Backyard bird studio

Winterís the perfect time to take nature photos.  During the cold months the sun is low in the sky for much of the dayójust right for capturing backyard birds as they visit your feeders or perch in nearby evergreens. 

Andrew Zuckerman.
San Francisco, Calif. : Chronicle Books, 2009.
Photographer Zuckerman shows us birds in a manner that Audubon didn't dream about: ultra-close heads, faces, and necks, and extraordinary full-body views placed deliberately against white backgrounds. The effect is hyper-real: luscious colors and detailed patterns of feathers and forms are astonishing in their spare context. Two hundred photos are presented in this oversize volume (12x12"). A brief introduction by designer Massimo Vignelli is the only text except for a thumbnail catalog that identifies the 75 represented species. Zuckerman has created two other books of his photographic work, one on animals and the other on "eminent elders" (humans). Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Bird photography : choosing the best destinations, planning a trip, taking great photographs
David Tipling.
Lewes : Photographers' Institute Press, 2005.
Includes index.
A field guide to bird photography
Steve Young.
Lewes : Guild of Master Craftsman, 2002.
How many times have you been out in the field, lining up a perfect shot, and wished that you had expert guidance at your fingertips? Or, perhaps you are planning your first field trip and need information on all the basics? In this brand new title, bird photographer Steve Young covers everything you need to know to take successful photographs in the field. Book jacket.
Rare and elusive birds of North America
by William Burt.
New York : Universe Pub., 2001.
For sixteen years, author and photographer William Burt has been on an uncommon mission. Every spring and summer since 1984, he has been in pursuit of the toughest of subjects: twenty of the least known, almost mythically elusive North American birds. Burt spent weeks in the field at a time, employing his own hand-built equipment and often revisiting sites, year after year in certain cases, to get the pictures he wanted. The end result is this collection of stunning photographs of these birds in the wild and the engaging stories behind capturing the images. This book contains over fifty remarkable photographs of these camera-shy birds. Additionally, it contains an appendix of thumbnail sketches about each of the birds featured in the book: where they can be found, their markings, and other unique characteristics. Rare and elusive Birds of North America is a wonderful addition to the libraries of serious and armchair birders alike.

Let your backyard become your personal studio. Here are few tips:

  • Position yourself so the sun is behind you.  The sun is likely to be in the southern sky, so consider photographing from the north side of your home.
  • You donít need to go outside if you have a window you can open to shoot through.
  • Put feeders nearby to get amazing close-ups.  In winter, birds are willing to come closer to your home to get the food they need to survive the cold weather.
  • Keep the feeders filled. The more foods, the more likely you will attract several types of birds.  Donít forget some like seeds and suet, while others relish peanuts.

Camera features to help you get the perfect shot:

Zoom lens to capture far-away details

Remote shutter release to catch birds in flight

Tripod to keep the camera steady

More tips

This is a good time to be creative.  

  • Place old logs or branches around the feeders.
  • Make a perching platform by covering an overturned garbage can with evergreen branches. 
  • Move your live Christmas tree outside and cover it with bird treats. The contrast of greenery and colorful bird plumage against a gray winter background make for memorable photos.
  • Finally, winter snowfalls provide special photo opportunities. Make a snowman and cover it with birdseed.

Have fun as you capture the unforgettable moment when the flock of black-capped chickadees share the birdfeeder with the red cardinals and that one Carolina wren you were sure went south for the winter.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff