Want to discover the secrets to amazing bird in flight (BIF) photography? Check out this 18-minute video with my TOP TEN techniques for photographing birds in flight! It’s time to supercharge your BIF game!
In this video, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started – or to get better – at bird in flight photography! From the best shutter speeds and F/stops, to the best backgrounds, what to look for when searching for birds, how to nail takeoff shots, the best autofocus settings, the smartest metering modes, easy tracking techniques and MORE!
This video is jam-packed with solid information – no fluff, just one rapid-fire killer tip after the other! Strap in and enjoy!
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PS – If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books and video workshops! Thousands of pages and hours of videos filled with tips, tricks, and techniques – all my best content! Check ’em out – click here (hey, it’s free to look).
Thanks Steve! Great Info!
Awesome Steve! Keep up the good work!
Great tips for bird photography. Thanks.
Thanks Steve! Great content as always
Fantastic video Steve as always ! Is there a technique to be followed when shooting birds in flight from a tripod with gimbal head. I often that a little constraining. Would love to have your advice.
Good job on the Video Steve. I usually use a single focal point and need to start using the group and 9point more often. Also, my primary lens i the Nikon 200-500 f5.6 so many time I struggle to get enough light for really high shutter speeds, especially at dawn or dusk or in shady areas like the woods where lots of the small birds I like to shoot are. Thanks again for the useful information.
I always enjoy watching your video’s
I especially found “Bird In Flight Photography Crash Course” to be right on
I do shoot Nikon and have been doing this for a long time
With a background shooting motorsports before the wildlife took over
I found myself agreeing with you on technique all the way through
Again thanks for the work you share I always enjoy you videos
always easy to follow and great infomation
Just another great video by you! I own all yr books, they are such a great help. You should run for that Academy Award in photo-courses, you’d be #1!
Steve – I love your new video BIF! Once again, it’s to the point and great refresher before hitting the field. You touched on a few topics I need to brush up on. So…. I’m going back into your “Secrets To Exposer and Metering for Nikon” and also “Secrets to the Nikon Autofocus System” both great and very detailed (but easy to digest) books! If you are reading this post and don’t own them, you need to get them!
Hi Steve. I guess I’ve been hanging out here long enough that none of this was new, but it was a great refresher. What you didn’t cover was how we could each get one of those 600mm lenses. Do they come with one of your books or something :-)?
Steve – thank you so much for these tips. Your presentation style makes it easier to follow also.
Excellent tips thanks
Steve, I really enjoyed this VERY useful video. Thank you for a really good compilation of BIF tips.
Invaluable! And well done. Thank you.
As always, a treasure of helpful information in an easily understandable format. I’ve been shooting Nikons for almost 50-years, but your instructional videos and eBooks have brought my photography skills and keeper rates to new highs. Thank you for what you do to help us become better!
Thanks for all the good tips, I’ll give it a try with both eyes open.
Great information on BIF and good examples to get the point across to the viewer!!
Good job, Steve.
Excellent video as usual. You also published an excellent Custom control assignment video for Z Cameras. Did you publish a similar one on the same subject for the D5 for your Bird photography assignments? I didn’t find one. Your recommendations are great and even though, I have been in this game for a very long time, I always learn something during your videos and thank you for your efforts.
Thanks. I didn’t do one for the D5. This guides are more of a recent thing, and, honestly, the menu setup videos don’t seem to get that many views.
People should look and try these set-ups, Your videos are a lost easier to digest and understand versus the rough lecture of the Nikon manuals with all the options. To test a set-up and try it out takes a lot of time. If you do make a suggested setting video, I will be happy to listen and try your ideas versus the default menus which are generally the standard ones left by most of us.
Best regards, Pierre
Well done Steve!
Certainly a timely subject, I’m sure many wildlife shooters in lockdown around the planet , are starting to think about better wildlife images right now, well, you must be a mind reader, exactly what I needed,
Thanks Gary 🙂
Hi Steve, This was the best tutorial on birds that I have seen. You are a master teacher and thankfully have adopted a modern practical approach to teaching. Best Wishes Mike
Thank you – that’s every kind.
