera settings set to automatic. I adjust the ISO manually as needed. I always keep the camera on Auto Focus when photographing bats. This way I don’t miss a shot.

You can either shoot your pictures in RAW or in JPG. If you are going to be making a lot of adjustments to your photos or sending them off for printing, use JPG shooting and save yourself time later in Photoshop.

Where To Photograph Bats

You can photograph bats in many different places. You don’t have to go out with a plan, and you don’t have to stick to one location. Many people prefer photographing on a boat. If you have the right lenses (see above) it is an excellent way to photograph the bats as they fly overhead!

Shooting at night in the woods or in the city can provide opportunities to capture great bat images. The key is patience and having your camera ready when you see a bat.

Bat Photography Tips

To take the perfect bat photograph, you need to understand some basic photography and nature photography tips.

Aperture: You should use a large aperture when shooting a bat. Anything wider than f5.6 will not be sharp enough to get the wings in focus at any speed you use. If your camera has an Auto Focus setting, set it to fixed point at infinity as this keeps your camera focused on the bat until it is far away from you.

Shutter: You also need to have a fast shutter speed; anything slower that 1/500th of a second will blur the wings, causing them to lose definition. I would recommend setting your camera’s flash sync at 1/500th of a second so your flash will be off and you can use natural light only. This will also save you from using flash to frame your photo.

Focus: Focus on the bat by having your point of focus set to infinity. When the subject (bat) is close to you, keep your camera focused on it with the shutter open for a second or two, then recompose and refocus the bat and shoot again.

Exposure: Exposure is controlled by ISO. The higher the ISO number, the lighter your photos will be. For bat photography, I would keep the ISO at 200 or below. This way you get great image quality while still getting a fast shutter speed.

Bottom Line

Bat photography is one of those things that you can get really good at, without all the fancy equipment. These tips will help you get great photos.

Do not hesitate to reply and ask any questions you may have about how to take pictures of bats in your environment. I am always happy to help.