General Question

Mariah's avatar

How do people take photos like this?

Asked by Mariah (19121 points ) November 4th, 2011

Like this. Is the photographer actually very close to the bird? Or do they use special cameras that can capture great detail from a distance?

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28 Answers

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john65pennington's avatar

Camera with a zoom lense on it.

I used one of these cameras one time to catch a man selling stolen merchandise from a grocery store. It worked. I was approx. 50 yards away from the back of this store. The camera had to be securely fastened inside the police car. A slight movement, with this camera, was like a 200 yard mistake.

You really have to know what you are doing in this type of situation.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Very expensive lenses are used.

I actually have crap cameras, but have managed a few shots like that by hiding in bushes and trees in my garden (where the birds are well-fed).

Blackberry's avatar

You need one of those huge cameras with the long, wide lenses that are thousands of dollars. Professionals use them.

robmandu's avatar

The reason an expensive lens was used for this particular shot was because the bird would fly away if the photographer were to get close enough.

However, the effect you’re seeing employed is called Depth of Field and it’s merely a function of aperture and/or zoom… which can be accomplished easily with entry-level SLR cameras. For example, I captured this shot with a $600 entry-level dSLR (Nikon d40) and a $240 basic zoom lens. The trick is to simply zoom in as far as possible.

The other alternative is to get a fast lens, like a prime, and open the aperture up as much as possible. So, with no zoom at all, I got this picture.

It’s possible to do this a bit with point-and-shoot cameras, too. Heck, I even managed something similar with my iPhone 4 here.

raven860's avatar

My guess would be an expensive camera, expensive lenses and a tripod.

lillycoyote's avatar

Yup, a big lens.. That picture’s pretty cute, I think. The little bird is ready for it’s close up. :-)

Edit: And… the really big lens

Those kind of zoom lenses, to shoot at that distance, have to have a wide enough diameter to let enough light in I think. That’s why the are so big! And yes, a tripod or some other way to steady the camera, at that length of zoom. If you can get close enough to the bird you don’t need all that stuff, but most of the time you can’t get that close without them flying off.

nikipedia's avatar

That photo was taken with a Canon 40D, a semi-professional dSLR, with the f-stop set to f/8.0.

robmandu's avatar

wow, that must be one helluva long zoom.

gondwanalon's avatar

A professional quality camera capable of taking several pictures per second would help. Also a telephoto lens and a good tripod and a lot of patience.

But if you don’t have the big bucks for the best equipment then don’t let that stop you from trying. I have gotten picture as good as your example with my Kodak “EsyShare” ZD710 camera (7.1 megapixels and 10X zoom)and cheap tripod. I set my camera & tripod up (inside the house) next to a well cleaned window that had a bird feeder about 2 feet away (outside). The birds cooperated very well as they came to the feeder for food. I got some stunning hummingbird pictures, Chickadees and Nuthatches.

gailcalled's avatar

@gondwanalon: Off-topic, I know, but I am trying to find a way to wash my windows without streaks and without using commercial products. Any tips?

gasman's avatar

You don’t necessarily need a zoom lens as long as it’s a long telephoto or telescopic lens to allow a small subject to fill the picture from a distance. For birds you probably want at least 300 or higher focal length.

A wide-open aperture (smallest F-stop number) has two advantages: (1) shallow depth-of-field gives a sharply-focused subject with soft, blurry background; (2) gathering maximum light allows fastest shutter speed (independent of ISO setting), reducing motion blur in case bird moves or perch sways.

Zoom lenses, however, are what most cameras come equipped with today whether point & shoot or SLRs, usually up to around 200 or 300 based on shopping at Costco. In the days of film I took similar photos of a hummingbird on a barbed-wire fence using a Nikon zoom lens maxed out to 200.

whitetigress's avatar

DSLR shot this, because of depth of field being blurry. With my personal experience I can tell that this was zoomed in on. Because when you personally zoom in on the photo you can see the smudgyness of its feathers.