My Dear Steve Perry – Birds in Flight Photography crash course is of very great importance. Capturing Birdlife Flights is a Rewarding and challenging activity in the fields. On this video your Honor within a short period of time presenting extra-ordinary facts and practical skill techniques in a very attractive way. The Devoted and well concerned on this can easily understand the whole content. Your Honor had done a very great and meritorious work for us. I am a long standing subscriber to your esteemed web site – Back Country Gallery and to the YouTube of the same. Being a… Read more »
Thanks for the kind words 😀
The 1.3X crop is the same as cropping on the computer. For BIF, I’d probably avoid it – you don’t want to accidentally clip a wing that you would have had if not for the crop mode being on.
I usually have the focus limit switch on. The only time I turn it off is when dealing with closer wildlife – and that’s the trick. If you forget it’s turned on, you may find yourself wondering why you can’t focus on a close subject! So, be careful 🙂
My Dear Steve Perry – Thank you very much. Warm Regards.
Nice Crash Course Steve!! Your workshops and articles are a/of tremendous value! When you handhold pan with a large lens do you keep your left hand close to the camera body or out towards the end of the lens? Some of the conflicts in technique I have are: – If I keep my left elbow next to my physical body for support this draws my left hand closer to the camera body where my lens focusing ring is and I wonder if I sometimes slightly defocus the lens while panning. – If I place my left hand closer to the… Read more »
Most of the time I keep it at a comfortable mid-point. I find I can’t hold as long if I really reach out and too close to the body is too front heavy. Besides, I like to keep my finger near the AF ring in case I want to focus – defocus – refocus.
Thanks for the quick response!
Excellent video, as always. Have several of your e-books and love them. Is there a problem leaving VR on for BIF? You say you don’t need it at such fast shutter speeds, but is there any disadvantage in leaving it on? Ideally I like to leave it on. Otherwise I forget to turn it back on for when I really need it. (I shoot both Canon and Nikon – is there a difference between VR in Nikon and IS on Canon it terms of leaving them on for fast shutter speeds.
Depending on the lens – and how the lens is moving even – VR can sometimes adverse affect sharpness. I notice with my more expensive glass it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, if any. However, my less expansive glass does show losses of acuity (i.e. 200-500, 300PF). So, I just try to remember to shut it off – LOL, not that I always remember!
Hi Steve, 1st great vid as always.I leave VR on sport mode, 300 & 500 PF , does this also decrease sharpness on BIF .
At higher shutter speeds it can affect sharpness, especially on the 300PF – the VR on that lens is finicky. The 500PF doesn’t seem to care that much, at least not in my experience.
Ok must remember that.My 300pf is mostly in a long term relationship with the 1.4tc, would that affect focus/VR even more? Thanks your work is so inspiring
I honestly don’t know, Seems like it may since it’s using a smaller part of the projected image circle form the lens, but I’ve never tested it.
Thanks, Steve. I guess I will either have to work on my memory or stick to really expensive glass. 🙂
Really enjoyed this one as I find photographing birds in flight are very challenging. I posted a link on our club’s Facebook page. BUT, why on earth would you use “in flight” and “crash” in the same sentence? LOL Thanks for posting the video!
Thanks so much for the share – I really appreciate it. And, let’s just say “crash course” was VERY deliberate 😀 😀
Doesn’t the A9 drop to 12 bits in AF-C?
As far as I know, it doesn’t. It does fall to 12 bit if you switch to lossy compressed (which is the only way to get to 20FPS in CH). I can’t find anything about it dropping to 12 bit in AF-C, although I’v only looked at the a9ii instructions, not the a9.
This blogger found evidence that it does: https://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/a9-drops-to-12-bit-precision-in-continuous-mode/
Imaging Resource reports this of the A9: “We have also determined that all continuous mode RAW files are 12 bits, whether compressed or uncompressed.”
There’s also a view out there that it’s e-shutter that drops it to 12 bit.
But there’s a Photography Life article showing 14 and 12 bit images, trying and failing to see any difference.
Very interesting. I wonder if it’s a difference in the a9ii and a9 though. I checked a recent a9ii shot and it was 14 bit. I’m always in AF-C. This was shot in uncompressed mode and using the electronic shutter (all verified through Exif Tool). It says 14 bit (Bits per Sample and also the Sony RAW format is listed at 14 bit RAW).
So, at least according to the EXIF info, AF-C and e-shutter will yield 14 bit. I know it drops to 12 bit if you use compressed RAW (Sony says as much too).
There’s nothing about it on the official A9 specs page.
