are hundreds if not thousands of bird photohgraphy webistes out there
containing excellent images of almost every conceiavable species.
Unless one is prepared to invest huge amounts of time and money there
is little chance mere mortals with limited time and budgets have of
going up against the professional photographers. It is all too easy to
become demoralised when one sees the quality of images out there - but
there are more reasons to take pictures than to compete at a
Earning any money with bird photographs is also extremely difficult -
many publications expect something for nothing and even those that do
pay for those shots you took pay a pittance that in no way can
compensate for the resources spent. Many people happily give away
pictures just to see them published. It is unlikely that you will ever
become rich on bird photography.
So why bother.....here's a few reasons for starters
or photography? An important
to make is between a birder with a camera or a photographer interested
in birds. Are you going birding or photographing when you go out? This
is often an important distinction to make if you are out with others.
Photography takes time and although some may find it rewarding and
satisfying to document a particular species well it will mean that one
doesn't cover as much ground or see as many birds.
Personally I am primarily a birder with a camera and haven't got as far
as going out with the main aim of taking photographs.
For most birders this is
prime reason to take pictures -
and was the motivation behind the purchase of my fist camera. Tiring of
finding rarities that were often hard to document I took this step and
never looked back. This was, and remains, essential as 95% of my time
in the field is on my own. In this digital age it is expected that any
found is well documented with photographs and if getting a record
accepted is important to you then you'd best have some kind of camera
with you. Be it a compact camera together with your scope or bins
(digiscoping / digibinning) , a compact superzoom or a DSLR with a
Redpoll - one rarity that didn't get away
The next time a Slender-billed Gull or a Murrelet sp come flying past I
hope I will be ready....(both these have happened to me and although
the murrelet would probably still have "got away" the Norwegian
Slender-billed would have been in the bag had I had a camera at the
A camera is something of a
double edged sword in this
respect in that taking pictures can both impair the overall impression
of a bird whilst simultaneously providing the possibility of capturing
On many occasions I have seen a bird and gone straight into photography
mode - looking at these photographs afterwards has given me all kinds
of headaches. Everything from warblers in bushes to fly-by divers have
gone wrong in this way. Had I not bothered with the camera the ID would
have been easy - this is an all too easy trap to fall into.
Gull - wouldn't have clinched the ID without the picture
Most of the time, however, the camera has to be seen as an advantage.
How long was that primary projection? What was the pattern on P7-P10 on
that large gull? Skulking species can be photographed one bit at a time
in order to get an overall view not possible in the field.
Not uncommonly an image of a flock of birds shows that there was in
fact another species amongst them - something missed in the field. A
picture may reveal a misidentification. This may be part of the
photography trap - one can be too busy taking the photo to identify the
bird correctly but I find this happens surprisingly often. It is not
quite true to say the camera doesn't lie but it does find it difficult.
I also find it is often a good way of counting the number of birds in a
flock more accurately.
I was about 10 years old
when I was first warned about the
perils of photography - "don't ever start as it will take
over your life" I was told by at least two bird photographers. And it
will if you let it. The hours spent trying to get that perfect shot and
the hours spent going through pictures on a computer aftwerwards all
take their toll. Start photographing birds and it is difficult to stop.
the advantages of good documentation are one thing but
photography can also be great fun - something I describe as hunting in
an all year open season for pretty much everything..