Literally anyone could this kind of photo. You take your DSLR, aim it around a grey area or light source, check out the intensity of the light, fix your aperture settings accordingly in correlation to the iso and shutter speed, aim it at the subject, put the subject in the portion of the frame you would like to fill in, and snap away. It’s that easy. Before back in the day, studying aperture, iso and shutter speed was key. Nowadays on DSLR’s you just need to really worry about shutter speed. For the most part aperture is the second changeable mode, ISO is usually set at random (unless youre shooting sports in a gym you should put a manual iso on because low light might occur).

lillycoyote's avatar

You do generally need some kind of zoom lens. I was able to get this picture of Frank, our partially albino robin with digital camera which has a built in, retractable 18mm; but she was pretty cooperative by standing in one spot long enough for me to get the shot. It’s not as nice as the one in @Mariah‘s link; I but it turned out pretty well; it’s a nice shot of her.

And BTW, did you know you can get an 8X zoom lens for the iPhone? I didn’t. It’s only $35 and the little tripod is included so I’m not sure the lens is of very good quality, but they give it a halfway decent review. But the set up is awfully darn cute.

gasman's avatar

@lillycoyote Maybe I was being overly pedantic but my point is that to get a super close-up requires a telephoto lens (sometimes called a “long lens”) which may be either fixed or zoom.

“Zoom” refers to a feature that allows you to dial in different focal lengths without changing lenses. The alternative is a set of fixed lenses that have to be changed every time you would otherwise zoom in or zoom out, as may be found in professional equipment. I think it’s a linguistic issue—the word “zoom” is becoming a stand-in for “telephhoto” when referring to camera lenses.

lillycoyote's avatar

@gasman O.K., I used the term “zoom” improperly, so shoot me. I actually do know the difference. And don’t worry about being too pedantic on my account, I didn’t actually read your previous post. But, if you’re going to address your comment to me and be patronizing, you could have at least balanced it out a little with something like “Still, that’s a pretty good shot of the partially albino robin, Lilly.”

lillycoyote's avatar

@gasman I want apologize for that remark.^^ I’ve been a little cranky lately.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We live in a wonderful time for photography. No longer are huge lenses on big SLR’s needed to achieve close up telephoto work.

Check out these SuperZoom Camera Comparisons.

Any of these units can provide the quality presented in the OP… and a lot better. They even have image stabilization so you don’t have to hold it so steady.

Between $250 and $450 complete.

Pheasant's avatar

Just point a camera at the bird, press the shudder release, photo taken. Crop to desire. Taking pictures is easy, anybody could do it perfectly on their first try, every time.

gasman's avatar

@lillycoyote No problem. I’m a little behind myself. At lunch I asked the waiter if they served crabs & he assured me they serve everyone. Btw NICE PHOTO !!

lillycoyote's avatar

@gasman LOL. And thanks. :-)

dabbler's avatar

A good camera and a good lens and good technique all put together.
A friend shoots similar calibre bird photos with a Canon 7D and a 100–400 zoom and_a_flash which always surprises me. At that range the right flash can fill just so, and you don’t get shadows or uneven lighting. She has several years of practice too, and knows how to work her LightRoom/Photoshop. Also you would likely be shooting RAW mode for extra adjustment flexibility.

dabbler's avatar

p.s. I shot this raven with a Canon Rebel T3i, but this bird was obliging close and used to people.

gondwanalon's avatar

Also I thought that you might like to see a picture of an Anna’s Humming bird that I took with my cheap Kodak EasyShare camera Here

gailcalled's avatar

@gondwanalon: That is a spectacular shot and a really charming little bird. We have only ruby-throats here.

gondwanalon's avatar

@gailcalled and @RealEyesRealizeRealLies Thanks for your kind words. I forgot to mention that perseverance and luck are also important factors in getting a good bird picture.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

hanging out at the bird feeder doesn’t hurt either

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