DPReview has this about the A9: 20 fps continuous shooting with full AF (electronic shutter, 12-bit files).
Yes, it could be a Mark 1 v Mark 2 difference.
I’m not sweating on it. The images still have noticeably more sparkle than my D500 produces.
The trick is, to get to 20FPS on the a9ii, you have to fo to lossy compressed – and that DOES drop you to 12 bit. I think with the e-shutter the frame rate is still like 12 FPS, so that’s what I usually use. I love a fast frame rate, but seldom need 20 FPS.
According to Sony’s instructions for the a9ii, you get 12 bit with lossy compressed, Bulb, and long exposure NR.
Yes, I did once get worthwhile shots at 20 fps but all that close scrutiny during culling, ugh.
LOL, yup, that’ been my experience as well. I love it when I need it, but on all the time just makes more work at the computer!
Great tips, enjoy reading your book on Nikon focusing also. Just getting stared with DSLRs after long hiatus from photography using old Pentax SLR.
Wow! Steve, Thanks for putting this one out there while there is plenty of time to go out and practice. You answered several of my questions. I’m on it!
Happy to help 🙂
As always great tips, and as others have mentioned perfect timing!
Thanks – and ‘Tis the season, right? 😀
The was a great video to watch. I have been photographing birds for more than ten years and learn several new things today.
My wife laughs at me when I grumble about getting “a boring blue sky fight picture.”
LOL that’s funny!! My wife didn’t really “get it” until she started shooting – now she does 😀
Hello steve ! Again, it was abolutely brillant. Every one can see and understand how well you dominate your subject ! the explanations are absolutely brillant, nothing is forgotten( camera ,angle of view,, every thing!). the examples of fotos are completely artistic and outstanding ,and give me examples of how nice the nature can be( wonderful). Steve is doing much more than photography. He shows and demonstrates the essence of life. In a certain way, his work defends the beauty and the spirit of our planet, brings the hided objects to our sight ! much more than a lot of… Read more »
Wow, I don’t know what to say, thank you!
Hello steve again ! if my small words takes just a bit justice of what all your stuff brings us!! . its. Ok. i have just corrected one word in my sentences which was wrong: I meaned hided objects not healed of course. you know , my english ist not so good , i am a german teacher, but i can explain what i mean . thanks again for this video ! PS: this is typically the duty of an artist: to bring hided objects in sight for others !. this is exactly what you do ! the french man… Read more »
congratulations and thanks for the quality of the knowledge shared.
Perfect timing for this video. Just started doing my spring practice with the sparrows. Totally frustrating but it does make me think and hone my reflexes. Your video as always has great reminders for the essentials to keep in mind. Thanks for your efforts and yes i need to pull out your books and read them at least once a year.
Sparrows are HARD – but they do hone the reflexes! No question! Good luck!
You must of read my mind. I was actually going to email you today or tomorrow about the same topic. Thanks for the info. I have a great deal of respect for your recommendations and it’s good to know that I am on the right tract. I am curious to know why matrix metering is your go to setting and not spot? I know in you book you spend a great deal of time discussing it but when shooting birds in flight wouldn’t spot be better if your are able to keep it on the target?
LOL – I get questions about BIF all the time so I thought a video would be a good idea 😀 Spot metering is tricky for the reason you mention – if you can keep it on the bird. It’s too easy to have the area slip off and catch a light or dark background, at least in my experience watching people in the field attempt it! Plus, if the subject is light or dark in tonality, even if you have the spot meter on it, unless you have compensation dialed in, the camera will over / under expose. Besides,… Read more »
Thanks Steve- again!!! Bought all your stuff.
Marvelous teacher and inspiration.
Thanks so much!
Excellent information as usual! Thanks Steve!
Some great tips as always Steve, hope you and the family are all well by the way?
I agree with everything you suggest but simply can’t get on with “Auto ISO” and birds in flight as I find the camera’s meter is fooled on almost every occasion (Nikon D500).
For this reason alone I don’t touch it for birds in flight where the sky or gaps in tree lines come into play, glad it works for you though buddy.
It really depends on the situation. As mentioned in the video, although I do use M + Auto ISO, I also use full manual as well – for exactly the scenario you describe. 😀
I really did try and get along with it, persisted for a few weeks but I now only use it for anything that does not involve sky.
Stay well out there, always nice to to catch your video’s 🙂